Since when has the world of computer software design been about what people want? This is a simple question of evolution. The day is quickly coming when every knee will bow down to a silicon fist, and you will all beg your binary gods for mercy. - from Bill Gates interview spoof
A couple days ago I listened to a very enthusiastic teacher/techie explain how he built a "roll your own" content management system for teaching online classes. Discontent with Moodle, he created a stew of a half dozen free Web2.0 apps and a little HTML and Java coding and, voila, he had system he loved.* And I sat there thinking, 'What teacher in his/her right mind would not only refuse do this, but be able to keep from running screaming from the room at the thought of having to do this?"
Let's face is - teachers should not and cannot be expected to be technology experts in order to use technology well. It's like asking good drivers need to be good car designers or good cooks to be good farmers. I don't think so. I want my teachers thinking about teaching and learning, not technology.
Nathan left an interesting response to my last blog post in reference to creating a program that uses mobile computing devices systemically in schools. He observed:
We've brought in a ton of iPod Touches in Special Ed with Stimulus money this school year. Monday we visited another school that was hosting a site visit, to check if we were missing anything. The key thing I came away with that day is it is ALL about great instruction. The 7th grade math teacher we observed was inspiring...and made me wonder if we had anyone that dynamic in our district to really extract all that technology has to offer in the classroom. To be fair, they might not have another teacher like him in their district. I felt good knowing we weren't behind the curve and ahead of pretty much all the other districts there, but worried that we might not have the players to pull it off. The Yankees do well because of Mark Texiera and CC Sabathia win games...not the grounds crew, the GM or the owner.
But here's the thing, Nathan, - teachers should not have to be the instructional equivilant of Texiera to be able to use technology in the classroom effectively. The technology should be transparent (simple, intuitive, powerful) enough that any teacher who is open to new, or even enhanced, ways of teaching would quickly and willingly use the "stuff." Period.
And it is our job as librarians and tech integration specialists to evaluate technologies with this in mind. We should review and reject the junk that is overly complex, time consuming and just plain badly designed. And keep it away from our hard working teachers.
And yes, I've been beating this drum for a long time. ('Tis a Joy to be Simple, 2001)
* If this fellow spent as much time on course content buidling as he did on creating the CMS, it must have been a terrific course!