Guest Post: Digital Disruption – A Millennial’s Perspective

This guest post first appeared on iStart – Technology in Business (please click through to read the preface by Ben Kepes) and features an insightful summary by Year 10 student Yonni Kepes on the impact of technology in society today.

Yonni

Yonni Kepes

“As the world goes through a digital transformation and disruption, we must remember what will actually be changing. For me digital transformation means changing from an old manual way of doing things to a new system that uses technology to do business in new ways. Jobs will be replaced by new, different applications of technology and it will be my generation that will be filling many of these posts.

“I think the biggest challenge for us will be understanding the extent of the transformation. For example, we weren’t around when taxis were one of the main types of transport for hire, so we never saw the industry fully function with no Uber to challenge it. And although we are in this transformation we will never see the end result – it is part of an unprecedented, continual and rapid change. I believe that makes it a lot harder for my generation to understand the changes and to know where they should look for and find good jobs which are secure. A good company attracts good employees to enjoyable jobs. Employees who are flexible and like learning new skills, and employers that support them are what make a good place to work. If my generation wants to still be employed in jobs like these, then we need to learn these new technology-based skills and use them as best we can. It is also important that customers get to have a say when looking at business. Since my generation is the future consumer, we can offer great advice that will help shape the future of businesses.

Future-technology-300x200“I also believe that as we slowly transition in to a digital world of some sort we will have our lives changed a lot by digital innovation. People now have too many “devices” in their homes, with the average number per person at nearly five. It’s a worry that more household items will be swapped for more devices with some sort of transmitter in them. The reason for my concern is because the devices will ‘take over’ people’s lives. Although having more devices per person is, in my opinion, a bad thing, they do have their benefits. These devices can now stay in contact with their owners and tell them, for example, when dinner is ready, what’s happening with the washing, or the temperature of the bath; little things in isolation, but with the potential to completely change our lives when combined. If this is happening now, then what will be happening in 20 years’ time?

“I think the biggest challenge for us will be understanding the extent of the transformation.”
Yonni Keeps, 15-year-old millennial

“It’s interesting that my generation is so fixated on what sort of phone we have but we don’t even stop to consider what digital disruption is doing to some businesses and what this could mean in terms of the way we live our lives. I believe that when my generation does see what digital disruption is doing they will simply pull a weird face, as they don’t understand it or what it is doing to the world since we will be viewing it from inside the middle of the transition. Then again, digital disruption will offer opportunities for us to look at companies and say ‘I think I can do better than them’. From there we will be able to build businesses taking advantage of other people’s lack of technological understanding. This will help to build a better system for future business.

Yonni & his father Ben Kepes who chaired the conference in Melbourne on Digital Disruption

Yonni & his father Ben Kepes who chaired the conference in Melbourne on Digital Disruption

“I believe that once my generation actually sees what is transforming then this world could turn in to a place where lots of different concepts will be used to make our life a lot easier.

“I’m very excited as this will offer many new opportunities which weren’t afforded to the generation before. I believe that with a good mindset my generation can use digital disruption to our advantage and make the world a much better place.”

Freemium: Students Can Be The Winners On The Day

freemium

This post was written as part of the Connected Educators Month 2014 and was first published on the Christchurch Connected Educators blog.

In my role as Director of ICT at St Andrew’s College I get to see lots of great products in the ICT sector, both the latest hardware (such as new tablets aimed at education) and software (cloud based productivity suites are the in thing currently for schools). I also get to step back from the coal face from time to time and observe some of the bigger trends happening in ICT & Education and there are two obvious ones:

  1. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. More and more schools are exploring how they can allow (or in some cases require) students to bring a laptop/tablet/smartphone to school and use it as a tool for their education. There are literally tens of thousands of blogs about this, so I’m not going to write about that today.
  2. Freemium – Defined as “a business model, especially on the Internet, whereby basic services are provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for” This is a growing trend in education and, as the blog title suggests, students will be the ultimate winners from this.

The concept of Freemium is probably best known as starting within the Apple App Store and it has spread rapidly from there. Developers, keen for you to try out their apps, give away a limited feature set, be that the first few levels of a game for example, and if you love it, you pay the full price for the app.

How Is This Impacting Schools?

Major players in ICT have long recognised that exposing students to their products early on increases the chances of them continuing to use their products when they leave school. Earlier this year I attended a conference where Francis Valintine from The Mindlab by Unitec named five companies that are likely to dominate education in the near future. These were (in no particular order):

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google

office-logo_v3Many New Zealand schools are already availing themselves of the Ministry of Education negotiated contract with Microsoft allowing for very affordable access to Office365 and associated products. Other schools have gone for the free option of Google Apps For Education (GAFE). Both products are excellent, and allow schools to deliver Enterprise quality email, cloud collaboration services, online storage and backup options and a huge range of additional features from third party developers that plug in to these core products. It has massively reduced the workload for school ICT technicians; for example not having to run a local mail server and spam filter for students and staff.

Google-Apps-for-EducationBen Kepes, writing for Forbes.com, described the Google/Apple/Microsoft rush for education as a “war” – they are certainly battling for the hearts and minds of students, hoping that their loyalty to a product will continue on into tertiary study and, ultimately, the workplace. Indeed, I’ve even come across ICT technicians from different schools exclaiming incredulously “What? You’ve gone with [product x]?? I can’t believe it when [product y] gives you 10x that storage space for free!!”

And so it goes on …

Should We Be Concerned?

The answer to that question is not a clear cut yes or no – it’s more like a “maybe.” With more and more companies offering free or heavily discounted products to schools, we should in theory be seeing increased choice around what tools are used for the best educational outcomes. Paradoxically, however, the opposite is happening as each major vendor creates an ecosystem where their products play nicest together. As these ecosystems grow ever more encompassing there becomes less compelling reasons for schools to explore great products outside of those provided within the ecosystem.

To highlight just how much focus these vendors are pushing a widening product set, many traditional software only companies are now releasing hardware products to complete their ecosystem:

  • Microsoft: with a long history of operating systems and office suites, they are now offering hardware like the Surface Pro 3 tablet
  • Google: started out as a search engine and then developed a mobile operating system called Android and then ChromeOS for running on laptops. They have now released their own ChromeBook called Pixel
  • Apple: already a hardware and software company, they needed a cloud based productivity suite to complete their ecosystem and introduced iCloud

Ultimately, schools have to make a choice which ecosystem they enter and straddling two at once becomes challenging. Towards the end of Term 3 I organised some of our staff at St Andrew’s College to present to senior leaders from a range of schools throughout New Zealand on how we are using Microsoft OneNote in Maths and English. Afterwards, a number of the guests from other schools asked how they too could implement OneNote in their schools, only to realise they were a GAFE school and didn’t have the Microsoft licensing to affordably do this.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s not that Office365 is better than Google Apps for Education – both are tremendous products and as schools, we should all be incredibly grateful we have access to these. It’s more that in being spoilt for choice for free or heavily subsidised product offerings, it’s not always easy to explore the best products across multiple ecosystems.

Conclusion:

I wrote in a recent blog post that great integration of technology in a classroom should see it fade into the background:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

moodleSchools are in an incredible position that they’ve never really experienced before where major players in ICT are literally giving away their products to them or using a freemium model for base services. On top of that, there is the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community offerings such as the very popular learning management system (LMS) called Moodle.

At a time of such rich pickings, our focus should not be solely on [product x] or [product y], but squarely on the teaching and learning practices that authentically integrate whatever the chosen technology is into the lesson.

When this occurs, the students will indeed be winners on the day.