In the early 1950s, my grandparents leased a humble patch of farming land in rural Andalucía where they were able to grow crops and graze their modest herd of dairy cows. There they built a house and raised their children.
In those days if you needed water, you had to dig a well. So they did. Incredibly they managed with a well and without electricity – using butane and paraffin lamps – for another 20 years.
By the time my dad was a young man, my grandparents had invested in a diesel generator that would allow them to run some electric appliances and watch TV or listen to the radio in the evenings. Eventually, round about the time my mum and dad got married and I came to being in the mid seventies, civilisation arrived and they were able to connect to the mains for both water and electricity.
As you can imagine, the well and the generator, which had so faithfully served the needs of my family all those years, quickly fell into disuse.
Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because the way we deal with technology in schools is very much the way my grandparents had to deal with water and electricity.
Schools are still investing massively in physical ICT infrastructure. They’re not digging wells or buying generators, but they are ploughing money into racks packed with servers, storage and data back-up contraptions of various kinds, unwilling to relinquish these duties to the Cloud.
Just like schools once had to generate their own electricity, they are generating their own ICT. This has worked well so far. However, as the amount of information schools need to handle increases and its quality improves (HD, 3D and whatever comes next), one can see how the strain on budgets and resources will continue to increase in tandem.
In order to stop our schools resembling ever more closely Google’s data centres, I believe we need to learn to let go of generating our own ICT and start encouraging suppliers to take on the challenge of providing the services we require, so schools can concentrate on their core business of providing an education to children. As the old adage goes, you don’t buy a drill because you want a drill – you buy it because you want a hole.
What do you think?
Many thanks to Alan Antiporda for his photograph.