Bringing Global Experience to EdTech
Shepherding EdTech for English Language International Schools
by Dr. Rod Berger
John Mikton’s introduction to English language international education was in Africa over 24 years ago, and his first concern wasn’t just teaching. There was also the lack of electricity, water and crumbling infrastructure to tackle. So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
Since then, from creating an educational technology system where none had ever existed in Africa to teaching in Japan where the educational technology was some of the most advanced in the world, John has seen as many different educational systems, edtech variations, and educational philosophies as he has seen cultures. The one thing he has learned from his global experience is that a theory or method that worked in one location may not (and usually doesn’t) work in another.
“International schools are so different from each other even though in general philosophy it’s a group of expatriate parents who are often stationed or have professional opportunities in geographic locations,” John says. “And for them to have that English language international education — they will go to an international school.” In addition to expatriates, local families who want to avail their children of a Western-style education make-up a good percentage of enrollment.
Often the needs of the students and the needs of the world they’re going into are very different from the needs perceived by parents and teachers. John says that at the end of the day he sees his job as being able to answer the following: “What is it about people that you can support, engage and provoke in an empathetic way to get people to change and to meet the needs of the students?”
At the beginning of his career, the major issues he faced weren’t just getting cumbersome and expensive 1995 desktop computers to Africa with English keyboards, but also the licensing of the software. But now, because of cloud computing and affordable devices like tablets and smartphones, the playing field is leveled and (with the exception of China and other areas that have purposefully blocked the internet) the same resources and curriculum are available around the globe. “I would say a large percentage of international schools can leverage cloud computing to their advantage,” John says, “and then it’s much easier to provide those digital ecosystems across borders.”
Today, with cloud computing and the BYOD (bring your own device) movement gaining momentum globally, the responsibility worldwide is being pushed onto the parents and the students. In both the United States and internationally there’s an emphasis on bringing the hardware to schools, and then allowing the institutions to provide the pedagogy, the bandwidth, and the necessary cloud technologies.
John Mikton sees a bright future, but further down the road he sees trouble brewing with the thought processes and the need for assessment from governing entities, boards of trustees and finance committees who simply want to know, “What is the return on the investment?”
The technology isn’t the point, John says. The technology is merely a tool; the lessons themselves must be engaging to be effective. The technology alone is not going to improve learning. “I think that’s a hard one, sometimes, for a board of trustees to understand because they want a tangible result ─ test results ─ or evidence of better learning,” he says.
To be a thriving learning environment, John says the question should be “What can we do to ensure that we have good teachers facilitating excellent learning and enhancing kids’ understanding of the world while making it engaging and authentic?” And then we need to bring the pedagogy, the tools, and the resources into their lives to accomplish that.
About John Mikton
John Mikton is currently the Head of Education and Media Technology/ Assistant Principal at the International School of Luxembourg . Previously he was the Director of eLearning at the Inter Community School in Zurich, Switzerland and the Director of Information Technology at the International School of Prague, Czech Republic. John is also a trainer at the Principal Training Center – facilitating the Technology Leadership and Digital Skills for Internationals School Leaders courses. He is also an Appsevents presenter and summit speaker.
He has 24 years experience working in International School (Africa, Asia and Europe) Education and Media Technology and 12 years as a Senior Leadership Team member in International Schools (in Europe).