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Impact Scale March 2, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Online Tools.
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torino   Yesterday, as I was thumbing through the latest Sky and Telescope magazine, I came across something called the Torino Scale. This chart is supposed to assess the potential for a near earth object to hit the earth and cause devastation and catastrophe. The chart and formula for determining the impact got me thinking about assessing the impact of new technologies on the field of education.

I will have to write a paper about this but let me just float the concept first. One axis of the chart definitely has to include the applicability of the technology to subjects in education. If a tool were applicable in a cross-curricular manner, then it should receive higher impact points. If it were of moderate applicability, perhaps by nature of it being too subject or grade specific, then it would receive fewer points. If it is interesting and holds a great deal of potential but just for a narrow part of the educational experience then it would receive the fewest points.

The problem is determining how to define the other axis of the chart. Here are a few of the ideas that I have as key:

  1. Pedagogical rationalization: how much does the tool affect out ability to teach better and for students to learn better?
  2. Technical ease: how skillful does the teacher have to be to use the tool?
  3. Usability and user-friendliness: is the tool generally accessible and understandable?
  4. Infrastructure support: is the tool well supported on the back end and not too demanding of infrastructure such as technicians?
  5. Affordability: does the tool pay for itself in educational terms?
  6. Potential ubiquity: does the tool have the potential of being everywhere?

Now the trick is to figure out how to use these fields to generate some sort of number that would place the tool on the impact chart. Next, we would have to test it with some known impacts and some big ones with us today. This Impact Scale is limited right now, in that pedagogical potential might be lying just below the surface and not accessible to the unimaginative. For example, the iPod has potential for improving education through podcasts, but that insightful innovation was not relevant at first glance.

Let’s look at the iPod, since I don’t have one, it will score high in pedagogical rationalization, high in technical ease, moderate in usability (since it requires a computer interface), high in infrastructure support, moderate in affordability (cost is slowing me down from getting one), and moderate in potential ubiquity (see affordability).

Next, we would have to figure out if the Impact Scale number could serve as a predictor of impact. Time will tell.

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