Institutions and new technologies – never the twain shall meet

Sometimes I wonder at technology and all the fuss it causes… just as things are running smoothly, along comes another technology ‘we simply must have’ and everything seems to become extremely difficult. Regardless of the fact new technologies requiring some integration (resources) require a business case, then a board of management decides if the cause is worthy. So Conole (2011) is correct in her statement when she states we need a radical change that requires a top-down approach and with this, strategy and policy are needed to ensure the change is systemic. Clear strategic vision and in-depth understanding of new technologies are required from this top level, and as she states, ‘it is debatable as to whether most senior managers have the appropriate skills to accomplish this’.

From my own experience, a practitioner wanting to use a new technology legitimately within an institution has many barriers to cross, not least the resourcing of implementing a new technology. Take WordPress as an example, and the ability to host the software on an institutional server. Issues such a server space, bandwidth and ownership come into play. Who will pay for the resource and hardware-  and the time element sparing someone to set it up? It seems people pass such requests from meeting to meeting and something far more important comes along in the meantime that needs fixing (like the finance system) so new technologies take a back seat.

Beyond the senior management knowing a good thing when it comes (or not), there’s the IT crowd and the resource and knowledge expertise they have, this really does becomes a dependant factor. Is there a good captain at the helm who is able to select a good team with a thirst for delivery? But to be fair, we do have a huge problem of speed – that is the speed in which these technologies come and go like High Street Fashion. How can these institutions keep up with the pace – by knee jerk reactions, I think not. It is little wonder people go off quietly and use the cloud – the good old cloud!

My practice has changed considerably with the Cloud and Google in particular. Using a word document now for something I will be sharing with others makes no sense whatsoever, so where possible I use a Google document. Another example being, a colleague need to complete a work request (word document) from home urgently but did not have word installed, she was able to upload the document into Google docs, complete the required fields, download it and send it on. We use wikis to record all our department meetings, from the agenda through to the action points. We use Google docs to write collaborative documents such as powerpoints, word and spreadsheets. In terms of communication, my smartphone gives me 24/7 access to internet, email, people and play.

In terms of how new technology has changed education, students arrive at university expecting to have all their project briefs, timetables and supporting study material online in the VLE. They also expect help and support 24/7 taking the notion of anytime, anyplace quite literately. Students also expect their tutors to be confident in technology – which often is not the case. From my own experience, universities are failing to implement external use policies to safeguard both the institution and students from the many perils using cloud services encounter – such as copyright, privacy and ownership.

Besides these more domestic arrangements, modules of study are not embracing new technologies and their designs are shrouded by old methods that do not pertain to the real world of work, progression and professionalism.

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