Everything has Changed – a history of ed. tech. and a lofty understanding of it

Everything has Changed – a history of ed. tech. and a lofty understanding of it

Everything has Changed – what a dramatic way to kick off my ECI833 blog! Fortunately it’s just a nod to T. Swift and my attempt to title each of my weekly posts with one of her songs. Why Taylor? I don’t know. She has a lot of songs. Could I get AI to do this for me? Yes. Let’s see what it can come up with:

“Blank Space in Education: Embracing the Tech Revolution”
“Learning to the Rhythm of Change: A Tech-infused Odyssey”
“Shake It Off: Dancing Through the Digital Evolution of Education”

Hmm… of the 3, I like the first one the most. But honestly, and no offense Chat GPT, you’re not really picking up what I’m throwing down this time. Your suggestions are a bit… much. Guess I’m glad there’s still value in using my own brain sometimes.

Be Quiet Taylor Swift GIF By Capital One

Aaaanyway, here we go. Blog #1. The prompt:

…write a blog post exploring your personal understanding of educational technology. What might a contemporary definition of educational technology look like? How has your own understanding and practice of using educational technology been shaped (consciously or not) by the rich historical and philosophical contexts?

Katia kicked off this class with a definition of technology. It included phrases like “how we make a certain thing” and the “application of knowledge”. It was referred to as a tool, like making fire, or a hand axe, or the 3 sisters agricultural growing method, or Incan 12 sided stones architecture and earthquake proof walls. I was immediately intrigued. My personal definition of technology up to this point would have most definitely included the word “digital” or something of the like, but by the definitions given, it certainly doesn’t have to.

This means that technology is really a lot broader and more inclusive than one might think. If technology is simply a tool, then that means that in a classroom, paper and chalkboards were technology-and perhaps some of the earliest examples of educational technology.

Fast forward a few hundred years and technology has obviously progressed in ways people probably never even dreamed of. How could someone who was absolutely floored by a chalkboard imagine life with computers…that we carry around in our pocket…allowing us to connect with anyone and anything at anytime… Yeah, I doubt much of that was happening then.

Prior to this first class, my contemporary definition of technology, and more specifically educational technology, might have been something like: “digital tools to assist learning”. After Katia’s lecture and pondering a bit more on this topic, I can see that my original definition was too narrow. Because the tools don’t have to be digital, according to the original definition of technology, and it does more than just assist learning (it can also facilitate, assess, etc.). I’ll finish working through this post and swing back around to this one as I’m not set on a better definition quite yet. Might have to bug my friend AI again but we’ll see…

Since I started teaching in 2012, ed. tech. has always been a major focal point in terms of best practice and professional development. Over the past 11 years, I’ve seen new tech become old tech, like Smartboards and Mimeos, pushed aside and into storage rooms to make room for newer tech (projectors and laptops with ScreenBeam technologies, online conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams) and even newer tech (namely AI) that is beginning to dramatically shift the way we teach and the way students learn. Our school division’s digital media hub now includes a link to an AI generator for things like planning and report card comment writing (I believe it’s called Magic School but I’m also on mat leave and a bit out of the loop).

Tech, namely ed. tech., has come an incredibly far way in an extremely short while. If I could go back in time eleven years and tell my first year teacher self that one day the computer would write my report card comments for me, I’d definitely be calling my own bluff. I would also be pretty adamant that something like that would not be allowed, like it was somehow cheating or plagiarism, or at the very least, “cutting corners”. But here we are, utilizing cutting edge technology and artificial intelligence for all sorts of things while the packs of looselief continue to accumulate and collect dust in classroom cupboards. Weird, man.

(Slight tangent, but this video sparks some interesting ideas surrounding AI and the future that touches indirectly on teaching and learning, too)

It’s hard for me to clearly express what my personal understanding of educational technology is because, as noted in my title, everything has changed, and everything continues to change. We can try to hold on to this idea of technology, but as soon as we feel like we’ve got a good grasp on it, it’s slipping through our fingers and transforming, growing, changing, into something else. If we base our ideas on the early definitions of technology, which I believe to be a good idea considering the lack of foundation otherwise, then I think we need to broaden our scope to include any, and all, tools that are connected to learning. Maybe that is my contemporary definition of ed. tech.: tools that are connected to learning. It seems too simple, but by making it more specific it becomes too narrow. Let’s see what Chat GPT has to say:

“Educational technology is using digital tools to enhance teaching and learning.”

This was the definition it came up with after a few prompts and adjustments by me. Interesting that it included the word digital…

Now claiming that paper and chalkboards are technology is not the hill I’m about to die on. I think it’s fair to say that in 2024, technology generally refers to something digital, due mostly to the enormous leaps and strides in the digital technological field. Whenever chalkboards were invented, sure, they were, by definition, technology. Over time the word, along with basically everything else in life, has changed, and taken on a different, more specialized meaning.

Grow Sheldon Cooper GIF By CBS

When I return to the classroom this fall, I am excited to incorporate new educational technology into my teaching. I’m also motivated to approach this task in a more balanced, inclusive way. I’ve never been one to abandon the old faithful pencil and paper as I still think they hold value, and it’s interesting considering that at one place and time, these things were considered technology too. And as technology changes, so does its definition, my personal understanding of it, and how I utilize it to enhance teaching and learning. I think that’s the best anyone can do to make the most of educational technology and ultimately help students learn, which is what this is all about, anyway.

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