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On the inappropriate early use of technology

A fellow OU MA student blogged about her experience of the failed introduction of a video conferencing system into a number of primary schools in England in 2003.

I offered this comment:

It repeatedly overwhelms me with sadness that the boundary between professionalism and amateurism is so thin.

I mean no disrespect to schools, or some schools, as it applies to many other organisations (not least hospitals). There must be ‘user needs analysis,’ or put more bluntly, ‘ask the teachers!’

Take these end users very seriously indeed.

The end-user is the success or failure of a project. Answer their needs, solve a problem, create an opportunity … and do it for as little cash outlay as possible at first.

‘Creativity before capital’ as the change leaders at Unipart Group of Companies said in the 1990s.

i.e. do what you can to experiment and trial with anything new, change, reorganization or kit, before you commit.

Hire kit for a long weekend and give it a go. ONLY after needs analysis, feedback of this trial period should an organisation go ahead … and even then the kit should be initially on some short term lease so that it can go back if it proves to be the wrong kit, or the right kit at the wrong time, or should wait until teachers (in this instance) have been trained.

Often schools can get in touch with local businesses that use this kind of thing

The business has a ‘social responsibility agenda to meet (often) and will genuinely help out, for example, a trip to use their video conferencing set up between locations around the world. just an idea. If these experience if a good one, then perhaps the venture is worth the expense. You may find that using this companies conference room once a quarter about satisfies what you wanted in the first place anyhow. You may realise that there is a far simpler way to do it … video an event and then share the content remotely at a later time. Did it have to be synchronous? A parent might be winkled out who is a tech expert who will do some of the work for free. etc: Start the journey tentatively with eyes and ears open.

My first experience of video conferencing was in 1986 between BP oil rigs and head office

A decade later multinationals were using it regularly via intranets; it is still under utilised. It can be the tail that wags the dog as if it was the CEO’s baby others feel an obligation to use it even if on reflection it proves to be a waste of time.

Don’t you think schools, on the ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ Rogers (2005) curve ought to resist being early adopters, or even majority adopters? That it pays to be the ‘laggards’ both on cost, technical advances and acceptance of the technology in the wider community?


Rogers, E Diffusion of Innovations (5th edition, 2005)

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