Apple lle
Apple lle by brownpau

The Medium IS the Message

And the message we received is – you are no longer able, or entitled, to manage information technology in your classroom.

We were empowered.

You know, back in the day – when microcomputers first started entering schools (1978 thru the late 80s), we used to set them up ourselves. We’d order brand spanking new Apple lls or Macs. How excited we all were when the boxes would arrive. Two or three of us would set time aside somehow, or we would engage kids in the process, and we’d unpack the boxes carefully – setting the manuals smartly to one side, keeping the cables organized, managing the disks or cds. We’d decide where they were going to go and we’d somehow run power to them!

We were empowered, passionate, and able to exercise our professional wisdom.

Then we’d turn one of them on and regale at the success of it booting properly. The passion was tangible as we would install any new software and configure them the way we wanted – the way that would suit our needs.

Was it more work that we resented? Most definitely not.

We were empowered, passionate, and able to exercise our professional wisdom.

What happened?


CC BY SA opensourceway

During this early phase, standard information technology (IT) departments really had no cause to bother with us. Computers were standalone and really didn’t impact IT’s work or their networks which typically served the school offices for word processing and other ‘data’ functions.

However, then the WWW arrived. There have been many unintended second-order effects of that! Schools had to be networked. This fell under the purview of the IT department. With all due respect, IT departments share a different culture to the ‘learning’ culture of teachers, classrooms and schools. It is much less organic, messy and nimble. It is much more top-down, structured, planned and controlled.

At this point, the purchase and deployment of computers for the classrooms moved under their watch. Ownership of the computers shifted from the kids and teachers to the IT department. Controls were implemented to ensure ‘the integrity of the network’.

Any software that was not on the ‘image’ had to be requested through a very long process. Want to convert an image file or video file? Ooops. Can’t install it. No administrator privileges. Must ask. In fact, must often plead a case!

Please do not misunderstand. I respect and appreciate the need for security of data and the network. I truly do. But it has tipped.

The locus of control shifted from the user to a remote disconnected decision maker.

The medium is the message

Marshall McLuhan had it right. The medium is the message. How so?

The message inherent in the medium of that IT deployment model was huge. It was a patronizing message of disempowerment, shift of ownership, lack of control over our own tools and media.

So although we still got the computers, we got the message loud and clear.

Thank goodness for personal smart devices that aren’t institutionally governed.