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More on me: Graham Prentice, Cyclone Computers

14 May 2014

While he’s the GM of the Apple Division/All of Government at Cyclone Computers, Graham Prentice says he doesn’t work in technology.

“Actually, I never got into the IT industry. Instead, I did degree courses in education [MA and DipEd] and that’s where my career took me.”

Having spent 20 years in the schools system, including as an IT advisor and latterly principal at Papatoetoe Central School, it is clear where Prentice’s passion lies: education. “However, I decided that I could have more impact by getting on board with a vendor,” he says.

That decision took him to Renaissance, where his focus was on Apple, “which has a long history of impacting educational outcomes”, and on to Cyclone Computers.

His interest in education is driven by a love of learning. It’s also a source of frustration, because Prentice sees gaps in efficiency. It is these that he is setting out to address as best he can.

“IT offers a powerful set of tools which, to date, just aren’t very well used in classrooms. Sure, we see some really good examples in individual classrooms, but we rarely see whole institutions adopting digital learning.

"There is enormous potential for changing the way that teachers interact with pupils through technology and, as pricing continues to come down, it is also very accessible.”

Technology is a very powerful change agent that you ignore at your peril, he continues. “It is my mission to encourage adoption of digital devices in classrooms at the police and other areas of government, and also into the workplace.

"When done intelligently, the use of technology allows for a reset of the defaults of what we’ve always done and equips us to do things better,” Prentice says.

It is something of a coup, he says, that traditionally more ‘conservative’ users of technology are coming around to its revolutionary impact. He points to the NZ Police, which last year equipped operational staff with iPads and iPhones.

“Even though the use of these devices is restricted to a couple of approved apps, the productivity gains are huge.

"It’s the same in an educational setting: cleverly used, such devices with the associated connectivity means, for example, that students who can’t attend class can get the same information and interactivity within a digital framework.”

Prentice believes adoption of technology in New Zealand has had its limitations owing to the structure of the market; the country is big, but with a sparse population, rendering the economics of universal broadband networks difficult.

But even as broadband becomes more accessible, there is also resistance to upgrading to the ‘fastest bestest’ connection.

There is, he agrees, an element of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. “Broadband is one of those things where, until you experience a faster connection, you don’t believe you need it. Until you actually experience it – then you can’t go back.”

He says this points to the necessity for “a fundamental rethink of the ‘information superhighway and the cars we have on it.”Perhaps unsurprisingly, Prentice’s definition of success is closely tied to the work for which he has such obvious passion.

“Success comes from helping others do things differently and better. It is as simple as that, whether in the workplace, or helping children to achieve better outcomes.”

Outside of the office, his major interest is photography; Prentice is an active contributor to stock image banks, including landscapes, people and macro-focus shots, putting his Canon EOS 1D Mk4 to good use. “And thanks to the income from stock images, it’s a hobby that pays for itself.”

Visit Graham Prentice's Linked In profile here.

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