The Rise of the #eNoobs: 3 key questions

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Who are we?

You have probably noticed that use and access to digital technology has rapidly advanced in the last fifteen or so years. It’s hard to ignore that in this time frame, the size and shape; the role of personal, specialised and multi-use devices have revolutionised domestic and working lives. The way we communicate, interact and to some degree, social practices in many communities throughout the world have been significantly affected through being connected online.

Education has been far from unaffected by this revolution. Social, cultural and economic demands have led many education systems to invest heavily into technology usually in the form of hardware and more recently network infrastructure to facilitate online access. One of the main aims of these investments has always been to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Yet, the degree of adaptation and adoption of technology, what I would call technology integration in education, is the real issue. Arguably, this has shown itself to be the largest challenge when it comes to having success with technology integration and in many ways has led schools to create positions such as e-learning coordinator, e-learning facilitator, e-learning manager, learning leader in innovation, or whatever title schools want to bestow on such roles. For many schools, let’s call it the eNoobs, is a new role, frequently a managerial role but usually answerable to deputies, assistants and principals. It is a position that has whole school responsibilities and is commonly expected to work with staff and students, in other words, to affect teaching and learning.

What do we do?

If you search online for elearning coordinator positions, not only will you see a large number advertised across a variety of sectors in education but you will also see different mutations of the role and responsibilities expected. Although I have seen these issues stabilise somewhat in recent years, schools still seem to not only have trouble labelling eNoobs but they also struggle with consistency in respect of what the role should cover. Being involved in technical issues, network management, advising on technology infrastructure comes up in certain jobs whereas in others the theme of modelling pedagogical approaches/teaching practice seems common.

Therefore, to answer both the questions regarding who we are and what we do, I would say it depends on the school in question, the role the eNoob is being asked to take and, at times, the specialist focus of the person and/or the school. There is one thing for sure though, the role requires such personal traits as diversity, flexibility, creativity and commitment. Yet, it also requires such skills and experience of research, communication, people, resource and project management.

Why do we exist?

Arguably, this is the most important question of the three. In this recent book: Technology in Schools (Kevin P. Brady & Charles J. Russo & Allan G. Osborne) http://www.sagepub.com/refbooks/Book235069 , Jonathan Eakle says that to more fully realise the full promise of technology in education, schools need to consider increasing opportunities for professional development for staff, share goals and a vision across all levels of the school community, change many traditonal teaching practices, transform school cultures, have authentic cross-curricular connections and address a common core set of standards (ie ensure digital literacy is properly taught). I reckon that’s a lot of elements to put in place, a lot of work and requires many different aspects of any school to be affected for an eNoob to properly do his/her job. Some would even say that in many schools, such goals are unachievable or are certainly a very long way off. I wouldn’t argue with that but I would say that we have to work towards achieving them and as they are collectively, such a huge undertaking, if there is no eNoob to start to impact on these strands, they are hardly likely to happen. Eakle says:

“Implementation will require the development of a new generation of educational leaders who are able to support their students in learning as well as support their colleagues in teaching strategically with technology.”

To my mind, this goes really far in answering all 3 key questions and to explaining the rise of the #eNoobs.

5 thoughts on “The Rise of the #eNoobs: 3 key questions

  1. Thanks for the post Nick!

    I think one of the key challenges to change of any type in schools is that the whole structure (and infrastructure) of school is often to maintain stability and the status quo rather than being flexible and changeable. Very few schools can afford to change their physical form to meet the needs of truly diverse classrooms (and the learners within them) yet we claim to do differentiation in “instruction”. Perhaps this is the first step: to help change the way teachers do their craft and therefore evolve our needs as a profession and eventually change the physical environment too.

    I’d like to think that changing people’s minds would lead to breaking down many of the real or perceived barriers to achieving the goals Nick mentions above. Unfortunately, changing minds is probably the hardest thing to do. It has to be in partnership, in collaboration, with patience and trust and clear goals. But, how long can we allow this to take before our students start questioning the very relevance of school, let alone the relevance of what occurs within them right now.

  2. Nick, as always thought provoking and poignant. The considerations that Eakle lists are great aspirations for any school…period! For the use of technology to be effective and dare I be cliched and say transformative, these aspirations need to form the framework for greater schooling. The challenge is in the change management. Due to the rapid rise of technology, this change management needs a passionate educator to help steer it in the right direction. Hence, why I think the eLearning position was developed.

  3. A great opening post to set the scene Nick.
    An incredibly complex and wide-ranging issue as you and Eakle discuss; schools and eNoobs certainly have their work cut out. I wonder though what proportion of the responsibility for ‘fully realis(ing) the potential of technology in education’ should fall at the feet of the schools and those charged with leading technology integration? Would it not be fair to say that every single teacher should share some of that responsibility? Is it conceivable that anyone should have the option to say ‘No thanks?’ Certainly schools have a duty to put in place support structures and opportunities for professional development to which colleagues have access, but with that provision made, is is not then incumbent on them to take their learning and personal development forward? That’s what professionals do isn’t it?

    Having lit the blue touchpaper, I shall now retire to a safe distance!

  4. It’s an exciting time and I’m really looking forward to being a part of this project.

    I agree with all of the comments above. I’m lucky (although somedays…) that I am in a school that is in the process of a much needed server upgrade. In fact, we are installing a whole new server. This has meant that staff have been prepared for interruptions to the norm. I’ve taken this an opportunity to ‘rock the boat’ a bit and look at what we need our infrastructure to do to keep it relevant into the future.

    In a school which still cherishes it’s computer room, the move to mobile devices is scary… but in an exciting way. Matt talked about teachers changing their craft, and that’s certainly a big part of the conversation at our school. Particularly in a site where they have traditionally done well, it’s sometimes hard for people to see this NEED for change.

    We have a long way to go, but we are really looking forward to the journey.

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