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.


Too Much Ed Tech Too Frequently?

The following is an RSS Feed Reader snip from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning ( 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?

We Work Together, But Test Alone

I am currently enrolled in a combined technology certifications course. Upon completion of a number of certification-targeted classroom instruction hours and after taking multiple practice tests, we, isolated from any and all digital and human resources (even our wallets and purses are not allowed), are subjected to an intense, time-regulated multiple choice test for each certification. To be fair, the tests include a few “simulations” which are little more than drag and drop exercises. The test questions are determined by the certification authority, proctored by an employee of the instructional organization, and administered remotely by Pearson VUE.

Two points:

  • technology certification instruction. Think about that for a minute then visualize a standard 1980’s classroom configuration. Add a computer on each desk. The instructor’s desk is to the right front of the room so as not to block the information being projected from the overhead projector onto the screen at the front of the room. For the most part the instructor projects and reads from the certification authority’s text interrupting only to address questions that are thankfully allowed at any point. Students may observe what is being read on the screen at the front of the room or follow along on their personal computers. The text does contain many reinforcing graphical representations. Periodically within the test are computer-based practical exercises that attempt to replicate the real thing using an artificial user interface that in itself requires familiarization. Infrequently (two in a two-month period) a half-day “lab” is conducted. The labs represent limited reality, e.g., setting up a network switch that is not connected to a network. Somehow what we’ve learned in the past 30 years about pedagogies, instructional technologies, and integrating technology into classrooms and curriculums have bypassed the exulted organizations that control technology certifications and those that instruct toward certification achievement.
  • isolated from any and all digital and human resources. The work world is all about sharing, communicating, and collaborating. In a very long and varied career, I have only experienced one job wherein I was unable to correspond with or seek help from others in a timely manner. It was when I was a high school teacher. Not that help wasn’t available overtime, just when most needed. Anyway, for the most part, the work world now expects, even demands, teamwork. Recently I read an article that in a sentence capsulized the way work success has evolved. “We all know who invented the light bulb but who invented the iPhone?” Yet we continue to test knowledge in isolation rather than performance within a group. The future lies in developing and administering team performance tests that also measure individual knowledge and collaborative acuity.

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.

Data, Data Everywhere

In The Seventy-Four Conor Williams opines that we need data and lots of it. Why? Well, to prevent an assault on accountability; to correct all education problems (he uses John Dewey to claim that without more data we can’t even define those problems); to provide research statistics for policymakers; and to help establish a basis for arguing education. His target–Senator Vitter’s, R-LA, bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act which would allow families more control over what student data can be released to the federal government and third parties.

Dr. Williams assumes his readers agree that the “policymakers” best equipped to dictate education policy are the politicians and their appointed educationalists at the state and federal level with the assistance of third parties such as his own New America’s Education Policy Program. While he doesn’t say so directly, I suspect he blames the nation’s inability to achieve true reform over the last 20 years to our failure to collect and share enough data. He laments: “Want to study American students’ reading abilities in grades K–2? There’s essentially no comprehensive national data for you—even though third-grade reading proficiency is a key priority for many policymakers.

And there shouldn’t be “comprehensive national data”. More and more data in the hands of those least qualified to use it effectively only adds another unnecessary burden on school level administrators and teachers while providing more fodder for state and federal agencies to influence, manipulate and coerce schools toward failed reform efforts mostly involving privatization. Look at what we have already created and guess who is benefited the most: standardized, high-stakes testing; charter schools; teacher mills; Common Core State Standards; and vouchers, to name a few.


This is a great site for all things educational K-20. If you haven’t been there, go. It’s worth more than a cursory look, possibly even subscribe to receive emails. This is from their mission statement:

TeachThought’s mantra is simple: learn better.

Our mission is to illuminate and actuate optimal learning for everyone, everywhere. This starts with helping smart teachers teach smart, and it extends to work with like-minded organizations to bring visibility and traction to their ideas.

The pie-in-the-sky goal is a modern enlightenment that results in healthy communities and interdependent citizens–and we believe that this can happen much more simply than it’d seem.

The secret is to change the way people think about learning. It’s possible more than ever to create learning spaces that are personalized, self-directed, social, and creative. This requires new tools and models, but more importantly a paradigm shift in how everyone–educators and otherwise–thinks about “education.”

In a couple of recent articles, the concept of disruption and its value in education is discussed (article 1, article 2). The second article gives examples. Disruption was extrapolated from a theoretical business model and attempts to explain events in education progress(?) somewhere between evolution and paradigm shift. Interesting reading but I’m not sure I want to add it to my very long list of forgotten models.

Here are Terry Heick’s (te@chthought’s director) thoughts regarding what’s trending in 2015:

What’s trending up for 2015 school year in terms of education technology?

iPads are still the standard but other platforms are making headway. That should be fun to watch over the next 3-5 years.

Educators are getting better at spotting crap edtech, but waste still abounds. There are even some educators who are against technology in the classroom at all.

Schools are getting better at thinking tech-first (not in terms of priority, but design). But they are still struggling to meaningfully integrate edtech at the learning model and curriculum level.

Apps are getting downright brilliant in spots, but in-app purchasing? That’s getting a bit out of hand, isn’t it? And something has to be done about all of the usernames and passwords.

Below are 30 entirely subjective but hopefully somewhere close to reality takes on what’s trending up and what’s trending down in education and education technology for 2015 and beyond. A handful of these aren’t pure edtech items, but it’s all part of the same ecosystem yes?

Note that this list isn’t an endorsement–meaning this isn’t necessarily the way I think things should be, but rather what they seem to be–at least from my vantage point, right here, right now. Ask me again in August.

What’s trending up, what’s trending down, and what’s in that awkward middle ground of education and education technology? Below are 30 guesses.

The interactive list is available at the site, however, here is a non-interactive list:

Trending Up

  1. Teacherpreneurs
  2. Decentralizing academic standards
  3. Rethinking data in the classroom
  4. Adaptive learning algorithms
  5. Digital Citizenship
  6. Focus on non-fiction, digital media
  7. Depth of content
  8. Experimentation with new learning models (including flipped classroom, sync learning, blended learning, etc.)
  9. Teacher self-directed PD, webinars, streams, etc.
  10. College as a choice
  11. Collaborative learning
  12. Digital Literacy
  13. Focus on learning spaces
  14. Design thinking
  15. Mindfulness, meditation, downtime
  16. Teacher as guide-on-the-side
  17. Gamification of content
  18. Genius hour, maker hour, collaboration time
  19. Workflows
  20. Cloud-based word processing
  21. Mainstreaming + co-teaching
  22. Platform Agnosticism
  23. Librarian as digital media specialist
  24. YouTube channels, Google Chromecast, AppleTV
  25. Apps like Storehouse
  26. 1:1 tablets/devices
  27. Project-Based Learning
  28. Mobile-first #edtech design
  29. The innovation of apps
  30. Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive

Awkward Middle Ground

  1. Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.
  2. “Accountability”
  3. Professional Learning Communities
  4. Differentiation
  5. Computer coding
  6. Traditional reading lists of truly great literature
  7. Pure creativity
  8. Self-directed learning
  9. Massive in-person education conferences
  10. Colleges in general
  11. Experiential learning
  12. Cultural Literacy
  13. The physical design of most school buildings and universities
  14. Memorization of prioritized content that leads to design thinking
  15. Debate
  16. Pressure on systems
  17. Gamification-as-grading-system
  18. Tutoring
  19. To-do lists
  20. Cloud-based learning
  21. One teach, one drift/prompt/observe
  22. Moving from one OS to another (e.g., from Android to Windows Phone)
  23. Librarian/DMS as bibliophile
  24. Online encyclopedias
  25. Apps like Prezi
  26. Socioeconomic disparity
  27. Mobile learning
  28. Mobile assessment
  29. Honest-to-goodness free apps
  30. iCloud

Trending Down

  1. Mass education publishers
  2. Common Core standards, Race to the Top
  3. Data Teams
  4. Scripted curricula
  5. Draconian district filters
  6. Humanities
  7. Coverage of content
  8. 21st century learning” as a phrase or single idea
  9. The perceived quality of teacher certification & training programs
  10. College as the standard
  11. MOOCs
  12. Agricultural Literacy
  13. The traditional classroom
  14. “Low-level” recall of easily accessed data (facts) or skills (arithmetic)
  15. Lessons that favor “verbally expressive” students
  16. Pressure on teachers
  17. Standards-based grading; pass/fail; student retention
  18. Increased “instructional hours”
  19. Whole class processes
  20. Flash drives, hard drives, CDs, emailing files
  21. Alternative schools/classrooms for special needs students
  22. Apple-centric thinking
  23. Librarian as no-nonsense, ruler-wielding taskmaster
  24. Cable television, subscription-based content streaming
  25. Apps like PowerPoint
  26. Oversimplifying BYOD thinking
  27. “Doing projects”
  28. Mobilizing non-mobile content
  29. In-app purchase gouging
  30. Dropbox

A Massive List of Technological Education Tools

This site can be overwhelming. I suggest you click the Browse around and explore button where you can search by category, subject, age, and platform. After you click on an item within one of the tools search areas you can filter the tools by price (free or paid), platform, subject, age, and category. Sorting is also available by popularity, dated added, and last update. The short (2-1/2-minute) video overview is helpful but getting inside and ‘putzing’ around is more valuable.