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Posts Tagged ‘enabling

There are four Es that teachers and educators need to distinguish in edtech.

Enhancing: When you enhance a process or product with technology, you add some value to something that can already be done. Type-written documents are enhancements over hand-written ones.

Enabling: When you enable something, that task was previously not possible or very difficult to do without the technology. Consulting directly with an expert over a video conference or co-building in Minecraft with partners who are physically halfway around the world is enabling.

Helping a hearing-impaired learner hear with cochlear implants or having speech converted in real-time to text is enabling. So is providing noise-cancelling headphones to a learner who suffers from sensory overload or one who simply likes quiet.

Engaging: This is a teacher constantly trying to keep and maintain the attention of students. YouTube videos, quick polls, video games, and Internet memes are ways to instructionally engage a group.

Empowering: This is an educator nurturing more independent learners who problem-seek and problem-solve. Empowering edtech is virtually indistinguishable from everyday technology, e.g., Google, voice assistants, Wikipedia, social media, etc.

The four Es are not mutually exclusive. A strategy that starts with enhancing/engaging might have enabling/empowering as an end goal.

Sadly, the four Es are not given equal air time. Most administrative and policy documents seem to stop at “enhancing lessons with technology” or “creating engaging lessons with technology”. Very few progressives explore the more difficult but also more meaningful enabling and empowering with technology.

The mind works in strange ways. Right before I fell asleep two nights ago, I remembered a conversation I had with an educator in the US eight years ago. She remarked that we had different ways of using the word “enable” as well as its derivatives “enabling” and “enabler”.

This rise-above statement arose because I mentioned that technology should not be used to merely enhance teaching and that it should enable learning.

My conversation partner’s perspective of “enabling” was somewhat negative, e.g., enabling someone else’s alcoholism by buying alcohol. Her perspective might also include being passive, e.g., not intervening or interfering with the addiction.

In the contexts of schooling and education, such enabling could allow systemic racism or bullying to persist and perhaps get worse. So I saw her point about how enabling was negative.

But this was not my perspective on enabling, particularly on enabling learning with technology. I saw (and still see) enabling as showing support by freeing learners and empowering them.

In the contexts of schooling and education, enabling is knowing when to let go, e.g., if learners show initiative instead of reining them in. Enabling is also giving learners ownership of processes and products of learning.

I still do not know if I got my point across then. I know I still have to make that point to teachers and educators today. I can try to free and empower them with dissonant thoughts, but only they can choose to learn.

The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones. -- Todd Rose (In “The End of Average”)

After reading the article below, I appreciated how the app makers thought just outside the box to deal with those operating stubbornly inside it.

The creators of SnapType responded to how some teachers gave pen-and-paper homework to kids with special needs. The teachers did this even though the kids could not write due to their disabilities.

This teaching behaviour is a classic case of favouring equality over equity. Equality is treating all the kids the same regardless of ability or context. Equity is giving those that need a leg up more help so they can operate at more equal footing with their peers.

The app creators realised they needed to create a more equitable situation for kids with special needs. While the kids could not write, they could type.

Their solution was simple: Snap a photo of the homework and Type the answers. The completed homework could be submitted online to a shared platform or via email attachment.

The snap, type, and send strategy helps students with special needs in more ways than one. Not only are they able to complete their homework, they are also using enabling technologies.

The moral of this story does not end with the app or kids with special needs. Teachers in mainstream classrooms need to ask themselves if they are disabling able kids by not taking advantage of enabling technologies.


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