Is EdTech the answer to all our teaching and learning needs?

The short answer: No! The long answer: Not all, SOME; only if technology is used as a tool for effective teaching and learning.

I love technology. I am a geek about it. I have an iWatch, an iPhone, an iPad mini, a Kindle, an AppleTV, a Chromebook, and a MacBook Pro – Remarkable is next on my list to buy. Back in 2004 when the term Web 2.0 was introduced, I was all over the Web Tools revolution. I remember watching the original Karl Fisch video Did You Know? in 2007 that sparked deep and meaningful conversations about the future of education. In my classroom we used many of the early Web2.0 tools like EduBlog, VoiceThread, Animoto, and PBWorks. I was all in!

Later, I became the Assistant Principal of an at-risk school that had recently won a $5 million dollar grant for technology integration. I was in heaven and I remember thinking that we were going to dominate our state’s achievement testing results. I truly believed that technology was the answer to closing the achievement gap. In the end, we did not meet our expectations in achievement. While we made some gains, they were not as explosive as I had envisioned. I don’t remember who said it, but I wish I had paid more attention to this sentiment back then.

“Ineffective instruction with technology is still ineffective … just more powerfully ineffective.”

-Unknown

This is not to say I only focused on technology in the classroom. I was very focused on researched-based best practices and committed to learning, alongside teachers, what worked and what didn’t. I just had more faith in the power of our savior, Technology!

Fast forward 10 years to yesterday, when I attended the first day of the largest EdTech conference in the world with over 30,000 delegates. The Excel Centre in London was fully packed. All of the biggest players were there in force, Google, MicroSoft, Apple, Lego, Lenovo, and Smart along with 600+ additional vendors. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Coding and Robotics were by far the most abundant vendor booths.

The vision of BETT is “creating a better future by transforming education.” For a tech geek like myself, I was giddy with excitement to see the latest innovations that have the promise of transforming education. But I found myself taking a more mature approach to my excitement. I am still excited about the power of Edtech, yet it must follow effective teaching and learning. The opposite of the above quote is that effective teaching is even more powerful when using the appropriate tools. The crucial point is to ensure effective teaching and learning is the primary focus, not the latest gadget.

Below are some thoughts and “take aways” from the #BETT2020 Education Show.

  • Virtual/Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Coding are not to be ignored. This trend is not going away and will impact the way we work, live, and play in the future (if not already).
  • I was happy to see that one of the 6 trails of the show was dedicated to Well-being. Digital citizenship and safeguarding is getting a much needed focus due to the increased depression levels in adolescence since 2012, which corresponds to the proliferation of smart phone ownership beginning in 2012.
  • MicroSoft Edu is giving Google Apps for Education a run for their money. There is a very impressive feature in all of the MS apps called Immersive Reader that is getting integrated into many third party applications. The Immersive Reader allows a student with dyslexia (or any reader) to manipulate the background/font color, adjust spacing between the lines (as well as between the letters), add a “reading bar” highlight all verbs, noun, adjectives, etc.
  • ClassVR
  • Wheelie Chairs
  • Lego
  • Adobe PhotoSho

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