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Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Turbulent and Frenetic Pace of EdTech...

Now, to be sure, I am not that old, unless you count 42 years on this beautiful orb as aged. Perhaps I am showing my age when I hearken back to yesteryear blurting the cliched term, "When I was your age..." However, I am noticing a trend, and a rather unsettling one at that - it is abundantly apparent that innovation is happening at a blistering pace that astounds and many teachers are trying desperately to keep pace with all of the "progress" in their classrooms. At times, this can seem like an exercise in futility.

As access to inexpensive electronics explodes, more and more new technologies are rearing their beautifully sleek and shiny countenance each and every day. The educational benefits are heralded...
  • here is something that will help a child read
  • this technology will bridge the gap between students with special needs and their peers
  • your child's core test scores will soar with this app
  • our technology that will most assuredly improve behaviour and accountability in class
And when the sirens that beckon call out their mesmerizing and enchanting claims, educators are often lulled to their hapless doom and lay amongst the wreckage that has become their teaching methodology as they try to collect their thoughts by years end. Even more regretful, some educators are doomed to repeat the cycle over and over again...a dog chasing its tail as it tries in vain to catch the next big thing.

Do not get me wrong, I love to use technology in the classroom when I see a clear benefit in efficiency or engagement. Yet, I believe that as a whole, we are at times hornswaggled by the dubious claims of the educational perks of new technologies. By this I mean there has not been a great deal of pedagogical research done into what benefits, if any, there are to be found in many of the current EdTech tools.

There are a few areas where research has shown that students have benefited from technology use in the classroom. Students studying Math seem to show improved scores on standardized tests (Technology's Edge: The Educational Benefits of Computer-Aided Instruction. Lisa Barrow, Lisa Markman, Cecilia E. Rouse). However, does this higher score translate into an increased ability in problem solving and critical thinking? Maybe...maybe not. Probably the area that has shown the most promise is the use of tech for students with disabilities. (Benefits of Technology Integration in Education, Antony Saba). This indeed looks to be very promising.

All in all, I believe instructors need to think first before rushing out to test the newest app or use the most recent piece of kit available in our classrooms. Experimentation is fine. Try the shiny new toys out and briefly give them a run with your students. However, make sure you give yourself time to enhance your class with EdTech tools that have proven themselves to be useful in their efficiency and efficacy in an educational setting. Perhaps we need to be a bit more choosy when deciding what tech to use in the classroom.

It is high time teachers hone their skills on platforms that have some semblance of permanence to them. For teachers in my district, that would mean giving serious consideration to building knowledge and skills in the usage of the Google Docs/Apps for Education platform. In doing so, we could better develop a solid pedagogical approach instead of rushing from the next big thing to the next BIGGER thing; all the while burning through copious amounts of time while never mastering more useful skills sets and processes.