Over the years working in different international schools as an IT Director, Director eLearning, Head of Education and Media Technology and Deputy Principal I have had the opportunity to lead, design and collaborate with Leadership Teams and IT Teams the implementation and adoption of digital ecosystems and environments. These experiences have been an important point of reference in my own learning and understanding on the complexities, challenges and opportunities of leading technology change in a international school setting.
I had the privilege to be able to collaborate and co-write this eGuide with Adam Morris who is Schools Technology & Integrations Director @ FariaOne Group. A special thank you goes out to the Managebac team who provided us with support and guidance throughout the process. As the group worked and collaborated together on the eGuide Adam and I had the opportunity to each reference our own professional experiences working, coaching and supporting schools around the world with leading technology change.
The guide is a a point of reference to support conversations, reflections and how to engage with technology change with a whole school approach. It is there to provide provocations, points of reference on change and the workflows and dispositions to consider as one engages in a technology change process with a whole school approach https://guide.fariaedu.com/leading-technology-
A colleague of mine and her Kindergartners were busy exploring where an egg comes from. “Was it born like a baby? Does it grow on its own? Where do they come from? Different perspectives and ideas were shared enthusiastically. The children discussed and challenged each other with their theories. At the end of the activity, one child turned to her partner and said, “when I get home, I’ll ask Siri for the answer.” A routine response in our classrooms? Or an important moment to understand that artificial intelligence (AI) has embedded itself in our day to day lives? For a generation of children who have been raised on iPads and Siri, AI – with a name and voice like a human – is as ubiquitous as any other technology.
AI is a tool that learns, anticipates and predicts. It provides us with instantaneous information or completes routine tasks remotely. The Amazon Echo and Google Home, two new devices that have recently gained traction, have begun to enter the home as personal assistants. The Echo and Home are two of many voice-activated AI assistants that tap into vast artificial intelligence networks. They aggregate information based on our digital footprints and predict our habits based on a learning algorithm that engages continuously with the data we share on our digital devices.
A shift has occurred in our relationship with AI and the impact is profound. It is the seamless adaptation of AI into our lives – a frictionless experience that is slowly making us dependent on this predictive technology. This new relationship meets our unique taste and needs, and only gets better the more it knows about us. Over time, this is changing the way our brain functions when interacting in the digital world. This short video by AcademicEarth.org -“ Cognitive Offloading,” is a reminder of the neurological changes AI is having on our learning. We collectively feel more and more comfortable subcontracting out tasks to AI. The term ” let me google this” is an example.
For educators, this shift is showing up in our classrooms informally and in some instances invisibly. Artificial intelligences are important elements of the devices which exist in our school tool kits. These include mobile devices, apps, browsers, search engines, smartwatches, and more. Writer and professor Jason Ohler asks an important question in his article “Bio-Hacked Students On the Outer Edge of Digital Citizenship”. How should we, as educators, shift the curation of a scholastic experience when students come to the classroom with embedded or wearable artificial intelligences? This alters the value of the commodity of knowledge in the classroom and highlights a potentially new hierarchy where AI supplements a user’s expertise. Suddenly, we have 24/7 access to predictive and anticipatory information which has the potential to disrupt the independent learning experience of a typical classroom. In his article “Artificial intelligence is the next giant leap in education“, Alex Wood reflects on the role AI could play in education.
Coming to terms with these exponential changes takes time to digest. As educators, we need to understand that engagement and critical thinking are vital components of education, especially as AI shifts the classroom narrative. The ethical issues which surround these exponential changes are here now. The complacency that schools engage with in the discourse of what it means to be in a world dominated by AI is a tension we cannot ignore.
As educators, we have a unique opportunity to design curriculums around the narrative of artificial intelligence. We need to be encouraging our students to not only be good digital citizens but proactive digital leaders who understand the complexity of a world fueled by artificial AI. Schools should promote the skills and inquiry mindsets which provide students with the capacity to harness the power and opportunities of AI and not become complacent with the technology. Ultimately, we want our students to be active leaders and architects of AI’s continued growth. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure our students have a working understanding of how to navigate a complex and changing world fueled by artificial intelligence for the good of future generations.
Think of what Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon services and products you use daily. How much are they a vehicle for communications, work, social life, purchases and tasks? How often do you connect to them? Count the number. How many? Surprised? Now, out of the 4 companies, how many do you use? Or do you not. The reality is that you probably use at least one, if not all of the four, very frequently.
Welcome to the “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) world. The”GAFA” world is where most of humanity’s internet users and consumers work, communicate, socialize, learn, entertain themselves, and share, in services provided by one, two, three or all four of these companies: the “GAFA” grids.
We have become comfortable with “GAFA’” being part of our lives in multiple venues, and as a result, schools, educators, students and parents are investing significant amounts of monies into “GAFA”. It is an essential component of our ability to function at school and at home, and the collective convenience and seamless experience of “GAFA” intoxicates us.
In Terry Heick’s (@TeachThought) thoughtful article “How Google Impacts The Way Students Think”, he highlights how learners working in a Google ecosystem develop an appetite for a black and white information age. The expectation? Immediate answers, 24/7. The convenience of this immediacy creates an illusion of thinking, but actually disengages the user from deep critical thinking. It does this by simplifying the process of gathering information and giving the impression it is all connected.
In order to have a constant infusion of innovation and creativity, “GAFA” also hungers for start-up companies. By absorbing these companies, they are able to facilitate the pollination of ideas, products and services and enrich their ability to generate more seamless methods of connectivity. In this way “GAFA’s” largeness and versatility is engrained in all aspects of our lives
This innovation also provides “GAFA” with opportunities to tie our lives closer together with multiple platforms and venues in a frictionless environment. Examples of this reach are Amazon’s cloud service, which hosts large architectures of company websites, services, and databases, including the CIA’s; Google moving into the home with Nest and pursuing the development of artificial intelligence (Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory); Apple’s acquisition of Affectiva, a company that specializes in emotion recognition, and investments in health apps and services; and Facebook’s expansion into virtual reality. Making its services ubiquitous, as with the “free wi-fi-with-check-in ”in hotels and small businesses. Its purchase of “Whatsapp” is another example of how a “GAFA” company spent billions on an innovative service.
The algorithms provide a treasure trove of information with which to understand our behavior, habits, aspirations and desires. In Raffi Khatchadourian’s article “We Know How You Feel”, we are reminded that the hunger for data is tied to a hunger for emotional interactions. In Shelley Podolyn’s New York Times article, “If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?”, she highlights the level of sophistication of writing algorithms generating news articles and books. In tandem, the growth of “The Internet of Eyes“ in objects we interact with, as part of the “ Internet of Things.” brings about a new dynamic to data mining. It is a reminder that many of these algorithms being designed within “GAFA” play an almost non-negotiable role in our lives.
Many schools believe that their curriculum’s should allow for authentic connections to the world around them. What about “GAFA”? Should we as learners, guides, mentors, and facilitators highlight “GAFA”? Is this important? Should its presence be considered in our learning outcomes? To ignore “GAFA” is to create a disconnect with present changes that are reshaping all of our lives. It sidelines a reality that is the future. What does “GAFA” mean, to us, our schools, community and educational institutions? Schools have a responsibility to ensure this is part of the curricular discourse. We need to construct learning moments and scaffold time to pause, reflect, understand, explain and critically think about what it is to live in a “GAFA” world.
If personal privacy, independent thought, critical thinking, differentiation, balanced perspectives, mindfulness and our capacity to be unique are in our school’s mission, we need to address what it means to be curated by “GAFA”. Will we not lose an important aspect of humanity, if we continue to ignore “GAFA”?
All of us are engaged daily in the process of looking for information on the Internet, or “searching“. Sometimes, we search for clarification, facts, confirmation, projects, solutions, while other times our searches help us broaden our views, come to terms with a concept, make a plan, find a definition, or cross check a fact. Watch yourself or a friend at your next social function. Someone is bound to pull out their portable digital device (phone, tablet and/or computer) before long to make sure something that was said is correct. They might look up an actor, a city, an album, a song, a title, or an author. This is now part of our daily digital diet: a quick hop onto our device and off into the Internet to “search” for information.
51 million – Number of websites added during the year.
1.2 trillion Number of searches on Google in 2012.
43,339,547 gigabytes are sent across all mobile phones globally everyday.
Humankind in 2007 successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS. That’s equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day.
There are 5 million tweets per day enough to fill New York Times for 19 years.
Humankind shared 65 exabytes of information through two-way telecommunications in 2007
That’s the equivalent of every person in the world communicating the contents of six newspapers every day
Information grows from Terabyte to Petabyte . As a human race, we cannot actually view, analyze, or keep track of all the information we generate without third party digital tools and softwares. We now defer to sophisticated algorithms and intelligent softwares to store, track, synthesis, analysis, aggregate, and deliver information in amounts we have the time and capacity to digest. And most of us today expect to have this information available non-stop, over multiple devices.
Information overload, information stress, information pollution and information anxiety are part of the narrative of the digital age. With the amount of information increasing at accelerated speeds, we have relinquished any control we once had over its exponential growth. What we need to do is develop strategies, skills and understanding on how to filter, sift, analyze and juggle information, so we feel some level of control.
As we embed ourselves in this vast information landscape and wish to remain critical thinkers, we need to be ready to retool ourselves:
Coming to terms with the “Filter Bubble“ : this is where information is processed and delivered through algorithms based on what our viewing and search habits are, thus filtering information to our perspectives and not providing alternative views and information. The balance of information is vital to building a broad understanding of different views. Nowadays however, through the “Filter Bubble“, this balance is being diluted. We need to understand this and be able to counter it as critical thinkers.
Developing a strong searching expertise: We need to understand the capacity of search engine tools, their variables, and limitations so we can refine and sift information in a manner which gives us manageable amounts of results.
Be able to Aggregate: Learn how to leverage news aggregators, real time syndication, social media, micro blogging, and social bookmarking sites. These tools can help in sorting different formats, cull large amounts of information and deliver it in digestible portions for us to develop new capacities.
Engage in Connectivism: A learning theory constructed on the idea we can learn with digital, social and cultural connections, and from this interchange build individual and/or collective capacity to gain knowledge and understanding. Through our social and professional connections create networks of expertise, knowledge, and understanding to support learning. Use the “cognitive surplus” we have available in our social and professional groups to increase our own knowledge so we can create, communicate, produce and share effectively as critical thinkers.
“Learn, unlearn and relearn“: We need to develop the strategies and methodologies that allow us to engage effectively in this process of “learning, unlearning and relearning” daily. In tandem, we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity, support and resources to do this.
From this point forward, there is not going to be any less information – that is a fact. As the world moves into a state of constant change, and the pace accelerates, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our peers and our communities to make the process of learning, unlearning and relearning permanent. If we do not, we could potentially lose our ability to participate as critical thinkers and control the information landscape we live in.
Somehow late in the game I have suddenly realized in the background of my life there was a war going on in my Internet and still is most likely, and without much fuss or noise it took place and I suspect is still going on. It is one of these new dimensions of war, it happens undercover, behind the scene with little fan fair and without much human interaction. So not being aware of it is somewhat understandable. According to some pundits this has been going on for a few years but recently a Security company http://www.kaspersky.com/ started noticing this virus called “Flame” and since has been trying to better understand its workings and complexity. Flame’ Virus explained: How it works and who’s behind it and Flame and Stuxnet cyber-attacks. What to me is interesting, is that potentially nation states can engage in a destructive war within the internet, damage, capture, manipulate and steal information and in return shut down, wipe out or paralyze computer systems deemed a threat, or the country with the machines deemed a threat. This is now fact, and in the last years different groups have been busy at work using this powerful technology. Is this in the headlines, part of our daily discourse, something night news talk shows are spending time on? No, not at all this is something that happens undercover behind the scenes with little information or we hear of it after the fact.
With the global information glut and overload we consume, engage and live off, we just cannot keep up or be in tune with the various events, stories, and key pieces of information that might frame a better understanding of everything that is taking place in our world. Then there is the information that does not get shared, or buried deep away from the main stream traffic, headlines and captions. As humans we tend to engage with our digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies in removed manner, less questioning or critical at an ethical and moral level of the role these have on us as humans. The sheer convenience of the digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies we live, work, play and entertain ourselves with, dilutes often a critical engagement in understanding how these different tools are impacting us as individuals and a society. No time with our day to day business and the bombardment of new devices, apps and technologies daily being pushed out to us, prevents avenues for us to really stop, think, question and engage with this issue.
New Technologies, digital devices, and web environments as they become more seamless, integrated, and part of our day to day fabric for us to function as humans. We are at many levels defaulting executive decisions to these devices/environments independent of our input. I suspect most of us might feel that it is a small price to pay for the convenience of these digital devices, apps and technologies making the mundane decisions we need to engage with work, play, and living in a connected world. These two articles illustrate the wonders of some of these new technologies but at the same time test and confront our own morals and ethics.
There has to be a cautionary tale if this convenience overrides our ability to stop and reflect, think, probe, discuss, and question the world of digital devices, web environments, and technologies we adopt. If we are happy to sub contract our digital devices and new technologies to work, care, entertain, and support our day to day lives, how far do we give up the control for the convenience of it all? This article from the Economist highlights for me “Morals and the machine: As robots grow more autonomous, society needs to develop rules to manage them“, that we need to have this conversation as educators, organizations and a society in general, and be fully engaged with what is the potential impact to us all.
Walking around our school, one thing that always grabs my attention is the capacity of our learners to engage independently in the process of creative innovation to generate something quite unique and original. Unfortunately this often happens outside of the classroom setting, or in an elective classes, after school activity as the structure and expectations tend to be more open ended. Granted this is not always the case. This capacity for autonomous innovation often conflicts with the more regimented curriculum and learning that students engage with in the context of their classes. This is also the case for adults in our own work environments. There is no doubt that the rigid structures of school and work have served their purpose well, but today I am not convinced these are as helpful as in the past.
Today with the acceleration of change in technology and our lives I believe there is a growing need for autonomous creative innovation to become an integral part of the day to day fabric of our schools and work places. In a world where the acceleration of change only increases there is evidence that this is impacting our day to day capacity to work and live effectively. Our to do list becomes bigger, we are multitasking to manage an ever increasing information flow and somehow things do not seem to slow down.
We are dealing with a situation that is relatively new, change at an ever increasing pace, desperately trying to manage this with tools and structures that simply do not seem to work for us.
Schools and work places need to engage actively to create environments where the unstructured opportunities to innovate, create, explore and try out new ideas autonomously are part of the day to day schedule, structure and learning. So often you hear the term let us think “out of the box” but as long as we start from a box and then go out of it to think, we still are tied to certain structures and habits connected to the initial box. There is no doubt that a set of standard skills, a clear scope and sequence, and learning capacity needs to be formally introduced and nurtured for each learner to develop a strong skill set to be then able to effectively innovate and problem solve.
There are company’s that have developed a structure into their work flows “creative time” (Google calls it 20%). This is being done by many other companies and even some schools currently. The results of this dedicated time to explore autonomously has generated extremely innovative products or learning which have been integrated into the companies markets or schools learning.
For our respective community of learners who are exposed to continual accelerated change, we will need new solutions to be able to deal with this effectively. Creating in our learning environments (schools and workplace) time, capacity, structures and a cultural expectation were innovation becomes part of the day to day fabric will generate in my opinion a greater capacity for us to deal with this accelerated change.
Do not think out of the box, simpley get rid of the box, and let us think withouta box.