EdTech: Staying Current and Adapting

Staying current and adapting to technological change in education is notoriously difficult. My guess is that this is because once a school year starts, we are inundated with daily crisis management items. Because schools are not only responsible for student learning, but also expected (and rightly so!) to provide a nurturing environment replete with so many complex interpersonal relationships, staying abreast of the latest EdTech developments while teaching, managing behavior, and - and this is no small feat - achieving work/life balance as a member of one’s own family can feel overwhelming.

Kelly’s verbs do help. Not only does he provide permission to be a constant newbie instead of expecting everyone to be an expert, he also helps us understand that a key facet of the game is to be able to “filter” effectively. Some of the tools we have learned about in this course (TweetDeck, Feedly and other content aggregators, etc.) make it easier to filter the soundbites that can keep us informed quickly and make us feel less inundated by the sheer number of shiny new things out there, let alone the pressure of big trends.

Kelly’s analysis hints that a “soft singularity” of machines and humans engaged in an interdependent mesh will become reality by 2050. For education, this means that artificial intelligence (AI) will do more filtering, tracking, and reporting of relevant data to teachers and administrators, but it will remain our role to make sense of this data and how it can be used to drive the next day’s (or the next year’s) instruction. AI will also make it possible to put students more in control of their own classroom data, if we are brave enough to allow it!

Although futurists have been predicting the demise of brick-and-mortar schools for years, I am not sure that this will be the case. We are social animals, and there is something to be said for the very human element of physical gathering/meeting space. With such a strong brick-and-mortar legacy and a hardwired desire for companionship, I think it is more likely that we will still physically gather, augmented by technology, rather than spend our school days at home joining virtual classrooms from Google Glass.

Meeker does not necessarily agree, and many of the trends support her take. For example, she predicts the continued rise of online-only degree programs. Creighton’s Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership exemplifies this. 10 years ago, there were no online Ed.D. programs outside of Walden University and similar online-only schools. Now, it seems as if many universities, from Drexel to Johns Hopkins, have an online Ed.D. program. Will this extend, however, to K-12 education? I think it is more likely that high school would be impacted more than grades K-8, but only time will tell.

Education thought leaders have also predicted the death of the so-called Carnegie unit for years. In Ohio, for example, a minimum of 21 credits are required for graduation, including a certain number in the “core” areas of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, along with other requirements. Will technology and the increasing personalization of education eventually threaten the tenuous commitment to a well-rounded, mandated universal curriculum? Will compulsory attendance laws go by the wayside in favor of a more libertarian approach? Will students instead select more specified paths to college and/or career readiness?

For me, the Wikipedia list was not very helpful. Missing from the Wikipedia list is, well, anything specific to the field of education! That was somewhat dispiriting. Either our field is just woefully behind the times or contributors felt as if emerging technology in other areas already cross-applies to education. For example, an EdSurge opinion piece speculated how 5G technology could change the classroom, from virtual teaching to other “seamless virtual reality experiences.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, whether or not we will see truly revolutionary change in education will depend on our commitment to shift the current paradigm. I went to primary school in an “open-wall classroom” physical environment. It was not used in the manner for which it was designed. Will today’s “flexible use spaces” be different? When I was in high school, the district spent a lot of money constructing a “distance learning lab.” It was neat to take an elective class (Humanities) in Rocky River that was being taught in Brooklyn (Ohio, not the famous NYC borough), but it did not immediately lead to the creation of a wider learning network or offer dozens of new courses, and Web 2.0 essentially made the technology in that lab obsolete within about five years after its initial launch. Will today’s massively open online courses (MOOCs) or virtual reality capabilities produce anything different? Leadership is needed to make that happen.

Change comes slowly in education. We are products of a 20th century system, predisposed to ensure its continuance (whether consciously or not). This course has been extremely helpful in letting my inner futurist out for a stroll, something I think we would all benefit from in a profession that often prepares students more for our past than for their future. That will change whether we are ready for it or not, so adopting the intellectually flexible position that we would often like our students to adopt - that of lifelong learners - will be essential.