Shifting Our Ed Tech Narrative

Dr Suess quote about education

I’ve heard this question in various forms many different times: How is technology going to save education?

Radio and TV were going to save education, but of course they didn’t. They changed consumption from primarily reading or live viewing to listening and watching…but the prediction of televisions replacing teachers in the classroom has yet to come true.

Computers and devices were going to save education. The internet was going to save education. In fact, it seems as though every time a new technology changes our way of life (radio, tv, computers, internet) we believe it is going to save education…

Let’s stop thinking about technology as a cure or savior for education.

Instead let’s realize that great learning experiences have always had similar patterns and pedagogical strategies…and technology can be a part of that experience sometimes.

Let’s also stop thinking about “ed tech” as something that needs a massive amount of training.

Instead understand that teachers, students, and parents are all on different parts of the technology continuum and will need varied support depending on their experiences. It doesn’t matter if you are a digital native, digital immigrant, or digital explorer…much of how you use technology will have to be learned through using it…not through training (because much of what you are trained on will change soon thereafter).

Let’s stop believing that new tools will revolutionize education.

Instead understand that new tools often substitute, sometimes augment, and very rarely redefine the learning experience (thank you, SAMR). It is how the teacher and students use these tools for learning that truly matters. And when technology is used to redefine a learning experience, the revolution is what the students make, create, and build with their tech…not in the many ways they can consume information.

What can a new Ed Tech narrative look like?

If we stop believing technology is a “savior” and start looking at it as a way to redefine learning experiences there are a few beliefs that ring true:

  1. Technology decisions should always be made with students in mind.
  2. Devices should be an expectation (in a world where much of what we do involves technology, these devices have to be allowed in school and included in the learning process).
  3. Tools must have true purpose for learning (this should go beyond “spicing” up a lesson).
  4. Training will have to be differentiated and unconventional (in the every-changing world of technology our responsibility is to keep up with the world our students are living in).
  5. Technology provides new opportunities for students that they previously did not have without it (global collaboration, real-time feedback, and extended learning opportunities are a few of the many ways tech opens the door to authentic learning experiences).

Instead of focusing on how to integrate technology, schools must turn their attention on how technology has already impacted the lives of students and teachers, how it will continue to do so in the future, and what their role can be to create optimal learning experiences in and out of the school building.

Technology is not going to save education. But it will make it different. This is a good thing.

The world our students live in now (and us too!) is much different than it was 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 20 years ago. It will be different a year from now than it is today. How we learn will always change with the world around us, let’s not let “how we teach” fall too far behind.

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  • Chris Huxley says:

    I like this post very much. It summarises many positions that are too often implicit in the way schools approach technology adoption. You point about focusing on how technology has already impacted on students and teachers ( and I’d add parents here too) is a particulalrly important one for me in my work. Ongoing conversations with all those in a school community reduces barriers and facilitates better technolgy adaptation. Like so many other aspects of teaching we need to remember that we begin from where our students ‘are’ in their learning and not where we think they should be.

  • Coincidentally reading this on the same night I read Ben Rimes’ post coming from a related stance ( Number 4 on your list is what we wrestle with every day, with one of the biggest barriers being how slowly schools are to embrace the “unconventional” approaches to PD.

    I also lamented about the EdTech narrative earlier this year ( but wonder if we both are missing something obvious: there really shouldn’t be “edtech” at all…there should just be “ed”. Right now I am frustrated with the silos that the conversations are happening in. A science conversation over there. A math conversation over there. And a tech conversation here. Shouldn’t they all be the same conversation? Maybe a bit of that is in your #3, but I’m thinking we should skip a new edtech narrative and just infiltrate the narrative of what school and learning are in general. Certainly some are and have been doing that and your work (focused on student engagement first and foremost) provides a great bridge to both worlds.

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