Breaking New Ground

By Tony Gilbert - 17 Mar, 2017
4 Minutes Read

Are you reaping the rewards of a well-grounded ICT strategy?

Tony Gilbert talks axes, shovels and gardening shears.

If you have ever tried to dig a hole with an axe, you will know that although it is possible, it is really not that easy. The same goes with splitting firewood with a shovel. While possible, the time and risk involved warrant the use of a proper tool.

When it comes to choosing the ICT tools for your school, there are a huge number of choices to make. Some have weird names and don’t play well with others. As when you are gardening, the tools you choose to utilise can have a massive effect on output. Throw into the mix, slick marketing, complex technical information and salespeople, and a headache starts to form behind the eyes.

I could talk endlessly about the merits of certain products, the seemingly age-old debate of PC vs. Mac, Google Apps vs. Office 365, but the reality is that each environment is different. While the fundamentals may remain the same, an ICT Leader’s responsibility is to use the tools and experience available to cultivate successful outcomes. It would be amazing if all tools were available all the time for all people, but the reality of fixed budgets mean this is unrealistic.

So the following are Tony’s Top Five Tips for Successful ICT Gardening in your NZ School:

1. Know Your Soil

If you are unsure of the condition of your network, from core infrastructure to the devices running on it, it is difficult to know what you can achieve from a technical perspective. You need people you can trust to “straight shoot” around the condition of your soil who know what to look for.

2. Plan for the Weather

No matter what your vision, there will always be unknown elements that unless planned for, can have a profound effect on your ability to execute meaningful teaching and learning. Good advice and best-practise implementation are crucial. A classic example of this is Internet Filtering and Firewalling products. There are products that can tell you a bunch of cool stuff, then there are products that allow you to act on that information.

3. Beware of Uncle Tom’s Magic Tomato Grow

Doubling your crops in one year is a “Snake Oil” scenario. There is a very good reason I still have my parents “Yates Garden Guide” in my shed – it has been proven it works over time. Generally, there are no game-changers in the world of ICT that have not been emerging in one form or another. ‘The Cloud’ is an example of this – it has been around for years. Remember mainframes and terminals, or the term “Being Online”? It has just matured and developed in what it can offer.

4. Speak to Other Gardeners

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what is successful in other schools. This can prove even more difficult when your own specialist has specific tool knowledge that they are insisting you use. In the ICT world isolation is very dangerous. It is almost impossible to know everything that is going on out there and even easier to get bogged down in technical terms and minutia. Perspective is essential whilst keeping your desired outcomes at the centre.

5. Pick Your Tools and Commit

Once you know your soil, have advice on how to deal with bad weather, made sure your Gardeners know their stuff, talked to other Gardeners and invested in robust tools – commit. Inevitably there will be some solutions that struggle more than others. This however is the job of the skilled educator – the ability to adapt and adjust according to the best learning outcomes for the students. Whether it be an SMS, wireless system, computer lab or BYOD, doing something is better than doing nothing and hoping that things will be different.

Hopefully, these gardening tips have been of some use to you, even as solely a point of reflection. As always the New Era team and I are always here to have a chat and offer a bit of perspective, but please don’t get me started on crop rotation…

Author: Tony Gilbert