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Posts Tagged ‘edtech

To paraphrase a Biblical reference: You cannot put new wine in old wineskins. If you do not get that reference, you should also not get why people do this.

Old ideas applied to new technologies make both look ridiculous. And yet we keep repeating that mistake.

New technologies might make current processes better. But we should also be looking for what they enable, i.e., what we thought previously difficult or impossible to do.

Applied to schooling, edtech should be about enabling new possibilities, not entrenching old habits. If we ignore that approach, we risk looking as foolish as the VR soccer players.

This seems to be the favourite type of opinion piece in the press.

How do I know? The title provides clues: Teachers should enrich life, not worship the machine.

Both the title and the ensuing article says everything and nothing at the same time. Take this excerpt:

We are already in danger of creating “industrial” school systems, the authors note, in which teachers are reduced to near-automatons, implementing a prescriptive model of education and ticking boxes.

It makes a claim (we are in danger) without backing or evidence.

The second claim about inhuman robo-teachers not only suffers the same problem as the first claim, it is also reductionist. The statement claims to be about everything (“we” and “teachers”), but since it provides no evidence, is also saying nothing.

Consider another segment:

Instead, there is a danger that educational technology, or edtech, may only worsen the industrialisation of the system as governments resort to new ways of measuring student output and teacher productivity.

The writer seems to have only one perception of edtech — one disowned by teachers and students that dispassionately quantifies everything. Such an edtech is a bean-counting LMS provider’s wet dream.

Again this is a claim about all edtech when it is not. Just think about technology owned by and in the creative hands and critical minds of learners. The possibilities defy convention and measurement and that is the beauty of such edtech.

Even when the writer tried to provide balance, his attempt was not an informed one:

…technology can undoubtedly help democratise learning and improve knowledge transmission, but cannot replace the human skills taught by teachers. “Technology can uplift and amplify good teaching but it can never improve poor teaching,” he says. “Learning seems to be a social process.

Knowledge is not just transmitted, it is also negotiated. We are not programmable robots.

Edtech is not an either-or choice. With edtech, we do not have a false dichotomy of wide-reaching access or the human touch. We can have both. Consider how online and blended courses have communication tools to help learners connect. If these courses do not, learners find their own, e.g., WhatsApp groups.

All that said, learning is not always a social process. If the social process is defined by interaction between two or more people, then what is learning by observation (e.g., watching a video), experimentation (e.g., individually tinkering with different methods), repetition (e.g., practising a skill alone), or reflection (e.g., writing a journal or consolidating an e-portfolio)?

No teacher worth their salt should read such an article without questioning every other sentence. The questions should stem not from empty opinion but from knowledge of educational theories and years of critical practice. These questions, theories, and practice test everything and leave nothing unturned.

This critique of how people think about the effectiveness of edtech might push some folks to think more deeply about technology implementations in schools and universities.

It first suggested that most people assume that edtech and teaching practices independently impact learning outcomes. The article said this was wrong.

It then suggested that we should consider how edtech primarily influences teacher practices which then influence learning outcomes. While it did not discount the direct impact of edtech on learning outcomes should students learn independently of teachers, it relegated the importance of this route.

I would agree totally if it were not the fact that teacher practices do not necessarily change with technology use. This analysis of 41 teachers and the sample narrative illustrate this point.

I argue that the paradigm needs to shift to one where edtech directly impacts learning when it is in the hands of learners. Why? If teachers and teaching are like chemical reactions, they are the rate determining steps. However, they change too slowly to be noticed or to keep up with the times.

The edtech paradigm needs to match current reality. So what does that look like? Something like this.

Universities then and now.

Universities of old used to be centres of knowledge and learning. There was a nett outflow from these centres to the wider world.

While most universities might still see themselves operating this way in terms of research, much of their teaching is influenced by what is happening on the outside. They no longer are the only or primary lead in determining learning outcomes. You need only see the importance of portfolios, internships, vocational work, on-the-job training, and work-based qualifications to see how this is true.

Returning to edtech implementation, the indirect impact of edtech on learners via teachers is like relying on the university to learn about the wider world of work. The indirect approach relies on teachers to first see themselves also as learners and to change how they teach. If teachers do this, they learn to educate and can be very effective. However, this takes more time than the direct route of students learning how to be more independent with the edtech tools they already have.

Now this does not mean that teachers should not use edtech. It does mean teachers need to learn to be lead learners first. If they do this, they might combine wisdom from their adult experiences with the new found affordances of edtech to co-learn with their students. They become part of the wider world to wield influence not only on their students but also their schools.

People with business acumen might watch the video below and focus on the numbers, i.e., how much the companies stand to make by capturing the education market. They might also view this as a competition, but they are only partly right.


Video source

Prudent schools and educational institutions have learnt to be brand agnostic. Players like Google and Apple seem to recognise this. For example, you might have iPads deployed in classrooms, but users might prefer Google Drive to iCloud, so the two giants co-exist like parents.

I have worked with both in the past and realise that their representatives put their money where their mouths are. I recall Google Education folks toting Macs and Apple representatives not minding my approach to using the Google Edu Suite during a workshop proposal.

All this was a few years ago and the goal posts might have shifted. But I doubt they have moved so far that they try to blow the competition out of the water and risk destroying opportunities.


Video source

Why do some technologies, including educational technologies, fail to integrate meaningfully into our lives?

Viewed optimistically, one might suggest that the technology was “before its time”. The technology was ready, but the people were not.

Viewed more critically, one might argue that the technology was a solution seeking a problem. The core issue is whether the problem even exists or needs to be invented first. If you put the proverbial cart before the horse, do not expect any movement.

Viewed more realistically, technology co-evolves with our use so rapidly that it is hard to predict what people want, expect, or will do with technology. If the proverbial posts keep moving, do not expect to score goals.

 
Edtech tools are not created equally and even the best ones do not survive the test of time.

The first half of 2018 will see the demise of Storify and TodaysMeet. We say goodbye to Storify on 16 May 2018 and ta-ta to TodaysMeet on 16 Jun 2018. (The links lead to the official service pages and announcements, but I do not know how long those will exist.)

Storify was the go-to for archiving and curating tweet-chats. TodaysMeet was a clean and easy backchannelling tool. I have reflected on my use of Storify and TodaysMeet before.

I am sad to see them go, but I stand by what I tweeted earlier:

Already freemium tools like Padlet and Dotstorming — another two of my favourites — are emphasising the premium over the free. Padlet will only allow three free spaces and Dotstorming one board for new users.

The tools evolve and we must expect that and change. If the tools devolve, we should not throw our hands up in despair and cry unfair. There is at least person behind each tool who needs to pay his or her bills. We do not work for free, so we should not expect that of others.

But what might educators stretched for money do? Look for alternatives. It barely took a day for my Twitter PLN and RSS feeds to light up with alternatives.

Here is just one example from Twitter for TodaysMeet alternatives:

I also tweet-shared Wakelet, an excellent alternative to Storify. I discovered Wakelet as I subscribe to the RSS feed for ProfHacker.

The sun sets every day and it rises the next. We expect that so much that we take it for granted. Likewise we might become so dependent on some edtech tools that we forget to stay nimble.

It is not noon indefinitely. Watch as the shadows grow long and disappear. Find your own light and gather with other enlightened folk. This is the best way to learn and model constant learning.

If there has been a theme for my last few reflections including this one, it has been this: Refuse to be confused.

Refuse to be confused.

Recently I read an article whose author claimed that edtech was trapped in the basement of Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT). I agree the author’s conclusion, but not how he got there.

To understand what the author means, you need a visual representation of BT. The taxonomy is traditionally represented as a triangle with the learner’s ability to recall as the base.
 

 
The author’s argument was that edtech companies were not adding much value to schooling and education because they were addressing only this lowest order of thinking.

For critics of edtech companies, the author’s statement makes sense:

The current wave of education technology has been fraught with pedagogically unsound replications of the worst aspects of teaching and learning. Rather than build new opportunities for students to move beyond the most basic building blocks of knowledge, much of Silicon Valley has been content to recreate education’s problematic status quo inside the four corners of a Chromebook, and then have the gall to call that innovation.

I would agree fully except that BT should not be viewed or used procedurally from base to tip. I have rationalised why before.

TLDR? Authentic learning does not happen this way. There is no textbook Q&A or fixed procedure in life and in problem-solving. Authentic learning happens organically and the learner is often confronted with ill-structured and complex problems.

If school is supposed to prepare students for work and the rest of their lives, they should be taught in a natural and compatible manner, not in an artificial and over-structured fashion.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy in the form of a Verb Wheel.

This is why I helped to develop the Bloom’s Verb Wheel. There is no implied base or start point for learning outcomes. A learner can start by needing to create (e.g., a YouTube video) but concurrently need to learn specific skills and content to enable that creation.

So I disagree that there is a need for teachers or edtech companies to climb up a hierarchy of cognitive outcomes. If they do, they constrain themselves to an artificial structure that does not necessarily help natural processes of learning.

I do, however, agree with the author’s suggestion that edtech companies could create better tech or less tech solutions:

Better tech entails leveraging cutting edge research in areas like machine learning to provide students with targeted feedback that scaffolds their learning experiences as they move up the pyramid. Less tech entails building technology that knows how to get out of the way and allow for more meaningful interactions to take place in the classroom. Today’s education technologists are exploring both approaches.

There is no need to use traditional BT as the reference point. It is better technology that enables natural learning or technology that emphasises social forms of learning. The triangle representation of BT holds us back; I say we roll with the BT Verb Wheel instead.


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