An Education Week listicle “interview” with the CEO of ISTE popped into one of my feeds recently, and with the title “5 Big Ed-Tech Problems to Solve in 2020”, it seemed instantly forgettable.
But one point he made caught my attention, that we need to completely “rethink teacher prep for technology”.
Instead, teachers could earn an endorsement or certification from say, Microsoft, Google, or Apple. “There’s good things about all their software. But at the same time it comes in with the assumption that all of the problems you need to address as a teacher can be solved by their software. And that’s a problem, and frankly, it’s a conflict of interest.”1
He said that a teacher would never say they were a “Houghton-Mifflin teacher, I only use textbooks by Houghton-Mifflin. Give me a break. Immediately, there were would be a conflict of interest. But because of this vacuum, we haven’t had another option in technology. … We’ve had superintendents reaching out to us saying ‘please, help with this. We need something that is from a nonprofit organization, that is completely tool neutral.”
Of course, this is an opportunity for him to promote the new ISTE certification programs, but still, good point.
It’s also a problem that likely won’t be solved in 2020 since it’s been around almost from the day we first began bringing computers into schools.
Back when I was first starting we ran classes for teachers with titles like “Clarisworks Fundamentals”, “Intermediate Excel”, and “Powerpoint Basics”. Emphasis on the mechanics of using the software rather than helping students become better writers using a word processor or better communications skills using a computer. And that approach served as a model for teaching students.
The theory was that a person needed to learn the skills of working the device and software before they could understand them as instructional and learning tools. Things haven’t changed much over the years (decades?), as evidenced not only by the inclusion on this list, but also by the online workshops offered for current products like Google Drive.
From experience I know this is a model for professional development that’s relatively easy to design and present, even if it’s totally wrong.
As Culatta notes, concentrating on specific products also locks teachers (and, by extension, their students) into a particular brand, to the advantage of the company, rather than helping them understand the broader concepts of using computing devices as learning and creative tools.
I can’t speak to the quality of ISTE’s certification programs or whether they will actually solve the problem. But maybe it can slow the flood of corporate certification programs now sloshing around the edtech business.
Maybe someone else can make a connection but, for right now, the featured image has nothing to do with the topic of this post. It’s just a favorite from a recent trip.
1. This has a feeling of biting the hand that feeds you. Or at least nibbling a little. But credit to him for at least saying it.