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
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
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.
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!