Educational Technology: Neither Sinner nor Saviour
Defining the Variable: Ed-Tech
When I think of educational technology, my (active) imagination transports me to AI classrooms and interactive hologram projections. Part of me views ed-tech as the saviour of classroom to world relevancy; another part of me suffers ominous flashes of Judgement Day and Matrix-laden doom! Of course, that’s not the reality…at least, not yet.
In class, I defined educational technology as classroom-based innovations, in either hardware or software context, meant to enhance learning. In my breakout room, we further settled on one word to divide technology from educational technology: Purpose. Any human advancements in applied scientific knowledge can be interpreted as technology, but educational technology serves to analyze, evaluate, develop, manage, create, and collaborate in an academic setting. Laughing in our small chatroom about the purpose of a fridge was unexpected but served to demonstrate that the refrigerator – our cold-food cornucopia – can be defined as technology. However, when considered in a Home Economics setting, it could be categorized as ed-tech. Purpose then, and intentional purpose preferred – is everything when determining what ed-tech best serves innovative classrooms.
A Shady Past and Meaningful Future
Without realizing it (admittedly, I hadn’t completed all the readings before class) my philosophy of purposeful ed-tech aligns with Robert B. Kozma. In 1994, Kozma restructured the media debate by asking:
“‘In what ways can we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations?'”
This mindful shift in considering and implementing media in the classroom fulfills the highest purposes of ed-tech: Effective teaching and enhanced learning.
Unfortunately, as history and personal experience have shown, a philosophy of mindful ed-tech usage has not always been the case. Reading through Audrey Watter’s article “The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade” (2019) was a shame-filled Delorean blast to past. I giggled, I shook my head, I remembered. When I started teaching 13 years ago, any “good” innovative teacher salivated over getting a classroom Smartboard. It was the saviour (fallacy) brought to life in my classroom! Now many sit as $8000 whiteboards with poor lighting and abysmal screen alignment. As Watters and Katia indicate, Smartboards turned into a hard technology due to lacking soft applications. Despite receiving hours of Smartboard training, my Smartboard has become a glorified (problematic) projector. Now I salivate over classroom chrome-cast TV’s. It’s always something! And I say that tongue-in-cheek as I stare at my coveted classroom 3D printer… gathering dust in the corner. Whoops!
My ed-tech philosophy has been largely unconsciously written by hours of ed-tech training and lived experience. My childhood education was filled with chalk-board dust and projector reels. I hardly considered these ed-tech advancements, and yet, that is exactly what they were…in their time. My high school typewriters gave way to computers. My Moodle and Blackboard training was replaced with Google classroom, then Edsby. My ed-tech philosophy evolved to understand two key principles:
- Ed-tech is synonymous with change.
- It is neither sinner nor saviour.
- Advancements carry a price.
- The digital divide allots winners and losers (something I am now cognizant of after 2. 5 years teaching online)…
- That give way to prejudice and bias.
- Its reach touches everything and everyone.
- It creates its own omnipotent mythos. As my current students struggle to imagine a classroom without 1-1 Chromebooks – supposing it has always been this way – I can certainly attest to this last (potentially dangerous) concept.
Conclusion: Defining the Constant
After considering the historical and philosophical aspects of ed-tech, I can only surmise that my viewpoint will continue to evolve with the technology in my classroom. If ed-tech innovations are the variable, then meaningful/intentional/equitable implementation must be the constant.
- Based on usage, technology can often be categorized as ed-tech, but how often do we use ed-tech as technology in our day-to-day lives? For example, Kahoot is largely construed as ed-tech software, but do we ever use it ourselves for fun? I know I don’t! If I never hear the theme music again, it will be too soon!
- Do you feel a sense of jadedness when the “next big thing” in ed-tech/training comes out? Or a heady rush of excitement for something new to offer students?
- It’s been over 13 years since I was an education undergrad, but I wonder how much emphasis is now placed on meaningful classroom ed-tech selection and implemenation. Insights are most welcome!