Jun 062013
 

iStock_000016696029XSmallAs hard as it is to believe… The school year is rapidly coming to a close and this means it’s time to reflect on the year that was and give you my #EdTech year in review. As usual, I will be assuming my role as the Eeyore of EdTech and focusing on the gloomier side of things but it is all well intended. As my loyal readers know, I am not a “Rah Rah, Sis Boom Bah!!” kinda guy, so without further adue, I give you my #EdTech year in review.

Adios to the iPad cohort

Gasp! I know, as implausible as it may seem, our iPads in the classroom experiment came to an unceremonious end this year. Knowing the iPads in the classroom community as I do, I already know what they are all thinking but NO!… we did not “do it wrong”. We just came to the conclusion that a one device model was not workable in our situation.

IMHO… The reason the cohort failed to thrive is that we have a dynamic school with kids of all stripes and configurations and as such, we quickly learned that a single device in the hands of a specified group of students, is a very difficult thing to engineer.

As much as the school system likes to categorize, rank and pigeonhole kids into groups, things just don’t work that way in a comprehensive high school like ours. Right out of the gate, we discovered that the diverse scheduling needs of our students, simply didn’t lend itself to a one group, one device model.

The first year we managed to keep the cohort together because we targeted kids who’s scheduling would be (mostly) the same but this year we opened things up and we immediately found that we could not keep the cohort together but that is ok. Like I said, we are a comprehensive school, we don’t want to schedule kids into a single track and as such the cohort model just didn’t work like we had hoped.

The other thing that happened along the way, is that our school quietly and unceremoniously hit the ever so elusive #EdTech tipping point (I think) and adopted a BYOD policy right under our noses. There is no longer a need to try and engineer a classroom where every kid has a device in hand, it just happened au natruel.

Regardless of how things shook down, we learned a lot from this little experiment. All the teachers involved came away with a greater knowledge and understanding of how best to utilize digital tools in the classroom and will continue to apply and expand their skills for the rest of their careers. Perhaps more importantly however, is that the group of teachers who were a part of the iPads in the classroom experiment are now sharing what they learned with colleagues both near and far. The iPads in the classroom pilot WAS a success, just not in the way we were expecting.

Bandwidth issues

As I had mentioned in the previous section, It would seem that we may have hit the #EdTech tipping point and what better measure to determine this than bandwidth use.

This year was a definite struggle with getting connected with the outside world, from within our schools. It was like we hit a wall this year and when I say “We” I mean the Royal “We”. Schools everywhere were discovering that a building full of people using the internet all at the same time, can pose a wee bit of a problem.

It has become painfully obvious that infrastructure upgrades are becoming an immediate need for schools that are going digital. The problem now, is figuring out how to pay for it. With shrinking education budgets, it becomes very difficult to justify spending money on improving connectivity when you are looking at cutting back on teaching staff and educational programs.

My prediction is that, we (public education) will be looking at corporate sponsored funding for these types of upgrades very soon. It is a Pandora’s box waiting to be opened but it is coming… mark my words.

Note: The bandwidth issues we were experiencing in my school this past year were recently addressed and access is much improved. 

Plight of the naysayer

Ok perhaps “naysayer” is a bit misleading, so lets use contentious practitioner, or constructive criticizer or at worst contentious objector…

This year was an interesting one as the #EdTech movement, gained some significant momentum and began pushing hard for greater use of technology in classrooms. Along with this has been a growing expectation that teachers embrace the digitization of their professional development and to some extent their professional identity. The Personal Learning Network or PLN, was the topic du jour at many a staff meeting, blog post and twitter chat.

Now if you recall, I am a bit of advocate for the integration of digital tools in the classroom and I am a REALLY BIG fan of the digital PLN but things are starting to get a little ugly out there.

You see it at staff meetings, on twitter, in blogs and in main stream media. Those who are not on the #EdTech train are getting hammered with criticism. I even got attacked on twitter a couple of months back for questioning a “EdTech GuRu”. It was really quite astonishing how quickly this individual and her disciples piled on in an attempt to marginalize my critique. My questions weren’t even addressed as they immediately labelled me as a #EdTech heretic and proceeded to try to discredit me through the medium of twitter.

I have to plead guilty of being an #EdTech bully myself. During a staff meeting, I disrespectfully responding to a colleague when he questioned the usefulness of social media as a professional development tool. Although I eventually tried to answer his question respectfully, I started off with a dismissive smart assed comment, which had no place in the discussion.

Beyond personal attacks, there seems to be a concerted effort to silence and marginalize anyone who questions the #EdTech movement and this isn’t just a personal observation. In the past two weeks alone, I have been DM’d on twitter, received emails and was even approached at a social function, about how to deal with a subtle and sometimes not so subtle message of “You are either with us or against us, pick your side!”

I never thought the #EdTech discussion between the Pro and Whoa camps, would ever degrade to a showdown but I am afraid we are heading down a path toward greater conflict. Lines are being drawn and they seem to be more ideological rather than pedagogical.

To Wrap Up

All in all it has been a good year. I certainly haven’t been as active in the #EdTech community as I was last year but I just couldn’t keep up the previous years pace. Next doesn’t look good either as I hope to begin my Masters in Education Technology (if I am accepted) and will probably have even less time to share my insight and opinion. One positive however, is that when I do show up, I might actually know what I am talking about since I will be all lerned up reel good.

Have a great summer all… Cheers!

Some 2012/2013 Articles about #EdTech

Little gain from technology in the classroom

Outdated education model opens doors for tech companies

Technology changing how students learn, teachers say

 Teacher knows if you have done the E Reading

  7 Responses to “#EdTech year in review – A constructive critique”

  1. Hi Keith,

    Thanks for your open and frank post. As someone who sees himself as a “skeptical tech-head”, I certainly see the 2 sides of the struggle that you discuss, and feel a little displaced by all of it.

    A major weakness of the education profession, in my opinion, is its tendency to jump on bandwagons and promote innovation [or what purports to be innovation] for the sake of innovation. This tends to create walls, and doesn’t make discussions between different points of view very easy.

    In terms of technology, I would LIKE to integrate technology into my classroom in a much more meaningful manner, but the lack of a decent wireless network or bookable labs has made something as simple as blogging a monumental chore. And while my school will get a fiber upgrade over the summer, I’m not sure that it will address the PLN bottleneck down the line.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for the comment. I try to be Frank and it is frequently to my own detriment but it just isn’t in me to eat rainbows and poop butterflies. It is really easy to jump on bandwagons but it does no one any service to do that. Thoughtful critique is the cornerstone of a civilized society unfortunately, in many ways, we have devolved into a consumerist society which is only interested in buying into the latest and greatest without question.

      Continue to be a “skeptical tech-head” it will serve you and your students well in the end.

  2. Thanks for the post and congratulations on applying for your Masters. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you are accepted!

    Nice to know that connectivity at your school improved during the year and your comments re the continuing need for investments in infrastructure are very apt. It’s a tough thing to do when one always seems to be running as fast as they can just to catch up!

    I still see technology as only one part of the delivery system. I think the emphasis has to be on how teachers are able to integrate technology into their teaching and their classrooms. The technology cannot, in my view, become the be all and end all in education if we really want to do the best for our students.

    I guess the part of your post which concerns me the most is that the EdTech debate seems to be mired in the same “with us, against us” dichotomy which we see in all key public policy debates. That ideologically pitched battle will not move us forward in a comprehensive and effective way. It’s destructive and I hope the community will realize that in collaboration and progress there has to be room for constructive criticism and dissension if we want to make substantive improvements and have a lasting impact on the educational system.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and all the very best for the summer.

    • Hey Reema thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. It is nice knowing that those in power are paying attention.

      My biggest concern about your biggest concern is where the “you are either with us or against us” message is coming from. The Ed Tech Guru I had a twitter tiff with, wasn’t even an educator. They were selling their “#EdTech expertise” to government but near as I could find, they have never set foot in a classroom. Educators are being cut out of the discussion by an ever growing #EdTech industry who’s primary focus in to sell hardware, resources and curriculum.

      Once pedagogical discorse and ultimately decisions about education are wrenched from the hands of educators and reduced to nothing more than marketing campaign, we are in BIG trouble.

  3. Hi Kieth,
    Just happened to stumble on your blog doing a unrelated search.
    Great articles..good responses…
    Noticed that…
    Links to related articles under “Some 2012/2013 Articles about #EdTech” at the page bottom beginning with:
    (Teacher knows if you have done the E Reading)
    seem to all point to:
    http://getpocket.com/a/queue/
    and are basically dead links, thought you might want to know this.
    Not sure if you have control over that or if it is a ‘webhost” issue.

    Thank,
    Steve

  4. I continuously question the point of having this in the classroom. Does it really make students better learners and prepare them for the future?

    • Well I think I can confidently say that being a skilled user of technology is going to be a requirement for being gainfully employed in the future. Choosing to be a luddite might not be a good career move.

      Whether it improves learning…? I say no it doesn’t improve learning but it does give learners more opportunities to find and use content from which to learn from and gives them the power to create their own content they can be proud of and share with others.

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