“There are the partners that focus on technology, such as OEMs and system integrators, and – this is the exciting end – those that are helping to transform education, with transformation initiatives, special developments that re-envisage the digital classroom,” Trump said.
It’s not just about being able to connect anywhere any time but also looking at how teaching and other resources as well as educational content can be supplied to those laptops and shared among students, staff and parents, for example.
“You can look at textbooks. They can start to look at partnering with content providers to move away from paper-based textbooks to some extent,” Trump said. “We’ve got some partners doing just that.”
“We’d like to grow the number of partners that have deeper educational expertise. The idea of just leading on price and technology is really dated. Now we’re looking for local partners, particularly in regional parts of Australia, to support schools at the whole state level right through to the smaller independent schools.”
This suggested even more demand for high-level, sophisticated skills sometimes thought the domain of top-level government or the multinational corporate sector.
Trump agreed that ultimately students want to do a lot more with their computers than send email and browse the Web.
“Students do really want rich multimedia experiences. They want to play games. So for that reason schools are moving up a little bit further in the market,” he said.
Another ignored area is accessories. Bags, mice, fl ash drives, stands and so on are often needed and could be supplied as part of whole-solution packages – and they too may need to be connected, secured and managed, he said.
How to sell it all becomes an issue. “It’s often the little things. When you’re talking about technology, people go up and say ‘we’ve got this P generation WXYZ with 1234 and 5678 wireless that can do 6574 megaflops’ or something, and that’s just not relevant to teachers,” Trump said.
Partners must de-jargonise their sell, instead of restating what the technology can do in terms of, say, actual learning outcomes. And they need to do it in correct Australian English. Educational professionals especially tend not to trust vendors with failings in their written expression, Trump said.
Microsoft works with the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT), which Trump said repeatedly calls for more predictability in technology deals. “[Schools] want no surprises. As a partner or vendor, you need to give plenty of warning of any changes.”