Always and Forever

It has taken a while to make some connections to this week’s topic, but I found inspiration in the Grade 8 students I work with, and Kip Dynamite. What is technology? What is educational technology? How is educational technology connected to historical and philosophical contexts?

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Discussions in ELA and Social Studies with the Grade 8 class that I teach spoke to me. The idea of technology came up a few times at school and I kept coming back to Tuesday night. In talking about being good global citizens, one student argued that anytime there is a solution to a problem, other problems arise. We also discussed how technology has changed cultures (loss of language) to ways of life (farming). Twenty-eight of us agreed that technology comes from a need, and creates a different need as a result of the change. As we navigated through those topics, I grew proud of the students for unintentionally acknowledging unintended consequences. These students managed to uncover a few of Postman’s Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change.

  1. All technological change is a trade-off, with culture paying the price.
  2. The pros and cons of technological change are not equally distributed. There will always be winners and loser.
  3. Powerful ideas are embedded in technology. How messages are delivered is an expression of how technology makes people use their minds. “The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan
  4. Technological change is ecological, not additive. There are vast intended and unintended consequences .
  5. Media is mythic. The capacity for good and evil rests within us.

What is technology? My breakout group of Brian, Colton, and Matt threw out plenty of ways to define technology, and for me, I consider technology to be any innovation that changes human behaviour or activities. Going back to the farming example, we discussed the idea of harvest. Harvest used to involve horses pulling a wagon through a field to collect stooks of grain that were hand cut and piled via manpower. When the wagon was full head, it would be pulled to the threshing machine where manual labour would feed the machine. Now, million dollar machines complete all of those tasks, test for moisture, measure the yields, and navigate themselves while the driver streams a baseball game on to their phone, or so I have been told. Obvious changes in human activities. Sing it Kip!

I love technology.

Kip Dynamite

Educational Technology

Educational technology, using my definition of technology, would follow a similar pattern, but with a different context… for educational purposes. Educational technology allows for an efficient (sometimes), engaging (sometimes), and entertaining (sometimes) exchange of ideas in an inclusive way (sometimes?). It allows for all of the students’ senses to be appealed to.

I just thought of another “e” word – expensive. Educational technology is not cheap.

EdTech relies on the users – educators, students, and parents –  to have an understanding, or at least a comfort level on how to get the most out of it, or even to just be comfortable with it. Training or professional development indirectly increases the cost.

** It is at this point that I have now spent over an hour trying desperately to find a way to get the block editor. Not fun. I know what message I have for the medium! **

Bates provides an excellent history of educational technology, sorting EdTech into oral, written, broadcasting and video, computer technologies, and social media. The Greeks use of oral communication, slate boards, print, radio and television broadcasts, computer-based learning, computer networking, and learning management systems represent a broad spectrum of EdTech, without actually getting into the details. Chalkboards, books, film projectors, interactive whiteboards, and adaptive learning websites or programs are more specific examples of EdTech.

Photo by Wokandapix

Watters’ article on School Work & Surveillance specifically addresses concerns with our current view of technology – digital, web-based, and hard to avoid. My School Sask or, for those lucky enough to work with Edsby, forces educators to submit student achievement on an online platform, that houses a tonne of information. While the purpose may be to increase efficiency by housing everything from contact information, to attendance, to student learning, and discipline all in one place, and give this data the ability to follow students when they change schools, the fact is that submitting and storing information or data online is unavoidable. As I blogged about last term, specifically about Flip and TikTok, privacy is a real concern in the digital age. Legalities and ethics need to be carefully considered as well when clicking away in our current EdTech world.

… new technologies, adopted to ease the ‘pivot to digital’ will exacerbate existing educational inequalities, will put  vulnerable students at even more risk…

Audrey Watters


In my own experience, I have seen my use of EdTech serve different purposes over the course of my career, maybe at the beginning some of it being a little more fluff than now, before evolving to attempts at meaningful learning experiences. As I reflect on the subject, the constructivism recommended instructional strategies Molenda credits Driscoll (2005) with echo:

  1. Embed learning in complex, realistic, relevant environments.
  2. Provide for social negotiation as an integral part of learning.
  3. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation.
  4. Encourage ownership in learning.
  5. Nurture self-awareness of the knowledge construction process.

Reviewing that list, I might actually be more of a constructivist than I thought! Collaboration, accountability, student voice and choice, and check-ins along the way. As I become more familiar and comfortable with an EdTech tool, the more uses that I find for it in helping push student learning in a certain direction. Hopefully the curriculum is in that direction too! Kidding. I know that it is over there, somewhere.


Do you have any other “e” words that come to mind when you think of EdTech?


8 thoughts on “Always and Forever

  1. Great post Bart,

    Yes, I have an E word for you. Exhausting. Your struggles with the Block Editor, that was me last week trying to get the newest version of Zoom. I still do not have it. I will never get to be the llama avatar and I have come to terms with that. I blame my school division and the laptop they have provided me, just because I can. I thought about how I felt not being able to join in the fun for quite some time. I thought about how many times my students feel left out because technology. I was fortunate enough to grow up with it, but how many of my students sit behind the technology I put in front of them and do not know how to use it. I think there is a lot of oversight when it comes to teaching in a digital age. Technology is like a language, just because you are exposed to it, does not mean you understand it. Just because we survived a pandemic teaching online, does not mean every student has come back to school technological wizards.
    ^ Please see the GIF for #2, I promise it’s relevant.


  2. I agree with Nicole saying that technology is exhausting at times and I also cannot figure out the latest Zoom update. But unlike her, I am having a hard time not being able to morphe into a llama whenever I want. The only other “e” word I can think of when it comes to educational technology is the environment. It truly does concern me that with all the advancement in educational technology, all the “old” stuff just goes to the technology graveyard. I could only imagine how many Smartboards and Thinkpad laptops are laying there. Maybe that’s just me though.

    Anyways, I had similar thoughts to you when reading Watters’ article. Privacy is a huge concern. Until last weeks class, I hadn’t even thought about how much Google knows about us and our students. From as early as grade 1, students sign on using their Google accounts and are kept track of over the years. Technology like My School Sask stores useful to us as schools staff, but also very private information about our students. Like Postman states, technology is very much a trade off.

    Sorry I don’t have a gif for you or an Uncle Rico quote related to technology.

  3. Great post, Bart! Who doesn’t love a good Napo…I mean Kip Dynamite reference? That sounds like a pretty amazing class you have there! What an awesome discussion. Insights from my middle years students often fill me with a sense of hope. Along the lines of your ed-tech e-word – expensive – mine would be equitable. That is to say, because it is expensive it is unfortunately often not equitable. Teaching online during the pandemic for 2 and a half years, I definitely witnessed the digital divide firsthand. I think ed-tech has much to offer…while we all must acknowledge that not everyone – not yet – receives those benefits. Thanks for the very thorough post – it definitely helped me wrap my head around some of the more philosophical technology concepts.

  4. I like the idea that technology comes from a NEED – and that generally more needs come these latest advancements. As I was sitting in line at a major department store recently, I became more annoyed by the moment, as I awaited to check out my cart of groceries through an automated cash register.

    Everything about this process angered me. The fact that at this particular check-out I couldn’t use cash, I was having to look up bar codes and suddenly become an expert on the various types of peppers sold at this store, the lack of counter space, the lack of manpower to support the customer while checking out, etc. etc. I realize that the priority for businesses is to make money and the fact they have “tech” doing the work instead of a paid employee. The reality is that the customer becomes the unpaid worker and the frustrations levels often mount to the point of not wanting to return to that business. This example is a case where sometimes tech is not always the solution. The NEED in this case is to increase profits but I wager to guess it does more harm than good.

  5. Thanks for the post, Bart! Lots of great thoughts to reflect on. The biggest one that stuck out at me was the loss of language. I’m not sure exactly what you were referring to in this context, but for myself, as a French Immersion teacher, we often discuss how the quality of French has diminished over the past five years or so. Quite noticeably so, and I have often wondered how much of this is due to technology. We used to have tons of problems with students who would write full papers in English and dump them into Google Translate. The problem is that translate is quite direct and doesn’t take context into account, and so what you end up with is an anglicized version of a paper that is a word for word translation. Technology is inhibiting students from even needing to think in another language, when they know there are tools out there that will do the work for them. So going back to Postman, what are French learners losing by adding the convenience of technology?

    1. That is a great question Gilbert, but my answer is strictly a guess because I do not have the French Immersion experience. I think you raise a great point in the convenience that technology provides for any person to ask Google, Siri, or Alexa. I also would venture to guess that because of that convenience, some individuals may not be as inclined to really do deep learning because if they don’t know what something says, or how to say it, they know that technology can bail them out! Would it be fair to guess that adding technology has diminished the need to truly learn a different language at a basic level? What about eliminating practicing using it, written or orally?

  6. Bart, I really enjoyed reading your post! I too decided to ask my students what they thought technology was and then what they thought EdTech was… and like you, was pleasantly surprised with how they responded. I am in the same boat as Nikki when she mentions that EdTech is exhausting… this is the main reason why I have not really put forth a valiant effort in terms of integrating passed the basics of what I need to operate on the daily (Edsby, Google Classroom, etc).


  7. I enjoyed reading your post! The E word I will like to mention is engaging. Technology is engaging and sometimes we are so involved in it that we even forget the world around us.
    Also, I agree with Nikki.., it is exhausting as well… For me to be updated and being able to use every new tech tool is exhausting… Sometimes it’s interesting and sometimes not.
    But yes… these Ed tools are helpful for both students and teachers.

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