wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: questions (Page 1 of 3)

Quest For The New

Over the next week or so, tens of thousands of educators will descend on London and Orlando on a quest to discover what’s new in edtech. And thousands of vendors will be in their booths, starting today at The BETT Show, Sunday at FETC1, eager to show it to them.

At each conference/expo, attendees will also flock to sessions about the latest in software, hardware, apps, and extensions, with presenters offering “solutions” to whatever problem they might have. Plus tips, tricks, tools, hidden features, and more little bits of technology that you must have.

Both huge events represent one major reason why edtech has been largely ineffective, using multiple definitions of that term.

Like the tech industry in general, we in education embrace the promise of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the other “cutting edge” concepts that we are told will revolutionize the learning process, and the world in general, with far too little questioning.

I’m not saying we should never be curious about new stuff. Or ignore the possibilities that come with the development of new technology products.

However, when wandering the glittery sales floor of conferences like BETT and FETC (plus ISTE and any number of state and local edtech-related events) we need to dial back on the gee-whiz and ask some tough questions.

Like if claims for their products are backed by research. Or get the marketing people to talk about their privacy policies. Is any of the student data collected shared with other companies? Who are your investors?

I’m betting that last one will get you some funny looks. But we deserve to know the people in the background who may be more concerned with something other than student learning.

Anyway, as you go questing for the new, also indulge in some good old fashioned research before you adopt any of it. 


Indiana Jones, of course, is an archaeologist looking for old stuff. But if you think about it, he was on a quest for new stuff to put in museums that were already packed with relics.

1. BETT, formerly known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show before being shortened to just the initials, will attract around 35,000 people. FETC, which was the Florida Educational Technology Conference before being bought by a “media group” and rebranded as the Future of Education Technology Conference. They will likely have around 10,000 in attendance.

Questioning 1-1

sign post written in Welsh language

Way back in August, before I took an unplanned five-week blog rest, I wrote a post about attending a community presentation by the overly-large school district that once employed me. The assistant super and his associates wanted to explain their plans for an upcoming 1-1 program.

I ended that post by saying that I have a lot of questions about the project. Let’s start with one of the most basic queries: Why? Continue reading

Spotlight Mismatch

Description of a Spotlight report on Personalized Learning from an EdWeek newsletter:

See how schools are using algorithm-driven playlists to customize lessons for students, consider red flags to look for when purchasing products, and learn how personalization can make learning more social.

I’m almost curious enough to give them my personal information, just so I can understand how “algorithm-driven playlists” and customized lessons can make learning “more social”. Seems like a big mismatch to me.

The next item in the newsletter describes their Spotlight report on Maker Education:

Learn how schools are embracing student-driven learning, ensuring equity in maker education, and providing students with opportunities to develop real-world skills.

Is it possible to have “algorithm-driven playlists” and “student-driven learning” in the same classroom? Or do these reports describe two completely different groups of students? And if that’s the case, how do we decide which students get “personalized” and who gets the “opportunities to develop real-world skills”?

Lots of questions. Not many good answers.

Digital Conversion

In the last few years, many districts in this area have been promoting a “digital transformation” in their schools, including Fairfax, the system that employed me for many years. It’s a nice phrase and one that is often linked to 1-1 programs. But what does the phrase really mean? What exactly is going to be transformed?

Dig into the plans – posted on websites, presented at conferences, explained in conversations – and you hear a lot of elements not related to learning. The discussion is about technology and support issues: What device should we buy? Do we have enough bandwidth? We need more power outlets. How do we pay for all this? What happens if a student does something wrong with the machine we’re handing them?

Almost completely missing is an explanation of the major changes that will come in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, or pretty much anything else instructional, as a result of buying all the equipment, software, and infrastructure.

Ok, I know transformations like this take time, especially in a tradition-bound institution like American education. And I’m also sure this kind of external communication doesn’t cover all the pieces districts are considering in their planning.

So, at the risk of covering issues already being addressed, I have a few questions for districts and schools undergoing a digital transformation.

How are you planning to change the curriculum teachers and students will be working with?

Shouldn’t the concept of learning change when information is no longer scarce? When the process of “teaching” is no longer one way from teacher to student? Asking students to recreate the same research papers their parents wrote makes no sense. Plodding through sheets of problems that their phones could solve in seconds, and which add nothing to their understanding of mathematics, wastes everyone’s time.

Are you providing enough support and time for teachers to learn the pedagogy to accompany all the digital?

Managing computers in the classroom is important. Knowing how to work Google Classroom or Office 365 is certainly part of the mix. But using Google is not necessarily transformative. Shifting the standard assignments from paper to digital is not at all transformative. And it’s going to take a lot of time for teachers (measured in years, not semesters) to make the major alterations to their practice that takes complete advantage of the new opportunities available in their classroom.

How will evaluation change to match the transformed expectations for learning?

Certainly there is basic knowledge and fundamental skills that we should expect any educated person in our society to know. Beyond that, digital tools allow for exploring the personal interests and talents that all students bring to school. So how do we assess their learning of both the essential materials and their individual goals? It’s not through standardized tests and we need to figure it out if this transformation is ever going to happen.

And finally, where are the students in your transformational planning?

Educators talk all the time about how the kids are the most important part of school. However, we rarely include them in any of these discussions. Not with surveys. Not by asking their opinion about school rules. Not with a few focus groups once most of the plans are in place. Students need to be at the table when we are finding the answers to all of the questions above. It’s their education. They will benefit most from their work in school (or possibly benefit very little). They need to have an equal voice.

This is just a start. There are many, many other questions that need to be asked, all part of the process of creating real change.

Because if you are using technology to digitize the same old learning process, what you get is a digital conversion, not a transformation.

Conference Overload

Did you ever think that there might be too education-related conferences? Especially edtech-related?

You probably don’t know the half of it.

Twice a year, a consultant from Toronto assembles a list of “selected events that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration”, to be held in the next six months, all over the world.

And it is a very long list. I didn’t bother to count the number of items in the current edition, but the information is distributed in a 102 page Word document. Each entry given two or three lines of 10pt type.

Some, like the International Workshop on Content-Based Multimedia Indexing (next month in Bucharest, Romania) and WorldFuture (presented by the World Future Society in DC in July) don’t exactly strike me as education conferences. And the list likely misses many state and local conferences.

However, my overall feeling as I scroll (and scroll, and scroll,…) through this list is: Are all these meetings really necessary? They all cost someone money and time to assemble; are they worth the costs involved? Do participants at these events really learn something that improves their practice, and, more importantly, positively impacts their students?

As someone who attends and presents at a few conferences a year, I always leave them asking those same questions. I’ll be in Denver for ISTE next month (attending, not presenting) and I know I’ll learn from the people I meet, as well as having a good time. But that doesn’t mean I won’t question the value of both the conference and my participation.

Anyway, just something to think about. If you’re interested in scrolling through the conference list yourself, the 35th edition, covering mid-May through December 2016, is now available.

« Older posts

© 2021 Assorted Stuff

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑