You’re Missing the Point on #EdTech

With the influx in educational technology over the past decade, many schools, communities, and leaders have missed the point. Most often I hear that they want educational technology to do two things:

1. Increase student engagement

2. Prepare students for the 21st Century

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for increased student engagement and preparing students for the 21st century (we are living in the 21st century right???), but those goals should not be the focus of ed tech. Students are engaged when the instruction and content is relevant and presented with energy and passion. Some of the most engaged learning experiences I’ve ever had were without technology (and better that way). And the 21st century is completely unpredictable. In Will Richardson’s latest post “Defining the Problem of Work“, he looks at the future of work symposium that was held at Cornell University. Hod Lipson of Cornell University makes it clear that machines will replace many of our jobs (if not all) in the future:

Machines are better at learning than humans in many different areas. So now the question is, what will they learn and what’s the end game? If you’re talking 100 years, there’s no doubt in my mind that all jobs will be gone, including creative ones. And 100 years is not far in the future — some of our children will be alive in 100 years.

While that thought is almost too big to comprehend, Will summarizes why this is important for us to think about now:

I don’t get the sense school leaders and policy makers have any sense of the changes that are underfoot, regardless of how clearly we understand them. We’re preparing kids for a future of work that, for most at least, simply no longer exists. And for millions of kids who live in poverty, the odds of working their way up to success are growing slimmer by the day.

My belief is that “Ed Tech” should create more opportunities. And I know that it does when used properly. More opportunities to:

  • create, tinker, make, and deploy
  • connect with peers and experts
  • communicate ideas to a large diverse audience
  • collaborate with anyone
  • explore interests and learn with purpose
  • come up with and solve new problems
  • identify systems and analyze critically on the fly
  • build a portfolio of growth and experience to look back on

There are many other opportunities ed tech can open students up to, but we tend not to think about it that way. Many school boards want to connect the technology to tests, many teachers want technology to help them keep students interested, and many policy makers want technology to be a “fix-all” for education. I used to think that education was the bridge out of poverty, but now I don’t think education can alone give students that opportunity. Technology needs to be embedded into their learning experiences (whether in school or out) because it is embedded into our world now, and surely our future. We can’t think of it as a “separate” piece. It should no longer be an option for our students to have access. President Obama has said that he wants all students to have high-speed internet access. That’s a great goal. But I want all of our students to have equity in this process. They need technology tools that can help them create the opportunities listed above.


That’s my thought. Our funding goals need to change in education, and access to technology for ALL students needs to be a main focus. If we fail to provide this access, we’ll be creating a bigger divide then we ever imagined.

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  • Daisy Dyer Duerr says:

    AJ- I love your passion about this, as you know, this is something we share! When you talk about equity and students having technology tools, I totally agree! High Speed internet doesn’t do much for you if you are trying to connect to it with two sticks and a rock. ;0) I would add that along with those tech tools, we must also provide equity to AMAZING, ENGAGING, DEDICATED educators. I am a firm believer that High Speed Internet and Tech Tools alone are not the answer, it’s the relationships we build using these tools & the human factor of caring educators modeling and empowering the use of them that can make each and every school regardless of location, size, socioeconomic status a place where a first class Global Education is available to all! GREAT JOB!!!

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Yes, it is those connections and relationships that we need to make! Technology gives our students an opportunity to expand those relationships (just as it does for us educators). Thanks for the comment!

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