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Posts Tagged ‘technology

Today I reflect on how an article about spraying disinfectant on streets mirrors a negative edtech practice.

The short answer to the question above is no. A more detailed answer is in the article linked in the tweet.

The spraying is largely a show of action with little, if any, effect. The same could be said of most instances of enacted policy. These result in empty shows that engage or impress people in the short term, but do not empower in the long term.

I focus on schooling and education. We still reach for the low-hanging fruit of edtech that is showy for teachers and not necessarily meaningful for learners. Take, for example, “interactive” white boards, clickers for responding to PowerPoint presentations, and “interesting” YouTube videos.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the tools except that they are created for the teacher and teaching. These are the first line of tools that a teacher can showcase if she is observed by visitors, peers, or superiors.

But the more powerful tools are mundane and insidious. They are used every day by learners outside the classroom. We might include Instagram and TikTok in this category. Attempts to formally integrate these into the curriculum, particularly attempts that go through the motions, might result in rejection or ridicule.

This is one reason why using educational technology is easy and integrating it is difficult. This is why professional development tends to focus on use by improving skillsets instead of also working on integration by changing mindsets.

The most recent measures added to Singapore’s COVID-19 circuit breaker redefined “essential services”.

When the restrictions started two weeks ago, getting your fill of bubble tea and having a haircut were essential. Now they are not.

I am not complaining nor am I worried because I did not buy into the bubble tea fad and I can get a haircut later. But I am worried about some smaller food & beverage (F&B) outlet owners and the possible parallel future of school edtech.
 

 
According to this government article, “standalone outlets that only sell beverages, packaged snacks, confectioneries (e.g. sweets, toffees) or desserts will be required to close their outlets” (more detailed list here). These are typically owned by young, gung-ho, and creative types who rent shophouse space in HDB estates and areas that can only be described as outliers.

The large and franchised chains like Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are not affected as much because most outlets operate in malls. They can still sell their wares via takeaways and deliveries. The small and independent outlets have to shut down completely.

Here is a message from Lee’s Confectionary, a patisserie that I visit almost every week:

Message from Lee's Confectionery about the extended circuit breaker.

The independent F&B outlets are the ones who need to most help. They do not have parent bodies that might absorb the impact and share the load. They rely on viral social media marketing, word of mouth, and reputational capital because they carved niches of their own. But they were the first to be dropped.

What is the parallel with edtech in schooling that is currently defined by emergency remote teaching and possibly later by actual online learning? I worry that the established vendors of content and “learning” management systems, or sellers of popular tools like Zoom, will continue to get deference over niche platforms or tools.

Such a move is a “safe” bet from an administrative and policy point of view. Those in charge of purse strings can bargain for the best price of implementing a platform over large systems. In terms of policy, having just one or very few platforms is easier to monitor and control.

But such a mindset is outdated. It counters what open, online, and distance education expert, Martin Weller, described as essentials for moving forward: openness, decentralisation, and distribution.

An oversimplified version of those three principles put into action is: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. CMS and LMS strain when accessed concurrently. These platforms are rarely designed with progressive pedagogy, e.g., they are designed largely for consumption instead of creation/co-creation. None of the standard platforms can assure stakeholders that they can implement tests and evaluations in the way schools currently do.

Yet the incumbents are preferred over the niche and nimble tools or providers that pioneering teachers already rely on. It is not that niche and nimble tools are actively discouraged. It is that they are not prudently encouraged. I wonder when we might see a clear shift in of mindset built on empowerment and trust.

I look forward to every podcast episode of Pessimists Archive, rare and irregular as it is. I wish the latest episode came out before my course finale.
 

 
The latest podcast started with a “heroic” dog and ended with the war between natural ice and artificial refrigeration. Yes, the episodes are weird but connected like that. But they all share a common theme.

Take this quote from the 23min 47sec mark:

When people face new technologies… they end up wanting… a simple heuristic to cut through complexity and allow them to make decisions that would otherwise be ambiguous or overwhelming.

Technology represents change and some people react with fear. To manage that change and fear, these people seek simple heuristics e.g., tell me what to do, what is a formula I can follow, how might I dumb it down and essentially do the same thing.

But such short-term thinking does us no good. Shortcuts avoid the critical and creative thinking that is necessary for problem-solving and embracing nuance. Given that my course was about new educational technologies, the quote and the thinking behind it would have made a timely and wise course conclusion.

Ah, well. This is something else to add to the 30-plus reminders I already have in my Notes app…

Consider the image embedded in this tweet.

The type of “telephone“ you had when you were growing up is not just a fact of life, it is also how you define technology.

Technology: It is the most representative tool that is available now that you did not have when you were growing up.

Your grandparents might call your iPhone technology. You parents might call fibre optic broadband and video-on-demand technology.

What are you going to call technology? How much are you going to fear it?

 
Every now and then I say, “Ah, serendipity!” because I discover something that is relevant to my learning and teaching.

A resource that was delivered to me almost a month ago was the preview list of journal articles from the British Journal of Educational Technology.

I like BJET because it has thematic releases. The March series focuses on technology for inclusive and special needs education.

The content is wide-ranging and might be slightly beyond the reach of one group of leaners I meet every year. However, I find these two articles to be particularly relevant:

The rest of the articles are listed here.

I wonder if the use of the pencil to illustrate technology leaders and laggards was ironic or intended.

If technology is anything new that you did not have when you were growing up, then using a pencil makes sense — everyone in the audience used one.

But its use is somewhat ironic. The speaker had to rely on an older form of technology that no longer had laggards. Who objects to pencils?

The point was to encourage better use and integration of current educational technologies. These are things that teachers did not have when they were growing up but what students have in abundance now, i.e., mobile phones and laptops.

The metaphors we use are powerful. They reveal our mindsets which in turn shape our behaviours. You might start with a pencil because everyone can relate to it. But that could reveal a mindset entrenched in the past.

I tried the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger almost as soon as they were available here in Singapore.
 

 
I had the Beyond at Mezza9 last year and the Impossible at Omakase this week. The latter cost more, but I got what I paid for — the Impossible looked and tasted better.

I caught a YouTube video video (or did it catch me?) about how Impossible Burger was turning food into technology. Apparently the meat won awards after selling itself at this year’s CES.

 

Video source

But is food like synthesised meat a technology?

Ask a random selection of lay folk to define or give an example of technology. Chances are that they will show you their phones as examples of tools or machines that make what they do in life more efficient or effective.

I recall the emergence of a slow-blogging reference to technology as anything that exists now that you did not have in your childhood. Depending on when you were born, this could be a desktop computer, a laptop, or a mobile phone.

Since we did not have the burger of the sort produced by Beyond or Impossible before, it certainly counts as technology. It was made by tools, machines, and methods to reconstitute “meat” and not just simulate it.

If the Impossible CEO’s plan on providing a global meat substitute by 2035 comes true, then it will also remove lots of problems associated with meat production. The old fossil fuel version of slaughtered meat would give way to the new “green” version of meat. What’s not to love?

I cringed, I screen capped, I posted.

It is easy to judge a newspaper for thinking that dated references are still relevant.

What is not as easy to capture is how some teachers still try to incorporate technology for coolness sake. Their learners cringing is the least of their problems.

The harm is in the technology being used to engage instead of empower; it enhances teaching but does not enable powerful and meaningful learning.

… it is biased.


Video source

According to the video above, we introduce these forms of bias: Interaction, latent, and selection.

Our technologies are not just tools. They are designed with intent, and even the best intentions are tinged with our biases.

I am in the midst of preparing for a Masters course that will debut early next year.

The last three weeks has seen me spending between three to six hours every day reading, writing, revising, and reflecting. I have done this despite technically being on vacation with my family.

The last few years of being an education consultant have taught me how to be constantly working while simultaneously taking a break. That is not an oxymoron. It is simply a sign of the times. So my revisited image quote is timely.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

The revised image is above and it was based on the one below.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

I actually like the original because of what it contains and the way it is composed. Technology is the enabler for this mindset, but it is our children’s interest that is the impetus for such change.

So why change the background image? I could not resist the visual message that combined a space-age suit and crumbling books. It is contrary to tell our children to reach for the stars while burying them with our hangups.


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