The question-mark says it all. I mean, really? “TAFE Queensland is a smart educator blending technology with teaching by leading the way in what will be the first Apple Watch™ classroom in Queensland and potentially the world.”
According to Education Technology Solutions,
TAFE Queensland English Language and Literacy Services (TELLS) will pilot the smart watch classroom early next year in Brisbane and Townsville to help migrants and other English speaking students of the Adult Migrant English Program and Skills for Education and Employment programme to develop their skills in reading, writing and technology.
Now I love technology more, much more, than the next man, but I’m deeply struggling with parsing this to make any sense of it. There’s technology that will actively help in learning solutions, and then there’s just technology that’s so bleeding edge that you have to feel that the outcomes are going to be disastrous. The person in charge of TELLS explains how it will work:
Students will have the ability to receive messages or feedback from their teacher while on campus and the watch can be used as a walkie-talkie. Many of our students find speaking easier than writing English so this will help with communicating ideas.
They couldn’t use a phone for that? Or even… a walkie talkie? Or, really go wild, just talk face-to-face?
Look I could be wrong, and the last thing I want is to be the curmudgeonly old soothsayer pointing out how things were done ‘when I were a a lad’. But I have to say, I think adult migrants learning English as their second language strike me as the last group we should be experimenting on. These people need to get functional English to survive day-to-day in our society – and right now there’s no part of our society seriously using smart watches let alone the fabled Apple smart watch.
I’m sure that TELLS is deeply well-meaning, and that there’s a great deal of excitement in doing something so ground-breaking, but I just can’t help but feel that there’s a serious degree of over-reach in the “World’s first Apple Watch™ classroom” being inflicted upon migrants trying to learn English. Experience may, and I would fervently hope, prove me wrong. But I doubt it.
The ‘educational sector’ is absolutely flooded with people trying to sell it things at the moment. Some of those things are wonderful, brilliant and will truly change how we do things – think of properly executed flipped classrooms. Some are just more efficient ways of doing what has always done – better timetabling apps for example. And some really just seem to be a case of being blinded by the glitter. The real test for teachers and administrators at the moment is in continuing to meaningfully innovate while dodging the cool-looking bullets.