The Edtech Hype Cycle: How to Use Technology With Purpose In A World of Noise

Three different schools, in three different states, in a matter of two weeks.

I got the same question.

“How can I use Flipgrid in my class?”

“Have you tried this with Flipgrid?”

“Oooh, this would be perfect with Flipgrid!”

It seems that Flipgrid has teachers and school leaders around the country (and world) excited to use its product for learning purposes.

But, last summer I was bombarded with the same questions about Formative and Google Classroom.

Before that, it was PearDeck and Nearpod.

Before that, it was the Kahoot! takeover of 2015!

I remember being asked a million questions about Glogster and Wikis when I first starting using technology with students in my classroom.

And here’s the thing:

I do it too. I love trying new technology when it comes out.

In fact, I am definitely someone who prides myself on learning how to use a 3d printer, or a new app, or new anything because I want to see how it can be used with a purpose.

I feel like even today, I catch myself getting hyped up about the new technology. Especially when teachers and kids are excited to use it in the classroom.

The Edtech Hype Cycle

Gartner's Hype Cycle

The Gartner Hype Cycle looks very similar to how I’ve viewed Edtech tools over the years and how I see it being used in learning environments.

Take a tool like a 3D Printer (which Tom Murray writes about in a recent article).

When 3D Printers came on the scene everyone wanted one. Everyone believed it would revolutionize education and there were such high expectations, it could never live up to what people “thought” it would do in education.

The Peak of Inflated Expectations led to a sharp Trough of Disillusionment over the past couple of years. But now, we see 3D Printers being used for a purpose and for a reason in many schools and learning environments.

It’s no longer the shiny new toy (ok, sometimes it is), but instead, we are asking questions about learning first and 3D Printing second.

via Forbes

Take a look at this Gartner Hype Cycle report from 2012. See the 3D Printer at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations with a prediction that in 5 to 10 years it will reach the plateau.

In 2009 the 3D Printer was just heading towards the Peak:

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 8.58.30 PM

Here we are in 2017, and 3D printing has hit the plateau or is very close.

So, why is this a useful tool?

Well, first it gives us some perspective on that new and shiny object syndrome.

We can see that all of the “new and shiny” over history have followed a very similar path and gone through this cycle.

Second, it gives us a perspective on how to use new tech in learning and teaching.

It’s more than OK to get excited about new technology. Yet, it’s not OK to believe it should be used for everything and that it will solve our engagement and empowerment issues with learners.

Now, that you know about the Hype Cycle, what are the next steps?

We have to start asking the right questions.

Instead of, “How can I use Flipgrid (insert any Edtech tool here) with my students?”

Let’s ask, “What learning goals do my students have. What tools can help them learn these skills and content at a deep level?

Learning goals first. Choosing the tool from your toolbox second.

With one caveat. Sometimes learning to use the technology is the skill we are trying to learn. In that situation, the learning and tech tool is one and let’s experiment to see what we can use it for!

Technology Frameworks That Can Help Focus the Purpose

SAMR seems to be the most often used framework for technology integration. And while it has it’s pros and cons, there is a great chart I came across years ago that let’s you use SAMR with a purpose.

Because SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition, teachers often aim for the highest level of “Redefinition” as a goal for technology integration.

Yet, these questions make the learning purpose first and the level you end up at actually obsolete when thinking about how your learners will reach their goal.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.13.05 PM

When using technology for a purpose these questions help narrow the WHY, WHEN, and HOW.

Yet, it still starts with technology as a focus. Not necessarily the learning.

For that, I turn to TRUDACOT as one of the best frameworks available for using technology with a purpose.

Created by Scott McLeod and Julie Graber, TRUDACOT solves some common problems with technology frameworks. Here’s how Scott describes TRUDACOT on his blog:

Technology integration should be purposeful. That very simple statement is at the heart of the trudacot template. When we use digital technologies for learning and teaching, those uses should be intentional and targeted and not simply ‘tech for tech’s sake.’ My team continually asks the question, ‘Technology for the purpose of what?’ With that in mind, Julie and I set out to create a template of questions that would allow educators to think critically – and purposefully – about their technology integration.

For example, if a class activity was using learning technologies for the purpose(s) of enhancing personalization or enabling greater student agency and choice, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Learning Goals. Who selected what is being learned?
  • Learning Activity. Who selected how it is being learned?
  • Assessment of Learning. Who selected how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills and how that will be assessed?
  • Work Time. During the lesson/unit, who is the primary driver of the work time?
  • Technology Usage. Who is the primary user of the technology?

In contrast, if a lesson pulled in digital tools for the purpose(s) of enhancing student communication / connection, and perhaps even facilitating collaboration across locations, we would ask very different questions. The types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Audience. How are students communicating? If with others, with whom? [students in this school / students in another school / adults in this school / adults outside of this school]
  • Communication Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate the communication processes? [writing / photos and images / charts and graphs / infographics / audio / video / multimedia / transmedia]
  • Collaborators. How are students working? If with others, who is managing collaborative processes (planning, management, monitoring, etc.)
  • Collaborative Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate collaborative processes? If yes, in which ways? [online office suites, email, texting, wikis, blogs, videoconferencing, mindmapping, curation tools, project planning tools, other]

Similarly, if teachers wanted students to use technology for the purpose(s) of enabling them to do more authentic, real world work, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished would be different from those previous and might include:

  • Real or Fake. Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school?
  • Domain Knowledge. Are students learning discipline-specific and -appropriate content and procedural knowledge? If yes, is student work focused around big, important concepts central to the discipline? [not just minutiae]
  • Domain Practices. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate practices and processes?
  • Domain Technologies. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate tools and technologies?

And here are some great resources to get started with TRUDACOT:

Read this first!


Other stuff

In an effort to acknowledge and combat the Edtech Hype Cycle, let’s talk about the learning first, while realizing technology is a part of our lives and is here to stay (and will always be evolving!).

Would love to hear how you are working around these issues in your classroom or school in the comments below.

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Lyn Hilt says:

    Wow, I love Trudacot too and I’ve been sharing it with admin and teacher groups for a few years now. Thankful for Scott & Julie’s work on that!

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Yes, Lyn, the more work we do in schools the more we see how powerful TRUDACOT can be 🙂

      Let’s keep sharing it far and wide!

  • Don says:

    Wow this was spot-on. Great research and graphics, but most importantly, it was correct. I LOL’d several times when you mentioned Ed_tech trends of the past.
    Happily passing this along. Will see how many sheepishly agree that we all fall to the hype.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      I’m glad I made you LOL. I could have kept going (as I’m sure you could have as well!). Interested to see how others are using tech with purpose and if any other frameworks or ideas come out of our sharing.

      Thanks again for the comment Don!

  • Hi AJ,

    Thanks so much for putting into words a lot of my own thoughts about the edtech hype cycle.

    I’ve had an interest in edtech for quite a while but I have been out of the loop the last few years as I’ve been on family leave. It’s funny coming back to the community after a couple of years and seeing all the hype about things like Flipgrip that used to be Glogster or VoiceThread or Kahoot etc. I feel like people are worried if they don’t jump on the craze they are missing out or maybe doing their students a disservice?

    Tools have come and gone so much, but one thing I have been passionate about for nearly a decade is educational blogging. I feel like something like blogging isn’t a fad or a trend. It’s a tool that adapts with the changes in technology and education and can be used as an online home for creations, reflections, collaboration etc.

    I usually just refer to SAMR when suggesting a model for teachers to strive towards but I’m definitely going to investigate Trudacot further.

    Thank you!

  • Aaron Davis says:

    I really like using the Modern Learning Canvas to really focus the discussion ( It does not replace other forms, but supplements them.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      I’m digging this Aaron. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and how to focus the discussion (which is half the problem). ALl the best!

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