Innovative Programmes

I was recently asked a question about innovation. .. what are some characteristics of truly innovative programs (sic) using technology ..”

I had to say that I no longer have any confidence in programmes.

Like ‘project’, the word programme conjures up something that has a defined beginning and end, and which can be put away when finished. I’m sorry to say that this is my jaundiced view of many such programmes that have taken place over the past ten years or so; there seems to be a nod in the direction of sustainability but no more.

MoleNET for example, was at its outset a truly innovative and far reaching programme. As time progressed (it lasted three years until funding stopped) its value became more widely understood and it became a catalyst for understanding the potential for pedagogical use of technology per se and not just for mobile technologies. Mobile became interactive web and then cloud; each development being incorporated into projects and disseminated via the team of MoLeNET Mentors. It was just beginning to work when the financial rug was pulled. Despite the £millions pumped into MoLeNET and its requirement for sustainability the hosting websites have disappeared from view – they don’t even show up on Google anymore. In fact the Programme administrators, LSN are no more!

I’ve been asked lots of times what innovation is and I’m not sure that I know. Not for certain. I’m sure that it means new things, useful things, exciting things? But what is the purpose of innovation? Is it simply to exhibit new, useful and shiny things or is it to see these through to mainstream acceptance and understanding? I suspect that the latter is right but that innovators get bored once mainstream gets ahold and they move on. In that case I’m not really an innovator. I see the point and given the opportunity will try to mainstream that point.

With MoleNET we were able to see a widespread acceptance for the use of mobile tools and technologies throughout Further Education but I’m not certain that this innovation transferred to schools or universities. Schools are still running scared of mobile tools (unnecessarily in my opinion) and H.E. simply doesn’t get it. e.g. I delivered a workshop at an ALT conference some time ago, showing the then innovative use of PDAs (this was just before the iPhone) to those attending. Afterwards, someone from a university came up to me and asked if I really thought that PDAs would replace PCs because if that was so it would save the university £1,000s. First of all – I’d never said that anything mobile would ‘replace’, only ‘supplement’ and ‘add value’, and secondly, all this person could see was a way of saving money for her Chancellor.

I know that this isn’t the place to say it but … hey ho … the programme we most need is one that doesn’t finish: one where all those of us involved in education constantly seek effective ways of reaching our learners, we use what we can (whether it be a new method or technology or an old one) and move on from what doesn’t work.

Also see:

http://www.m-learning.org/

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