the Dragonfly journal

Digital Mafia: Taking a look at Educational Tech Training

By Peter Dawes - @P_Dawes

The Digital Mafia love technology. It has made life so much easier. It is empowering pupils. I just can’t get enough of it. If I could, I’d marry it. And bla de bla de bla de bloody bla. Because this is what you have to say now, don’t you? Questioning, however fleetingly, the central role of technology in education, is right up there with fascism, racism etc. Hold on a moment, Peter, I hear you say. Hasn’t the bulk of your training career revolved around exploiting technology?! Er, yes. But let me explain. I’m sure you’ll have seen something similar to the bell curve below, outlining the rate of uptake of innovations.

All very interesting, all very informative. But also very loaded. How about that label “Laggards”? Is it just me, or does that make them sound like the sort of people who deserve locking up in a Dickensian jail? Hardly compares to the sexy “innovators”, eh?I’m sure those cutting-edge dudes would be less thrilled with “pasty-faced nerd” or “saddo struggling to make eye-contact with other humans”. Cutting-edge. Now there’s an interesting term. Universally recognised as positive and desirable, my fellow linguists may know the derivation of the phrase. It comes from tunneling or coal-mining. It’s that point at which you don’t know what you will unearth next. It is also the point at which tunnels collapse and people die. Which makes it such a double-edged image.

The Digital Mafia use it to imply a golden voyage of fearless discovery. Then the rest of us poor schmucks pick up the pieces when the roof caves in. It goes without saying that the world needs innovators and visionaries. But what we don’t need is to be told we lack moral fibre or are dragging our heels, and it’s our fault when the vision doesn’t translate into practice.

Here’s the problem as I see it…

The pressure on teachers to embrace technology and show evidence of integrating it into their lessons is huge. Yet access to simple-to-follow training is woeful. Due mainly to two factors – it is either delivered in-house by the much-maligned IT dept, who with the best will in the world, will not necessarily be great communicators…..or the Digital Mafia come in. The shiny eyed zealots whose glitzy presentation style wowed Senior Management at a conference, and who now proceed to show the staff how wonderful they are. Whilst carefully not inviting too many questions about how to implement their ideas into a real classroom. They get away with it, because to ask if the Emperor has any clothes, is to risk exposing yourself as a Luddite, an impediment to progress, a laggard. So everyone keeps shtumm. This would all be fine if it were just a waste of time and INSET budget. But it’s much worse than that, because it further entrenches resistance to technological advances. And quite frankly, until more practical and palatable ways are put in place, you can’t blame huge numbers of teachers for adopting a cynical attitude to it.

The hallmark of really good IT training is NOT how impressive the presenter looked. Rather, it is how much the audience will be able to implement after they’ve gone. And possibly even more importantly, and so seldom considered, how much will the audience want to implement? Which is the bit I try to focus on in my training. Which is why you will rarely read a feedback comment of mine saying, “Wow, Peter gave us a state of the art presentation today” but you will frequently see comments like: “I couldn’t see the benefit of iPads in lessons. I’m now leaving inspired to go and start using one tomorrow*”.

So to summarise…

Educational technological training is far too important to leave in the hands of just technophiles and the Digital Mafia preaching to the converted. Yes, at the other end of the spectrum there are dinosaurs and occasional ‘laggards’, (Teacher in Southampton – “I’ll never use this iPad, it hasn’t even got Ctrl+V” – you know who you are), who may genuinely be beyond hope. But it is my strong belief that we actively convert huge numbers of open-minded teachers into technological cynics, which is a whole different issue.


Peter Dawes will be continuing his popular and effective courses with Dragonfly training this summer term, and will be taking a look at a brand new course, An Introduction to Using iPads in the Classroom. Click on the link below to find out more:

*N. Reyner, Prior’s Field School