Because Ed-Techies Need To Hear This

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose9 Comments

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 …

Comments 9

  1. Jose- Good post. I think this debate goes on ad infinitum in edtech circles. In fact, I’ve dropped out of it entirely, and I’m a very pro-tech person. Unless a teacher can say, “here’s a video of me working with kids, and here’s the qualitatively different learning experience those kids are having,” then edtech advocacy is really just a harangue. There are great, effective tech-transformed teachers and there are great, effective, nontech teachers. It takes all kinds.

  2. I think this is what turned me off to Twitter when I joined the first time back in 2008. It had been appropriated by the tech-ed folks, talking about this, that, and a third, and many talking about nothing much in order to advance real learning and teaching. Not sure where they all went, but, Twitter is a much more interesting place now to be. Just a little rant. LOL

    Anyway, as a FL teacher, tech-ed is just now beginning to permeate the ranks here in the US. It seems to have saturated the ranks in the UK. In fact, much of my UK Twitter colleagues talk ed-tech and not much else when addressing matters related to the FL classroom. Me? I’d rather have the kids engaging with me and with each other in the target language, than figuring out how to use the latest bell and whistle to communicate in the target language. After all, isn’t this what communicating is about? To me, it isn’t about using Twitter, FB, Glogster, etc., it’s about demonstrating what one knows and is able to to with the *language*, not what one knows and is able to do with via a tech tool with the language. I’m all about the four skills and culture. If there is a tech tool that can enhance the way I teach and the way my students learn, I am all for it. Otherwise, I guess I’m old-school in that regard.

  3. Jose,
    Love your new YouTube series w/MiBodega. Maybe we will see some of your poetry in action later in the series? As a subscriber of your blog, I love your diversity and bluntness (what I call my BLUF connections BLUF representing Bottom Line Up Front) but I don’t always make time to drop a comment. If peeps drop you after this…then they weren’t deserving to begin with. Keep up the great blog posts and thanks for sharing your perspective. In my world actions speak louder than words and those who spout ed tech without actions to back it up are just that because like our students who learn quickly there are people of action and others who are people just using words, in ed tech or any other field.

  4. Well said. Tech, and I love tech, is a device, a tool, a support. I’d use it if I ever had it, but I’m getting weary of those who speak of it as though it were the Ten Commandments. And I’m not at all surprised to hear that some of those people don’t even know tech, let alone anything else.

  5. Too often tech gets treated as an end in itself. We are out here teaching.

    Can a piece of technology help? That depends on who, teaching what, where.

    But we are trying to teach, not trying to integrate technology.

    (That goes for those of us who are trying to teach.)

  6. Post

    Thanks everyone for the comments.

    I forgot to mention that there is software like Geometer’s Sketchpad that makes a teacher’s job exponentially simpler, and I think that’s my general point. I don’t see this as a dichotomous argument. The pedagogy should usurp the tools used, if only because pedagogy should matter, and that’s a conversation classroom teachers are leaving up to the folks in the ivory tower to study rather than blogging about it often.

    Just saying.

  7. I, for one, have been struggling to keep up with my colleagues who know all about glogster and voicethread and diigo, but it makes me feel inept and like a phony when I can’t figure out a way to make them something other than online posters or lectures or bookmark lists. I don’t know if my time would be better spent pondering how to make these tools effective in my Spanish class or going “back to basics,” especially since the English teacher and history teacher are the ones who get to have their classes in the labs on a regular basis–and the labs are needed more and more for online classes! I don’t know whether to take this post as a pass to lay off the latest tech trend or a challenge to make them work, but I’m glad of the discourse!

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