The #EdTech “Hysteria”

I read this article “Let’s get to the Bottom of the #Edtech Hysteria” and my thought pattern got all jangle jumbled up. Then I read some of the comments, including the exchange between “foresure” and Shaun Johnson and the one from “tultican” that uses the phrase “ridiculous scheme” to describe flipped classrooms.

I had to stop doing what I was doing, work that is 100% squarely in the realm of “educational technology”, to respond to some things in this post.

Firstly, the entire paragraph starting with

“There’s another side to all of this excitement over the latest and greatest ideas in #edtech that are visible once you step outside and see the forest for the trees…”

confuses me. Do we really need to go to the forest to realize that there is a good and bad side to everything? No. We all know there’s good and bad to everything, and technology is no exception. This paragraph also says

“Some technological innovations, while increasing productivity, have displaced workers and eliminated jobs.”

Yeah, and some technological innovations, while decreasing productivity, have placed workers and created jobs. Social networking anyone?

“It seems that certain proponents of #edtech are pushing technology in order to completely “teacher-proof” the classroom. That is, altogether remove teacher judgment and autonomy from the equation.”

Agreed, “certain proponents” are indeed misinformed on how to use technology as a tool for learning and are willing to push educators out and replace them with less qualified educators that are a bit more savvy with technology. However, those “certain proponents” haven’t proven to be innovators or leaders in the educational technology space, they’ve been low profile superintendents and school board bozos who are trying to impress the money.

This one makes my teeth cringe:

“Take “flipping” the classroom, for example. There is no substantial body of evidence indicating that this concept is remotely effective.”

“Flipping” the classroom is a term for a specific model of blended learning. That model is project-based in the face to face sessions and traditional forward facing in the online sessions. The majority of us advocating for #edtech are doing so based on both anecdotal evidence and hardcore research that proves that blended learning is MORE effective than strictly face to face or strictly online learning. The Department of Education has provided extensive research on that front. They, in the last two years, did a systematic review of more than 1000 studies on the subject, and then they completed meta-analysis of and they concluded:

“In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. When used by itself, online learning appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction, but not more so.”

Actually, the body of evidence on this concept is pretty freaking substantial.

“Yet, the priests of #edtech see this as the perfect solution: eliminate the need for educators to possess sophisticated content knowledge and disallow them any control over how it is presented. Deliver content through a virtual warehouse of videos, easily produced, and cheaply disseminated. The professional educator then assumes the role of “facilitator.” Take content or curriculum developer and pedagogue out of their skillset.”

I’m not sure why the author of this article automatically assumes that the media used in a flipped classroom is NOT created and produced by the educator, and I’m not sure why he thinks that it’s easy or cheap to produce media. I also have no idea why he assumes that the flipped classroom facilitator is not a pedagogue creating their own curriculum.

Assessment – You can’t blame educational technology for the governments policies on standardized testing or the implementation of those policies. It’s not the educational technology community that is telling teachers that if they don’t improve their test scores they won’t get funding. The technical community is simply creating software that makes data analysis easier to perform and display results that are easier to understand.

Technology isn’t going anywhere, and in today’s world learners need to develop a number of different literacies. I would argue that the best way for them to develop the required skills for one or another literacy is through creative practice. The educators are responsible for facilitating the environment in which a learner can do that. It’s not about replacing chalkboards with interactive white boards, it’s not about replacing teachers with systems that can’t respond to a learners individual needs.

It’s about creating an environment where learners have access to multiple perspectives and processes, where they can explore ideas, where they can play and tinker and create. It’s about creating an environment where learners can fail gracefully and, through the help of facilitation, learn how to succeed the next time around. It’s about bringing the benefits of our global knowledge ecosystem into the classroom so that learners learn how to live and be in today’s world.

“Hiding within this current of enthusiasm for the latest #edtech gadgetry are those that see technology as a way to “sterilize” the classroom, putting quality control and standardization above all else.”

I’m not sure who these people are, but that is in no way a general consensus within the educational or technological community. And because it’s not the general consensus and because these people are apparently nameless, we can comfortably ignore those that want to sterilize the classroom, whether they be proponents for technology or traditionalists that don’t want to accept that technology in the classroom is beneficial to the learner.

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  3 comments for “The #EdTech “Hysteria”

  1. August 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm


    Wonderful post! Thanks I really enjoyed it and agree with you whole heartedly!

    Furthermore… While information can be accessed through the internet, skills, like critical thinking and learning trough doing… not so. We are not in the business of throwing away “good” educational practices but rather making education and learning initiatives that are relevant to the 21st century!

  2. August 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Do I really need to say again that I agree with all you say? Can’t you get a bit more controversial so we can disagree and fight?

    Anyway, some complementary thoughts:

    Some technological innovations, while increasing productivity, have displaced workers and eliminated jobs.

    We really need to get out of the “saving job” state of mind. Full employment is a myth that our societies live by and that’s getting in the way of sustainable development.
    A lot of people call 1984 prophetic but few realize to which extent. One part talks about how war help creating jobs and goods to keep people busy and that unused created goods are destroyed during the war. In the end, some people work to build things that will never be used, making their work completely useless. Yet, they’re kept busy.
    I have a stronger and stronger feeling our society slowly reaches this point while “saving jobs” becomes a sort of sacred argument for anything.

    During the second world war, when in need of computation for atomic bomb simulation, “computers” were used. At that time, “computers” were rooms of 40 women crunching numbers all day long.
    I’m not sure why saving these jobs would have been a good idea. I’m not sure “saving jobs” for the sake of “saving jobs” is a good idea.

    It might also invalidate the need for human capital altogether.

    In my opinion, this sentence alone proves its author has never thought about the difference between a human being and a machine, what are the strength and weaknesses of each.
    There are things machines can’t do and likely won’t ever be able to do properly, even approximately. That’s where we’ll always need humans.
    Answering questions asked by someone by adapting the answer to the asker’s background and history cannot be done properly by a machine. One (among so many) example where humans will still be needed in education.

    I’ve read quite a lot of articles about teachers started to think they’re threatened by technology. I think they’re one of the least concerned actually (wanna ask the music industry how they feel about the web?). Anyway, like almost all other jobs, theirs is questioned (and not threatened) by technology. It’s unfortunate it’s too often met with skepticism rather than an attempt to improve education with the *use* of technology (and obviously not as a drop-in replacement of teachers).

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