Because Ed-Techies Need To Hear This

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Zune Fail

What’s the difference between ed-tech and real education? You.

Last night, I was having a conversation with an educator who worked at a school that’s fully integrated with computers and other technologies. He appreciated the experience and he knows the whole world watched this school with fervor, wondering the possibilities of this type of school. Yet, he didn’t feel comfortable knowing that the kids spent exorbitant amounts of time learning tech instead of using it. It got me to thinking how the kids in that school must feel like knowing that they were themselves becoming robots in learning about robots.

That’s probably my problem with people who principally use ed-tech. As a man who graduated with a degree in computer science, I roll my eyes everytime someone mentions “infographics” and “ed-tech,” because 1/2 the time, these people only put the name “ed-tech” to look like they know something about technology and education integration when they usually know diluted versions of both. For instance, I’ve been asked how to change a .lnk file into a workable video file. Files with an .lnk extension are links to the original source document, or commonly known as shortcuts. I felt terrible. Not because I had to tell him in a public foum what it meant, but he’s out there telling the world he knows tech when he doesn’t know how shortcuts work on Windows, where the little arrow on the icon of the file clearly indicates the purpose of the icon. I can’t imagine what he’d do with a file with a .email at the end.

Or a .kid.

And it’s even scarier that people who only work within the boundaries of third-party vendors’ clear instructions are projecting this framework around our students. This sort of thinking prevails in some of the social forums I’m in. How do we project progress without looking like a bunch of automatons and lemmings? At the risk of sounding primordial, I would rather have a school that used only pencil and paper but taught those kids very well than have a school equipped with a billion and one glittery doohickeys and thingamajibs but don’t do anything. Much of what I’ve seen in ed-tech amounts to the weight of a screensaver: entertaining and dazzling to the eye, but irrelevant to the task at hand.

The future of teaching isn’t this place spliced from the fantasies of The Matrix and Back to the Future. I’d prefer it be a place where we value informed citizenry and authentic creativity, abstract reasoning and productive curiosity, things many of us only pretend to want for students of all shapes and sizes stuck in situations that don’t let them move past the here and now. In the here and now, the pressure for teachers to look impressive and dynamic is incredible, and “ed-tech” is a nice gimmick for a set of skills that could make you more qualified than the next teacher.

But if these skills include turning on a Mac or PC or using a SmartBoard as a glorified whiteboard, then what’s the use? Someone like TeachPaperless integrates technology with pedagogy, but doesn’t use technology in spite of pedagogy. The latter is WAY more important than the former, and the former is a compliment to the latter.

I figure some of you won’t like me after this, but it’s cool. If it means progress, I’m all for it.

Jose, who is unhinged …