15 February 2010

The Awful Truth

One of the conundrums associated with educational technology is that for all the power that is associated with the various tools, instructional practices are changing very little. An interactive whiteboard (IWB) can be used as little more than a glorified mouse pad in a teacher-centered environment. Blogs, podcast, voicethread presentations, and wikis require access---both in terms of internet filters, computers for students, and broadband. Few places have solved the management issues that arise from having cell phones as educational tools in the classroom. There may well be some stigmas attached to being "techie" in the classroom---or perhaps a resistance or philosophical basis to become so if there are other instructional models which work just fine.

Whatever the reason, there is a clear separation between those who embrace tech in the classroom and those who do not. Until recently, I didn't think the twain would meet. They still may not, but I came to terms with an awful truth this week: EdTech lacks a compelling voice. There are many superstars within the EdTech community, but they have come from within. There has been a lot of ridicule from this same community about Robert Marzano and his current foray into researching interactive whiteboards and other tools. While I agree that the circumstances for his research (i.e. being paid by a IWB company) do not engender trust for the results, the EdTech community has failed to recognize something very important: They need Marzano. Why? Because he is well-respected in the curriculum and instruction world---the one outside of technology...the one most schools and teachers live in. Marzano will be the first crossover star, much like artists that move between musical genres. It doesn't make his message any better, it just means that he will be a Pied Piper leading a lot more people toward EdTech...more than would have ever looked at the realm on their own. Those who have risen within the EdTech ranks are likely to be typecast there. A crossover will not happen from there---it must come from the non-tech side.

I am hoping that EdTech will make its peace with Marzano, instead of continuing to wage a turf war. If not, then I hope that they will find a partner elsewhere on the "outside" that they can work with. Pick a Wiggins, Stiggins, Tomlinson, or McTighe. Get a Reeves, Popham, or Guskey. Because until you capture the attention of that sort of leadership, you will not have their audience. You will not be seen as having a meaningful impact on instruction and assessment, no matter what you know to be true.


Unknown said...

I find it interesting that the EdTech community (and I am often part of this community) fights so hard for technology integration and yet they choose to be a segregated part away from the major debates about pedagogy and practice.

For example, schools should not have an EdTech degree and a Curriculum and Instruction degree. We should not continue to have tech conferences, either. The two sides need to overlap.

The Science Goddess said...

Agreed. Beyond that, I find that the EdTech community is far more "closed" than other education groups. I'm hoping that will start to change in the future.

doyle said...

It's an interesting point you make. At the very local level, poor implementation of supposedly superior products make teachers leery--and I go back to the automatic film-strip advancers (BEST STUFF SINCE SLICED BREAD!!!!) debacle.

I think the problem is further confused by the dollars involved, as well as the bigger confusion of what just are we trying to do in the classroom.

I can teach using the back of a napkin, or a stick in the sand (and I have); I've used wikis and IWBs and cell phones in class (as well as roller skates, plush test bunnies, and bowling balls).

Here's a plea to the technophiles--honor the purpose of the delivery as much (or more than) as the means of delivery.

Here's a plea to the Luddites--wait, same plea.

Take away the testosterone-laden techno-excitement, and I bet a few more teachers take a peek. As it is, I suspect far more teachers have tried (and abandoned) less-than-promised technologies than they get credit for.

(I seem to have awkwardsentencitis today....)

The Science Goddess said...

I hear they make a cream for that now.

I know that it's trite to say that "good instruction is good instruction," but that really is the bottom line for me. If a stick in the sand is the best tool to promote student learning in a given situation---awesome! I am really disturbed by the amount of posts and talk by EdTech types that involve "replacement." Why should any teacher throw out what is working just because there's something new and cool out there? If kids are engaged with the learning, what difference does it make what the form of instruction takes?

Anonymous said...

I wish my school would be more into technology. They buy all these things but never train any of us so they sit around and collect dust. It's really sad.