Two Misconceptions about EdTech

Two Misconceptions about EdTech

EdTech polarises conversations between people who love the idea and people that hate it. The trouble is, a polarised conversation is no conversation at all. With the hope of de-polarising the conversation and opening up a productive dialogue again on a topic that won’t be going away any time soon, I suggest there are two common misconceptions to reconsider:

1. EdTech is about the use of technology in education

The misconception here is to assume that the nature of education has not changed and that the question is simply how we might use technology (which is new) in education (which is well established).

Firstly, the world has changed in some fundamental ways because of technology. The world the learner needs to navigate, and the skills that they need in order to do that successfully, are dramatically different* – whether or not we choose to use technology to meet those needs.

Secondly, technological developments make it possible to do things in education which were never possible before. To define how education works first and only then to consider how technology might assist with the delivery is to miss the unprecedented opportunities we have to make every student’s learning journey more personal, engaging, relevant and integrated than we have ever been able to previously – and to make every teacher’s role more human, impactful and fulfilling than it ever has been in practice.

The real issue in EdTech is neither education nor technology but imagination

2. EdTech is about interacting with or through machines

The misconception here is to assume that using digital technology in education means more screen time. The classroom has always been an artificial environment. We do not improve matters by drawing students into a cyber-space environment that is even less connected to the “real world.”

We should be discussing how to use technology to allow children to be educated in the real world, just as Fitbit allows you to run in the great outdoors with a level of personal feedback that was previously only available from a treadmill in a gym.

Again, the real issue is a matter of imagination. Technology is a tool that we can use either to de-humanise or to re-humanise. Technology should liberate us from any task that a machine can do faster and better than a person so that we are free to be more fully human and do what only humans can do.

What if instead of being in front of the student’s face, the technology was sitting unobtrusively at the student’s side as they go about learning through “observation, experimentation, immersion, participation … and the kind of free activity where the distinction between work and play disappears?” (Carol Black)  What if the student could use that technology to record what they say and do as they learn, and then analyse those records using Artificial Intelligence and all the holistic data that the student may choose to share with it (such as medical records or performance in extra curricular activities) in order to help them to recall and celebrate their achievements, decide what to do next, and know where to go for assistance when they need it?

Who’s up for a less polarised conversation?


* See this review of Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness” for some illustrations