Fluff your way to a revolution

Photo Credit: le Rat et l'Ours Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: le Rat et l’Ours Flickr via Compfight cc

There is truly an abundance of articles regarding online learning – from those explaining how it is making higher learning more accessible, to others explaining the virtues of a blended learning environments, to even more addressing the value of teaching digital safety in this new digital age. Since signing up for twitter and following several #edtech teachers and proponents, I have read a lot of interesting articles extolling the virtues of education technology, as well as ones that completely negate the apparent advantages of educational technology. So for this week’s post, I wanted to address one that speaks to both sides of this equation – one that attempts to “square a contradiction”.

Joshua Kim‘s article Why I Dislike Educational Technology, But Love Online Learning is an interesting read, as we often speak to educational technology and online learning together as a unit – to achieve successful online learning, you need to use educational technology. However, in reading the article, they do not always go hand-in-hand when it comes to what each other offer.

Our edtech tribe has consistently over-promised and under-delivered on the potential and benefits of technology – Joshua Kim

Photo Credit: Heavenbound Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Heavenbound Flickr via Compfight cc

Wow. When I first read that statement, I began to get defensive of educational technology. Now, I know he is speaking primarily of #edtech in a higher education setting, but I still found myself immediately taken aback by his argument. Have you tried all these pieces of educational technology that seemingly have lower-than expected benefits? I wondered. Have you looked into the edtech options that help with differentiation? How can you say those are not beneficial, particularly for students who need these technological pieces to help them meet their own potential? Really, I could go on and on about the questions that came to my mind when I read the beginning of this article, and how blatantly judgmental I found the beginning statements to be.

Then I thought about it, and, perhaps – don’t hate me – he isn’t entirely wrong.

Educational technology can be great, and can be wonderfully beneficial in a lot of circumstances. However, it can also be used for “fluff” – used in circumstances where it doesn’t necessarily enhance learning, but rather just shifts it into a different space. I always think of Nicole with whom I had this conversation at the start of the semester, and she commented on the fact that we can’t just take what we have done, put it online, and say we are using educational technology and revolutionizing the educational world. Doing the same worksheets online as we did in person does not revolutionize our teaching or our learning – and this is perhaps where I can see the argument that some of the learnings from educational technology have been slight inflated. We speak o

Photo Credit: manoftaste.de Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: manoftaste.de Flickr via Compfight cc

f these tools, we learn new ones almost on a daily basis (Katherine shared Clarisketch just today through twitter – which I am very excited to try!), but rarely do we offer the training to follow-up with it. If we do offer the training, it is oftentimes on our own, through our own means, on our own weekends or weeknights. Although I would love to say I would participate in these trainings after hours, with two master’s classes and a new school this year, I am overwhelmed at the best of times. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to explore all of these things on my own. So, perhaps, to follow-through on the benefits and potential of educational technology, we need to back this up with accessible training, professional development, and workshops for teachers so they can learn to use it – properly – to really, truly, revolutionize their classrooms.

Can we move the discussion around educational technology to a place that is both more critical, and more educator (as well as learner) centric? – Joshua Kim

I do love educational technology, and I really do think that it is working well in our classrooms and can help us both differentiate and engage a brand new set of learners. However, nothing is without some fault, and if we don’t think critically about educational technology and how we use it, then we are doing a disservice to the benefits and potential it can bring about in our classrooms.

Now, I know I have gone off topic as this was to be an analysis of articles or resources for online learning, but I find educational technology to be a piece of the online learning puzzle. Or perhaps it is the other way around – online learning is a piece to the educational technology puzzle. Either way, as Kim says, “[t]he educators involved in online learning utilize the tools of educational technology”. Online learning, with all of its advantages and strengths (access, cost, flexibility) does not meet its potential either without the proper use of educational technology.

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

So where does that leave us? Currently, I am very much aware of the budgetary constraints  we are facing and, consequently, the fact that we perhaps can’t offer training for these educational technology tools that could potentially enhance our online teaching and learning opportunities. However, like we discussed in class yesterday, we can all learn one tool, one resource to help fully develop our online learning courses. Afterwards, we can share. Share share share. Share our knowledge, share our experiences, share our pros and our cons. My co-worker today remarked how teaching can be all about beg, borrow, and steal. Why not do so with educational technology knowledge? Then, perhaps, it can meet the potential and benefits that were extolled by edtech enthusiasts. And then, maybe, so can online learning. Without tools and knowledge, online learning or blended learning cannot succeed.

So, what are your thoughts on educational technology and online learning? How do the puzzle pieces fit together? Are we analyzing these elements critically enough, or do we incorporate them into our classrooms without fully understanding how to do so properly? What does this mean for our online learning? How can well-used educational technology help us move into blended learning environments, responding consequently to problems of access, cost, and flexibility in our classrooms? Let me know your thoughts below!


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8 Responses to Fluff your way to a revolution

  1. ashleypmurray says:

    You’ve given me a lot to think about Liz and I don’t have answers to a lot of the questions that you asked. However, I agree that we have free PD available at our school everyday if we all take the time to learn one tool or resource and share with each other. The apps or tools may cost a little but that is a minor expense when we look at the benefits the tools can provide.

    I have said that I will miss connecting with everyone on Tuesday nights when I finish my degree at the end of this semester because it’s the best PD. It’s expensive because we are paying tuition but I have to say that it is definitely money well spent. We will have to make sure to participate in Ed Chats after we are all done so that we can continue to learn and grow.


  2. Thanks Ashley. I agree – these classes have brought together a variety of different voices that I normally would not have had the privilege of hearing. Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because, I think we all know, we kind of stick with our core people at our schools because we simply just don’t have the time to go out of our circles. I am lucky in that I am a part of the French Immersion core with has every subdivision possible (i.e. Science, Math, Languages, Social Studies, Art, etc.) but I do feel as though I speak primarily with but a few teachers at my school. It is nice in these classes that we get to hear from different subject matter teachers, different grade teachers, and teachers from all different divisions and area of the province! It is definitely something I will miss as it is my last tech class as well seeing as they won’t be offering one in the Spring/Summer. I love the idea of continued Ed Chats – I can’t wait to see what you continue to do! I also may be moving into higher level Math classes at my school, so I will be looking for support wherever it is offered!


  3. Great work Elizabeth! I appreciate all the information you have shared with us this week! There are many different types of technology that benefit different skills and content. I agree with you when you noted that we are doing a disservice to our students by not taking the time to critically analyze the benefits that educational technology has to offer. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Pingback: Technology Can Be Inspiring ! | angelastechadventure

  5. rberry867 says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for the critical lens you tackled this topic with, the questions you raise are important and there are no easy answers. I agree that sharing is an important aspect that will help determine “real” applications of technology in classrooms opposed to being used as “fluffers.” Keep up the great work!


  6. Great post, I agree “beg borrow and steal” is the only way we can begin to incorporate the new and exciting ed tech tools available. There just is not enough time in the day to learn them all. This semester I have committed to trying 1 per week, and you know it has worked out alright. I do tend to abort any tools that are not super user friendly because I fail in being tech savvy. I also agree we can’t use the tools as “fluffers” We need to use them to enhance learning and not just fill space. I love our Tuesday night class because I feel it is where I get the most training on ed tech tools.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. benitastruik says:

    Great post and lots of information! I enjoy Tuesdays as well, they are the spark and then the rest of the week is learning. i really like that you (Stephanie) have committed to learning 1 tool per week. although that was not a goal I set form myself it it something that is happening and last week my tech supervisor asked me if I wanted to go on some tech PD in March and be the tech specialist in my school. I of course jumped at the opportunity while I laughed out loud! Two years ago I would have said no and never thought I would have the ability to help others in regards to technology. Wow look at me know…thanks Alec and Katia!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kirsten Hansen says:

    Nicely stated. I’m often one of the people in my area questioning tools (which is funny, because I’m also often someone trying new things or ready to jump on board with something). But I always try to ask why someone wants to use a tool. Why that? What problem do you think it solves? I think Kim does get at the point that so often edtech is advertised as revolutionary and innovative just by nature. Except SAMR has shown us that it isn’t always. Or even usually. The tech itself isn’t revolutionizing education. That takes people. The best thing I’ve ever seen suggested was to discuss the pedagogy. What pedagogical issues do you have? Then choose edtech based on that, and that tech could be a chalkboard. Just picking up tech doesn’t make it innovative or revolutionary. It doesn’t guarantee change. Pedagogy (or androgogy or whatever you want to call it in whatever situation), the theory and practice of teaching, guarantees change.


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