Educational software products … less is more

Monday, March 14th, 2011 | software

The architect and furniture designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was one of the main proponents of minimalism in art and other design forms. Minimalism is the notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. Van der Rohe became famous for using the expression less is more.

A typical van der Rohe design: The "Four Seasons Bar Stool"

The design of modern architecture, cars, furniture and other utility items are still influenced by this principle: simple, clean lines are preferred to frills.

The less is more principle could also be applied in our choice of software for schools. In many schools impressive software packages are installed but seldom – or never – used. The reason for this is that these tools are too complicated and too difficult for the average educator to understand. On the other hand, far less sophisticated software packages are embraced by teachers starting out on the ICT road. Why? Clearly because they can more readily identify with simple, practical tools.

A similar observation has been made regarding the number of software tools given to a school at the outset. In a well-meaning effort to cover all the bases, teachers may be swamped by a bewildering array of products. The result? There are too many different tools to learn; the road of least resistance for some teachers is to give up.

With the wisdom of hindsight, the best policy is to start with only one or two uncomplicated software products when they are introduced to ICT. As individual teachers mature in their use of technology, more complex programs can be added, according to their requirements. In fact, when teachers have out-grown the introductory products, most of them start to search for more appropriate ones themselves.

The successful use of technology in a school can not be measured in terms of the number and elegance of software products in their possession; success is to be measured by the degree to which these products are used to improve teaching and learning.

Before stocking up on software products, consider the wisdom of less is more.

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3 Comments to Educational software products … less is more

Albie
Monday, 14 March, 2011

Yes … I must agree …. the more simplistic the software, the less complicated the navigation skills needed for both educator and learner.

I don’t want to name the educational software packages i.e. those that are “loaded” with just too many complicated instructions and just too many overwhelmingly “tools / function / layout” etc – these software packages are excellent in content, activities, educational information and so on, but just too “confusion” re its face value / looks / layout / presentation etc for many non-ICT educators.

The “less” the frills, icons, graphics, instructions, tabs, and and and …. the more the screen is “open” … one package (without being too “loyal” to Khanya), is the Khanya LTSM !!

Albie

Elevator
Sunday, 10 April, 2011

Too difficult for the average educator to understand.

Travis Noakes
Sunday, 10 April, 2011

Kobus, I agree completely: educators have many responsibilities and often expecting them to use a heavily taxed working memory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_memory#Capacity) to learn many new software packages is unrealistic.

A local example of this is the training given to Visual Arts and Design educators for using Apple Mac labs at the Arts and Culture Focus schools. Not only was the once-off workshop training structure mistaken (http://edutechdebate.org/teacher-training/teacher-training-on-ict-cannot-be-a-one-time-event/), but educators were given instruction in many new software packages. As a result, it is hardly suprising that very few educators include these labs in their curricula!

Has the DOE defined guidelines that trainers should follow in training educators to adopt ICT in their curricula? A policy on this would be useful to key decision makers, surely?

P.S. Given the comments from “Led Strips” and “Elevator”, just a general recommendation that any technical jargon should be hyper-linked to definitions in your blog posts. Using this new media literacy will aid those unfamiliar with such technical terms through a quick look-up.

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