Reasoning Ed Tech

One of the most reasoned articles on the value and use of ed tech was brilliantly written by Alfie Kohn (The Overselling of Ed Tech). Not only should educators and technologists take note but politicians and corporate heads could also benefit from this short analysis. He centers on the question, “What kinds of learning should be taking place in those schools?”. He maintains that a collaboratively derived answer to that question is a prerequisite to answering, “Is tech useful in schools?”. While I agree, I can’t imagine how as a nation we could ever arrive at a coherent, coordinated answer to the first question. Common Core anyone? Satisficing answers may be more attainable by returning control to the local level. As it stands now, we are just wasting huge sums of money on technology and we don’t even know why.

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Too Much Ed Tech Too Frequently?

The following is an RSS Feed Reader snip from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/) site encompassing but the past six days.

snip_20160306192851Your school just might be well enough funded to have implemented 1 to 1 classrooms or maybe just a legacy computer lab or two, or maybe tablet carts or four or five static tablets assigned to each classroom. Many might still be saddled with ancient slow and cumbersome desktops. (Aside note: I remember a time [the late 80’s] when I lugged my “portable” 30-pound computer with two 5-1/4″ floppy disk drives back and forth to work daily using a luggage carrier.) Surely whatever devices on campus, all have access to the Internet and every faculty member has a laptop, notebook or tablet device. No? Whatever the case someone or someones has the explicit, or worse, the implicit task of vetting new educational apps, websites, browser add-ons, templates, ed tech tools, hardware, and all  stuff ed tech. Considering that these 60 some educational technology “things” above are from only one website, we can be assured that every six days produces many, many more, probably thousands. Who vets, recommends, budgets and buys ed tech stuff at your institution? Is it the administrators, the teachers, the IT guys, the education-technology integrator/coordinator, the cleaning crew? Who or what group would ever even have the time to visit each website and blog then look up and read a summary about each new thing. Does anyone even care that new and fabulous ed tech stuff, eminently capable of propelling students forward by at least two grades, goes on the market every day? What criteria is used? Do the teacher-users and student-user have input to decisions?ed tech tools, hardware, and all stuff ed tech. Considering that these 60 some educational technology “things” above are from only one website, we can be assured that every six days produces many, many more, probably thousands. Who vets, recommends, budgets and buys ed tech stuff at your institution? Is it the administrators, the teachers, the IT guys, the education-technology integrator/coordinator, the cleaning crew? Who or what group would ever even have the time to visit each website and blog then look up and read a summary about each new thing. Does anyone even care that new and fabulous ed tech stuff, eminently capable of propelling students forward by at least two grades, goes on the market every day? What criteria is used? Do the teacher-users and student-user have input to decisions?

Personalized Learning; Competency-based Education; Distance (On-line) Education

The buzzwords Personalized Learning, Competency-based Education, Distance (On-line) Education have become increasingly popular since the 1990’s. In some circles, these are pejorative terms which when enacted to an extreme through the conduit of technology are perceived to threaten teachers and the teaching profession. Technology is often seen as the cause and by reference, technologists are therefore at fault. Here is an excellent article by Jennifer Carolan that rehashes the history of Personalized Learning and adds some reasonable perspective regarding the role of technology. Her last paragraph capsulizes the theme.

But personalization does not mean isolation, and it doesn’t mean sitting our students down in front of laptops all day. Personalization is a strategy that allows us to adapt to the needs of all children, preferably after giving them a powerful, shared learning experience that motivates them to dive deeper. The best schools and ed-tech companies understand that technology and personalization are not the ends of education, but that they are merely means to help achieve higher goals—goals on which the health of our society and democracy depend.

OECD Report on Computers and Learning – Nothing New

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report titled “Students, Computers,\ and Learning: Making Connections“. The conclusions are not surprising.

At the international level:

Over the past 10 years, there has been no appreciable improvement in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science, on average, in countries that have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education. In 2012, in the vast majority of countries, students who used computers moderately at school had somewhat better learning outcomes than students who used computers rarely; but students who used computers very frequently at school did a lot worse, even after accounting for the students’ socio-economic status.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

The United States:

The socio-economic divide in Internet access in the United States has not yet closed. In 2012, about one in five (20.2%) disadvantaged students – those among the bottom 25% in socio-economic status – did not yet have a link to the Internet at home. In the same year, 97% of the remaining students (those among the more advantaged 75% in socio-economic status) had access to the Internet at home.

Fifteen-year-olds in the United States perform above the OECD average in the PISA tests of digital reading (511 points on the PISA digital reading scale). They are also better than average in evaluating which links can lead them to relevant pages as they read on line. When looking for information on the web, only 11% of students navigate in an unfocused way, if at all – compared to 15% of students, on average, across OECD countries.

In 2012, schools in the United States serving 15-year-olds had about five school computers available for every nine students. The students-per-computer ratio of 1.8-to-1 is one of the lowest among the 34 OECD countries.

A particularly obvious and significant finding:

The report found that the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in digital reading was very similar to the differences in performance in the traditional PISA reading test, despite the vast majority of students using computers whatever their background. This suggests that to reduce inequalities in digital skills, countries need to improve equity in education first.

Integrating Technology and Empowering Students

Chris Aviles on edSurge offers a truly brilliant grading system using Google Forms, Google Sheets and his self-developed student tracking system. I had a similar experience as Chris when I taught high school, however, my solution was not nearly as innovative and I suspect, effective as Chris’.

If you teach, please, please read his article and study his forms. Adapt and adopt as necessary to your situation. Students can sometimes learn as much, maybe more, from the education process than from instruction per se. Peer grading with anonymity and without competition has been shown to be a valuable learning tool.

No More Teachers’ Dirty Looks

An Edsurge blog asks, “Can Blended Learning Solve the U.S. Teacher Drought?” Basically, the issue is more about technology replacing people, in this case fully qualified teachers. As a technologist, I fully support the integration of technology in curriculum and lessons, when deemed appropriate by the teacher. Taking it a step further, the blended level is a decision that would be made at the school or district level and consequently dictated to the teachers.

There are obvious advantages to a blended learning model, most having to do with reduced cost or technology filling vacant teacher positions. Neither of these advantages, on the surface that I can see, would have a positive effect on student achievement. Another advantage, that of facilitating differentiated learning, has the potential of going some way toward increasing achievement, at least of certain students. One disadvantage–the need for a larger support staff. Supposedly, the number of support staff would diminish over time as faculty were trained, curricula rewritten, and elearning courses prepared. Reducing face time with experienced teachers, at least at this stage in our technology, can only drive down achievement overall. That is a major disadvantage. One master teacher with one “apprentice” teacher (read less expensive) in a blended learning environment could theoretically teach manage a class of 50 or 60 students. I believe that to be neutral, until I see results.

Will we always need teachers in the classroom? The inroads technology has made into education, in spite of the fact that studies are inclusive regarding value, indicate that technology will, at some point, be the definition of education. Virtual intelligence is already on the cusp of replicating many humanistic characteristics. How far away is it away from becoming a high-quality teacher? A quote from the article: “For example, a computer cannot, as of yet, teach deeper learning and critical thinking.” [Emphasis added.]

Chrome Apps for this School Year

Originally posted @ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

August 20, 2015
You probably are already working on your digital toolkit making it ready for the start of a new school year. Part of your preparation will definitely consist of making [a] decision on the kind of web applications and mobil[e] apps you will be incorporating in your teaching. This means that you need to have a fairly decent knowledge of educational web tools out there and the potentialities they can offer to your instruction. To this end and to help you make informed decisions about the technology to use in your class,  we went ahead and did some digging into our archive and curated this collection   comprising some of the best educational Chrome apps out there.  We hope you will find it useful. Enjoy

1- Chrome Apps for Math Teachers

2- Chrome Apps for Recording and Editing Audio

3- Chrome Apps for Annotating and Editing PDFs

4- Chrome Apps for Bookmarking and Curating Content

5- Chrome Apps to Enhance Students Reading Experiences

6- Chrome Apps to Enhance Teachers Productivity

7- Chrome Apps for Creating 3D Models

8- QR Generator Apps for Chrome

 

9- Chrome Apps for Research Students

 

10- Chrome Apps for Notetaking

 

11- Chrome Apps for Screen Capture

12-  Chrome Apps for Sketching and Doodling

13-  Chrome Task Management Apps