Comment: digital change has to happen faster, smarter and better!
If you were hearing stories of students distracted by social media, a lack of digital skills, disappointment with government indecisiveness - would you be listening to comments in Jersey?
Teacher and Express columnist Rory Steel has just been asked to speak about using technology in education at a conference in Bulgaria, and it seems the problems in that post-communist state might be very similar to ours.
"As I sit in Plovdiv’s 'House of Culture' I’m relying on Google Translate’s live text translation tool to give me the gist of one of the many presentations in Bulgaria’s Positive Psychology & Cloud Technologies conference, waiting my turn.
"Why am I here? Word has got out that Jersey is doing well with technology in education and I’m explaining how we use super-fast gigabit WiFi to improve learning. People want to hear this story and know how to replicate it, so I was asked to speak. Why should you be interested in this? Because even in this post-communist state I’ve been hearing eerily familiar tales, students distracted by social media, lack of digital skills, disappointment with government indecisiveness.
"Apple seems to be helping parents solve the first issue this week, by making 'Screentime', a feature where parents can monitor and more importantly block apps on their children’s devices from their phone: a feature that will infuriate a generation of social media obsessed, video streaming digital natives. It has an eagerly anticipated release date of September. The other issues of digital skills and government procrastination have been hot topics in the recent election.
"What strikes me, travelling the world to education conferences like this, is the limiting factors for change seem all too similar. Number one on the list, a lack of quick, informed decision making. Jersey knows this all too well with the hospital debacle - ludicrous amounts of money spent with little change. After all what’s wrong with a People’s Park new build, flattening the old hospital and creating a new People’s Park closer to town for everyone to enjoy an al fresco lunch in the sun?
"Here in Bulgaria the teachers tell me money is spent with little input from the staff at the chalk face, the systems don’t work as they need them and money is wasted with little change. They tell me it’s the same story across government services but the parallels are all too familiar for Jersey.
"According to Social Media groups, the new Chief Minister, Senator and Deputies teams are going to change the 'broken Jersey way.' A way that arguably has seen us prosper; nothing is perfect, but would we really consider Jersey broken? For me, the last Education Minister, Rod Bryans, was the only one I’d really seen in the last 20 years of teaching, actively engaging with schools on difficult subjects. Digital Jersey and myself held him to account on occasion but he never shied away from continuing to attend these public forums and listen to concerns.
"Justin Donovan, the current Education Director will be missed as he leaves Jersey, another advocate of change that identified problems publically and pushed forward. They were fixing a system that I believe needs to be fundamentally redesigned. So we are now at the dawn of the 'new Jersey way' if we are to believe the promises of many a candidate. For education, we will have a new Director and Minister, even if it will be rebranded with other services. I will hopefully get the chance to meet with them and reiterate, as I did so with their predecessors, technology cannot wait, decisions need to be made now.
"Technology isn’t like other disciplines, to fully understand it you have to live it, be obsessed with it. The sand shifts every day, not yearly, failure to adapt is disastrous, waiting to get consensus can be devastating. Jersey needs to make informed quick decisions. This can only be done using and trusting local advice which I hope will be sought straight away. I’m sure Digital Jersey and Skills Jersey will be asking for an audience immediately.
"My hope is that with new energy comes new ideas and a willingness to get things done fast. We say this every four years I’m sure, but there was something different about this last election. Love them or hate them, Reform Jersey ran an excellent social media campaign. They showed their opposition how to distribute a message using technology. Videos started popping up everywhere, boosted Facebook posts became commonplace.
"Watching the old guard scramble to catch up amused and frustrated me. It was the perfect analogy to show people and businesses that if you wait for technological change too long, someone else will get their first. They will seize the initiative. In Sam Mézec’s case it seemed that initiative saved him by 123 votes. It also exposed another myth, that social media is a game for the young. In a similar vein but in a very different ideology to Reform - love him or hate him also - Terry Le Main continues to thrive on social media post-government; if you comment on one of his posts you will receive notifications for days. Utilising technology to further your agenda is a tool for anyone who wants it.
"I may not agree with Reform on many things but credit, where credit is due. Their campaign made their opposition come out of hiding, it made people define their positions more coherently, it helped politics, it made me think something different might just well happen after all.
"They are one of growing examples, like @JTSocial or @JerseyPolice’s superb media presence, or even the Bailiwick Express’ move to battle the printed media, people and businesses should be taking advantage of technology but not just social media. Thanks to Digital Jersey we can finally pay for parking with our phone, Liberty Bus allows you to track buses live, Jersey Heritage is producing virtual tours of our local history and I personally can not wait for tax forms online.
"Jersey is moving forward, it can always move faster, it has to, that’s the challenge, before someone else does. Can we be digital leaders, innovators on a global scale? Maybe, but the change has to happen faster, smarter and better!"