You might have noticed that I spend a lot of time writing about edtech. What you might not see is that I spend a lot of time reading about it too, and a fair amount of time thinking about it too. My interest is scholarly, as it’s a little bit linked to my doctoral work, professional, because I’m a teacher in a school that has gone some distance down the path of embracing educational technology, and social, too – I’m a big user of the same kinds of technology that many people are encouraging our students to use. So, what’s the go with the provocative headline? It’s not just clickbait, believe me. I rattled off my ‘credentials’ because what I’m going to say might ruffle a few feathers, but it comes from a place of expertise and experience.
I think the edtech revolution is struggling. It might not seem like it, because there’s never been more conferences about educational technology – conferences like Learning Technologies conference, ISTE, and, my personal favourite, Slide2Learn – and I’m not criticising these conferences, because the ones that I’ve been to have been, on the whole, nothing short of excellent. And there’s certainly not a lack of consultants out there willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong with technology and how you can turn it around, or how you can improve results with one handy app, or how iTunes U is going to revolutionise teaching and learning just like iTunes ‘revolutionised’ the recording industry.
And there are plenty of schools who are going down the path of BYOD or 1:1 or even trolleys of laptops, so, on the whole, it seems like more and more educators have agreed to the idea that this is going to be huge, and they need to be a part of it.
BUT (and it’s a big but) is it really making a difference? I’m a critical person at the best of times (not critical in a horrible pointing out the flaws in things kind of way, but critical in a interested-in-the-way-power-operates) and I wonder if our passion for edtech is more about dollars than it is about sound educational sense. I’m sure that every student having their own iPad does make a difference in some schools – I’ve seen those schools, and to be honest, they’d be very good schools anyway – but I just want to know if it is making a difference in the schools where students have the most need. I guess my question is this: how does education technology actually change education so that our society, indeed, our world, becomes more just?
I know, I know. There’s a lot of people who are going to say that’s not the point of education. They’re simply there to help students learn – and iPads, or tablets or laptops or what have you, when used correctly, do help students to improve their numeracy or their literacy or their whatever.
Except I don’t agree with that. I think the fundamental purpose of education is to make society more equitable and just. And schools are not places to practice for the future – they are place where we must put these plans into practice. And as far as I can see, edtech, depsite its vaunted claims, is not doing this.