What is the point of Educational Technology?
Posted by Adam on March 26, 2013 in Featured Articles, Teaching & Learning, Technology in Education, The Future of Education | 0 comments
I spend a huge amount of my time reading about the top 5 apps for teachers, the best software for collaborative writing, the best web tool for this, that or the other, how to do something that I’ve never heard of but should have and now feel guilty about, so I’m going to Google it and try to drop it into a conversation next time I’m face to face with another teacher, so that I seem on top of the ever-burgeoning world of educational technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan. I might even describe myself as being someone close to the cutting edge of what is going on, but the more I read, the more concerned I become about the quality of what is going on in schools.
For every success story, there seem to be a couple of examples of really poor practice; schools that have launched a 1:1 initiative that has backfired, or teachers that use web-based-project-based learning as an excuse to sit down and let the kids get on with it.
I don’t blame these teachers. I don’t blame the IT guys who help rollout devices to students. So where does the blame lie?
I’m not sure I have an answer, but I suspect that the ‘real world’ outside of school and perhaps the internet, might not be entirely without guilt.
The problem with the real world is that it functions at a different pace and in a different way to a school. Schools don’t need to be progressive to be successful, they simply need to produce good results. If you look at league tables in this country there are not a lot of ‘progressive’ schools at the top. There are however, a lot of schools that are built on a reputation of excellence. Excellence is defined in these league tables as schools which get really good exam results and sometimes by the number of students that they get to university. There is no doubt that these schools do very often give their students the most incredible of extra-curricular activities too, but one must wonder to what extent these schools are leading by example when it comes to looking to the future.
A business must be adaptive, flexible and innovative to keep itself afloat in today’s aggressive marketplace. A school must be rigorous, solid and dependable. There is an inherent contradiction here.
Businesses want to utilize the latest social media to let as many people in their key demographic know about the products they offer as possible. They want their customers to be excited about what is being offered to them, to know that they are valued and that they are getting a great deal. The business world is competitive, but this manifests itself in such a way as (generally) benefitting the customer, otherwise they lose out to someone else.
I won’t bother making the comparison with schools; I think it’s fairly obvious that what is described above is not what we get in the classroom.
For a school to thrive it needs good exam results. For its students to survive, a school needs to teach them skills and prepare them for reality. At present this is an unhappy juxtaposition.
I am not naive enough to think that educational technology can solve these woes. The technology is only as good as the hands it is in. But, in this way, I think I can offer an important insight.