Category Archives: Pedagogy

Educational Technology: Neither Sinner nor Saviour

Defining the Variable: Ed-Tech

When I think of educational technology, my (active) imagination transports me to AI classrooms and interactive hologram projections. Part of me views ed-tech as the saviour of classroom to world relevancy; another part of me suffers ominous flashes of Judgement Day and Matrix-laden doom! Of course, that’s not the reality…at least, not yet.

 

matrix, code, data

It’s all the Matrix Photo by 0fjd125gk87 on Pixabay

In class, I defined educational technology as classroom-based innovations, in either hardware or software context, meant to enhance learning. In my breakout room, we further settled on one word to divide technology from educational technology: Purpose. Any human advancements in applied scientific knowledge can be interpreted as technology, but educational technology serves to analyze, evaluate, develop, manage, create, and collaborate in an academic setting. Laughing in our small chatroom about the purpose of a fridge was unexpected but served to demonstrate that the refrigerator – our cold-food cornucopia – can be defined as technology. However, when considered in a Home Economics setting, it could be categorized as ed-tech. Purpose then, and intentional purpose preferred – is everything when determining what ed-tech best serves innovative classrooms.

Smart home control panel in a modern kitchen

Help! My fridge is sentient! Photo: Adobe Stockpack

A Shady Past and Meaningful Future

Without realizing it (admittedly, I hadn’t completed all the readings before class) my philosophy of purposeful ed-tech aligns with Robert B. Kozma. In 1994, Kozma restructured the media debate by asking:

“‘In what ways can we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations?'”

This mindful shift in considering and implementing media in the classroom fulfills the highest purposes of ed-tech: Effective teaching and enhanced learning.

Unfortunately, as history and personal experience have shown, a philosophy of mindful ed-tech usage has not always been the case. Reading through Audrey Watter’s article “The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade” (2019) was a shame-filled Delorean blast to past. I giggled, I shook my head, I remembered. When I started teaching 13 years ago, any “good” innovative teacher salivated over getting a classroom Smartboard. It was the saviour (fallacy) brought to life in my classroom! Now many sit as $8000 whiteboards with poor lighting and abysmal screen alignment. As Watters and Katia indicate, Smartboards turned into a hard technology due to lacking soft applications. Despite receiving hours of Smartboard training, my Smartboard has become a glorified (problematic) projector. Now I salivate over classroom chrome-cast TV’s. It’s always something! And I say that tongue-in-cheek as I stare at my coveted classroom 3D printer… gathering dust in the corner. Whoops!

Picture courtesy of OfftheMark.com

My ed-tech philosophy has been largely unconsciously written by hours of ed-tech training and lived experience. My childhood education was filled with chalk-board dust and projector reels. I hardly considered these ed-tech advancements, and yet, that is exactly what they were…in their time. My high school typewriters gave way to computers. My Moodle and Blackboard training was replaced with Google classroom, then Edsby. My ed-tech philosophy evolved to understand two key principles:

  1. Ed-tech is synonymous with change.
  2. It is neither sinner nor saviour.

Neil Postman elaborates on my evolving understanding of ed-tech, providing 5 key things we must understand about technological change:

  • Advancements carry a price.
  • The digital divide allots winners and losers (something I am now cognizant of after 2. 5 years teaching online)…
  • That give way to prejudice and bias.
  • Its reach touches everything and everyone.
  • It creates its own omnipotent mythos. As my current students struggle to imagine a classroom without 1-1 Chromebooks – supposing it has always been this way – I can certainly attest to this last (potentially dangerous) concept.

    Stylish caucasian man in devil hat with horns and vampire cape with laptop isolated on white backhround.

    Ed-Tech: Neither Sinner nor Saint Photo by benevolente on Adobe Stock

Conclusion: Defining the Constant

After considering the historical and philosophical aspects of ed-tech, I can only surmise that my viewpoint will continue to evolve with the technology in my classroom. If ed-tech innovations are the variable, then meaningful/intentional/equitable implementation must be the constant.

Ponderings

  • Based on usage, technology can often be categorized as ed-tech, but how often do we use ed-tech as technology in our day-to-day lives? For example, Kahoot is largely construed as ed-tech software, but do we ever use it ourselves for fun? I know I don’t! If I never hear the theme music again, it will be too soon!
  • Do you feel a sense of jadedness when the “next big thing” in ed-tech/training comes out? Or a heady rush of excitement for something new to offer students?
  • It’s been over 13 years since I was an education undergrad, but I wonder how much emphasis is now placed on meaningful classroom ed-tech selection and implemenation. Insights are most welcome!

Off the Screen, Back Into the World

Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

My pronouns are she/her and I am honoured to live on Treaty 6 land. In the last 13 years, I have taught every grade from 1-12, and for the past 2.5 years, I have been the K-7 Online Learning Support Teacher (OLST) for the Light of Christ School Division. I am freshly returned to teaching middle years for 2022-23, while I continue to help educators with edtech curriculum and content creation. My family consists of my husband, Mark, two children, a polar bear (Great Pyrenees) named Tank, and – sadly – our recently departed mountain lion (cat) named AJ. My interests include creative writing, reading (largely fiction and personal growth), learning, hiking, travelling, my family, mental health, and environmental/social justice.

“Back In My Day…” 

film, movie, cinema

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

 

The powers-that-be (AKA: my students) have dubbed me a geriatric millennial, but I think I prefer xennial-on-the-cusp. The dubious title holds a wealth of experience with early educational technology. Strobing lights and flickering sounds of a classroom projector, alongside dying of dysentery a million times on the Oregon Trail, are some of my earliest educational memories. My elementary school was progressive enough to have a computer room simply to practice our wpm, but when I went to high school, typewriters remained the norm until Grade 10. Pshhkkrr-king-tshchchchch-ding-ding-ding, dial-up is a sound time does not forget; a necessary evil I endured while researching senior-level science projects and English essays. Registering for University classes blindly on the Registrar phone line….what could possibly go wrong? Technology and us…me? We’ve come a long way since those early Oregon Trail, Windows 95 days.

After the After(math)

Edtech and Me

 

In my first Graduate class, I wrote my first blog post, outlining the before and after(math) of educational technology during the pandemic years. Before the pandemic, my classroom heavily relied on technology to create student projects, but -in hindsight- I wonder if I unknowingly used tech for its own sake (mostly to seem current).

After spending 2.5 years as an Online Learning Support Teacher (OLST), isolated between four small walls and my face between four small points on a screen, something in my educational pedagogy shifted….a redefinition I still struggle to word. In my online time, navigating the digital divide was a daily struggle. Zoom, Edsby, TikTok, Flip, Peardeck, Kahoot, Blooket, Miro, etc. etc. etc.? What I finally understand is that all the programs, apps, platforms, and tech tricks can’t help without equitable access and human connection.

Returning to the classroom now, tech is interwoven seamlessly throughout my teaching day. From my classroom 3D printer to Zooms with Indigenous Saskatchewan artists, edtech provides amazing opportunities for my students (and me) to connect to learning on a deeper level. My edtech and teaching pedagogy is more purposeful now, revealing a silver lining in my post-pandemic online world.

Drop a line and share…

  • What were your early experiences with edtech? Do you feel it shapes how you use/don’t use technology in the classroom now?
  • Tell me someone out there mastered the Oregon Trail!?!
  • Do you see a clear distinction between your technology use before and after the pandemic? Have we become too reliant on edtech now? Or perhaps adverse to it due to overuse in the last 2.5 years?