Is This All There Is? An EdTech Rant of Sorts

In EdTech by rafranzdavis18 Comments

Yesterday, I taught one of our Google Drive trainings for school paraprofessionals and I left feeling something that I haven’t felt in a very long time…pure joy and bliss. It was a feeling that I haven’t experienced since I taught my own math class. It wasn’t about the teaching of anything related to Drive. It was purely about knowing that we were empowering these ladies in a training that is often not available to paraprofessionals in many districts which makes zero sense. I am so proud of my district for valuing the growth of our entire community because in addition to these “during the day” trainings, we also provide 24/7 virtual learning access to every person…the kind that can be career changing or even affirming if a person desires it.

Every district should do this…every…single…one.

Later that evening, amidst crazy school canceling storms, I found myself looking through conference proposals and sessions. It bothered me. I won’t lie. I feel like we, this edtech community, are further drowning ourselves into a pile of buzzwords and platforms so much so that I have to wonder if people really understand what transformation, innovation, inquiry and even creativity looks and feels like.

I get that one must learn about tech tools but I have to wonder why we do the exact opposite at these “learning events” that we want to see in schools. Why are we NOT putting the “how to use this app” things online and offering more discussion based sessions on things like writing better questions, learner empowerment, designing student driven lessons, community based projects, teaching beyond the test, reflection, feedback, research and soft skills…you know…the things that technology can enhance support. (See the update below for a more thorough and fluid expansion)

At some point we’ll figure out that while playing assessment app games are somewhat informing, our kids deserve much more than that when it comes to technology.

Scanning a code for a math problem to solve is “fun” but how is that technology really enhancing supporting learning? Did the question change because it was scanned versus written in a book or on paper? Don’t even get me started on augmented reality. Yes, some kids love competition, but how is playing Kahoot different than “insert clicker name here”…and don’t you dare say, “because it has bright colors and music!” Just…No.

We need technology, don’t get me wrong but I also know that we have to talk about how we are empowering students to lead in their schools, communities, states and globally! How are we preparing students to be not just “future ready” but Globally Ready?

How are we encouraging creativity and innovation?
How are we giving students more choice and voice? (Not choice of apps or recording their “voice” in an app…Again, NO!)
How are we personalizing learning? (And not the edtech company version of personalization)
How are we creating more equitable solutions? (It’s probably NOT BYOT)

Again…because it’s ALL about this… HOW CAN WE ASK BETTER QUESTIONS THAT LEAD TO MORE QUESTIONS?

Put your app lessons online. We can view them there. Let’s dig deeper and make our rare face to face connections count.

If this is all there is….maybe I need to just stick with EduCon.

Or, maybe this is the conversation that I need to submit to EduCon.

Well… there’s that.


 

Updated to add: The conversations that have resulted because of this post have been eye opening. The fact that we have to “App-Up the session” in order to have it approved at major conferences is appalling. At some point, we have to question this. David Jakes made a great point to this post in pushing back on the word “enhance” in terms of what technology should do. I agree with him and wanted to make sure that you read this because it is absolutely true and powerful. I am grateful to him for pointing it out. Growth is empowering especially when lived out loud.

“The question in my mind is not about “how technology can enhance.”

That perspective is part of the problem in my mind. Enhancing implies improving what exists, and its simply not bold enough. The mindset of enhancing causes teachers to build scavenger hunts with augmented reality.

Rather, how can technology support the reinvention of education? How does technology support the creation of things never done before? How do the affordances of technology fundamentally create a new condition for learning.”

Comments

  1. The question in my mind is not about “how technology can enhance.”

    That perspective is part of the problem in my mind. Enhancing implies improving what exists, and its simply not bold enough. The mindset of enhancing causes teachers to build scavenger hunts with augmented reality.

    Rather, how can technology support the reinvention of education? How does technology support the creation of things never done before? How do the affordances of technology fundamentally create a new condition for learning?

    Those are questions worthy of a discussion.

    1. Author

      I agree 100% David and that is exactly where I was when I wrote that. I love your choice of words and that is most definitely worth discussing! Thank you for this.

    2. Well said, David (as usual). Of course most folks don’t want to reinvent education, they just want to tweak it a bit. That’s the larger problem that frames all of this.

      Awesome post, Rafranz!

  2. This is the exact reason that I generally only attend EduCon. I know that I am going to have meaningful conversations and sometimes there is action that come out of this. Really WANT to see MORE student voice in education and I don’t just mean from high school students. Our youngest learners often have the best view of the world and life…maybe we need to start listening to them more! 🙂

    1. Author

      For sure! I have small children in my personal life and they have ideas worth exploring. Sadly, they do not get to do that. often!

  3. This is a GREAT conversation, and one that happens at conferences and workshops “behind the scenes” all the time. It’s incredibly easy for someone to mistake the nuance of it, and lump it in with the “negative” people that “just don’t get it”, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had in the open, especially as an increasing number of instructional technologists grow into their careers and start taking on more traditional leadership roles. It’s important to know that while the cheerleaders at conferences get a lot of press, some of the really important work is often drowned out by the noise, or hidden in small corners of the web.

    Great job on trying to strike a claim for thinking more deeply about how to get educators beyond just “using” the tech, and finding ways to make it more valuable in the long run.

  4. As a coach, I am facing the same questions for myself and KNOW, just as you and all of us in this to do the good work, that there’s more! It’s hard to see at times and hope can easily be squashed but all it takes-for me at least-is that burgeoning excitement from one eager learner who is also pushing over the wall that frequently stops them with your question…is this all there is? You nailed it when you stated that we really need to be asking better questions that lead to more questions. That’s where the magic begins and we KNOW that there is so much more. Thanks for the post!

  5. You are reading my mind. Thank you for putting into words what I have been thinking for quite some time. We need relevant and repeatable usability.

  6. I wrote about this back in February.
    http://holtthink.tumblr.com/post/42355058391/why-are-we-here

    From the entry:
    “But here’s the deal: instructional technology shouldn’t be something that’s done all by itself, separate from the other curricular areas. The message that we give when we hold instructional technology-specific conferences like these is that instructional technology is something still to be treated entirely differently than other curricular areas. We have separate standards for Science and Technology and Math and Social Studies and such. Why is technology still something different?

    Isn’t it about time we stop having these technology specific conferences and start integrating the technology in with the other core curricular and non-core curricular areas at their conferences? Why do we still have specific instructional technology conferences if instructional technology is a tool? Shouldn’t the tool be in with the other curricular areas? By having these conferences, we are reinforcing the idea that technology is not a tool, that it is hard, it requires specific people with specific skills to administer, and that it is an elite area open only to the nerds. Still.”

    1. Author

      Absolutely and my frustration with core conferences, specifically math…is that the technology is completely ignored, other than graphing calculators. I have to same issues with in district specialist. We separate core from technology and expect a different outcome other than what we have always gotten. It doesn’t work that way.

  7. The thing is, the real questions – and things like “offering more discussion based sessions on things like writing better questions, learner empowerment, designing student driven lessons, community based projects, teaching beyond the test, reflection, feedback, research and soft skills” – they don’t require an app.

    And most conferences are vendor driven. And the orgs behind them rely on the conferences, and the vendors, to stay afloat. And yes, I’m looking right at you, ISTE. No side-eye or anything.

    Tech can enhance learning, but an app-centric focus can get in the way. And given the amount of PD that is funded and supported by vendors, the focus is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    Yeah – I’ll stick with Educon, and community driven edcamps.

  8. Thank you, Rafranz, for putting this topic right back on the table where it belongs. You open with your enthusiasm about having been able to share some googleness with para professionals in your district, a group that is often neglected in the area of PD. Once again, you are crossing a divide in your work and looking for ways to build bridges. Ed tech tends to boast its capacity to disrupt. You remind all of us that there is still so much more building that needs to be done: building of trust, relationships, bridges between disparate groups and interests. Tech may allow us to do that more collaboratively, quickly and efficiently, but true success in all that building is human powered. This kind of building takes time, effort, commitment and it can be hard. And it’s the kind of building that makes all the difference for our kids.

    1. Author

      I could have have said it any better than this. This part is exactly why change is necessary…

      “There is still so much more building that needs to be done: building of trust, relationships, bridges between disparate groups and interests. Tech may allow us to do that more collaboratively, quickly and efficiently, but true success in all that building is human powered. This kind of building takes time, effort, commitment and it can be hard. And it’s the kind of building that makes all the difference for our kids.”

  9. You know, Rafranz, I almost always have to read, reread, get a cup of coffee and read again when you “rant” like this. One thing for sure, though: I always learn. If I’m reading you rightly here, this is exactly what I was hoping to do at Ferguson this year by having my Band of Nerds lead content area specific training instead of the overly generalized events that I have been leading. Still have hopes that this is the way it will turn out. I have turned in the “required” list of training events, but hoping to do so much more to help my peers truly meld technology with math, and science, and English, and history, and art, and music…

  10. Hi, Ms. Davis

    I agree with you that more workshops should be offered to educators because the need is so great. I’ve worked in the school system for eighteen and a half years and still yet there is big room needed for more technological advancements. I myself will very soon in the near future will be taking a few technology courses to empower and improve myself.

  11. Pingback: It’s Not About The Tech, Unless It Is | RafranzDavis.com

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