As the ed-tech arms race continues to gain momentum, researchers, trainers, teachers, and school officials have been scrambling to integrate the amazing power of emergent personal technologies into the education process. Specifically, it seems everyone with an interest in education is trying to formalize and articulate the most effective ways to harness these technologies. As the conversion evolves, a disturbing trend has emerged.
Far too many ed-tech eager educators are increasingly focussed on the newest toys. From Twitter chats to casual conversations to blog posts, it is becoming clear that a new niche of "semi-tech savvy teachers" is developing that may ultimately be damaging the vital effort to legitimately use technology as an educational tool. You may have seen them. Ms. Mac loves to proclaim her affection for Apple products and is quick to rattle off an obscure app when asked how she is using technology in her classroom. Mr. Gizmo has a classroom collection of electronic and mechanical toys that makes large corporations jealous, but ask him to give you his best lesson and he stammers about how, "My kids, you know, well, you should see how excited they are when we use the robots." "What are you teaching with those robots?" "Um well, there's a lot of collaboration and they...you know have to learn to use the software, and accomplish goals."
Teachers on the frontline need to experiment with new technologies and they need to refine how best to use them in the classroom, but this effort should never skew into a misplaced focus on toy acquisition. We don't need more toys in school, we need better teaching, better learning opportunities, and better assessment strategies. Technology can help fill that gap, but the tool should never become the main focus.
Some of our schools have the best toys in the world, but are we using them to enhance the educational experience of the students, or just to play? Please, stop talking about your favorite apps and start talking about how you are using technology to improve the learning you are facilitating. In my prior blog posts, it is clear that I am as big an ed-tech fan as there is, but the tools are only as valuable as the craftsman using them. Make sure you are training your craftsmen to use their tools effectively.
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