This post was published in January 2011, so the information in the post or about me in the sidebar may no longer be correct.

Fraser Speirs

David was kind enough to invite me back to St Paul’s yesterday to hear Fraser Speirs, the chap behind FlickrExport and Darkslide, talk about his rollout of an iPad to every pupil at Cedars School of Excellence near Glasgow.

Fraser spoke about the situation that led up to the iPad decision; the scarcity of MacBooks in his school, the lack of faith in the iPod touch as a complete desktop replacement. He talked about the deployment process, and how it’s completely changed the way many subjects are taught.

The example he gave that stuck with me was Art. A teacher can use Brushes on the iPad to create a drawing that illustrates a particular artistic technique. Brushes will create a ‘recording’ (a timelapse) of the creation, which can be exported and played back. And then, the magic: during a class the teacher can talk over the video and carefully explain the technique. If you’re an Art teacher and that doesn’t make you want an iPad… I’m speechless.

Then, the Q&A; (I’m paraphrasing from memory - please correct me if I’ve got this wrong). George asked whether Fraser was worried that he was sending kids out into the world who couldn’t use Microsoft Office.

Fraser responded by saying that it wasn’t a worry, but it was something to think about. He went on to say that there’s no way to tell what the world of work will be like in 2023, when some of these kids will leave school.

Having worked in a huge organisation for (only!) six months so far, this worried me. I’ve experienced the brain-achingly slow rate at which IT in corporations—at least this corporation—moves. Internet Explorer 8 was released in March 2009; it’s being pushed out in June 2011, over two years later. Our Windows 7 release will start in November this year and conclude in September 2014, a full five years after the retail release. By 2015, all 100,000 employees will be running Windows 7. I’m willing to bet (and this is a total guess, I don’t work in IT or have any inside information) that even in 2023, Microsoft will be an important part of this company’s infrastructure.

Is that a good thing? Nope, not one bit. But what’s going to happen here? Will the next generation start avoiding job ads that require some kind of Microsoft Office competency? I’m really worried about the future for large companies that have such a heavy reliance on Microsoft who haven’t learnt to adapt yet. To offer, for example, new starters the OS of their choice. This talk has prompted some really interesting conversations here about the future of education and work, thank you Fraser.

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