A bit about educational technology

Post date: May 23, 2013 5:50:18 PM

Edtech, also called learning technology, is commonly understood to be the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources, according to R.C. Richey in his TechTrends journal article in 2008.

A teacher might wonder sometime, “If I am not using the most modern technology to teach a class with, am I really an effective teacher?” Try tapping into your favorite search engine for “edtech” and find a non-stop flow of hyperlinks on the term. There are many for profit and nonprofit organizations, and magazines, and even doctorate degrees, and on and on, now focused on educational technology. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there is also a touch of mania going around about how to fuze education and technology in this race to get to the top of edtech mountain.

So to smartly facilitate learning with technology, teachers might logically conclude that they must remain at the forefront of edtech knowledge by using the next and best piece of edtech available. You could spend hours every day scouring the web for the right tech tools to improve your class. And then you have to try it out yourself before using it in the classroom. And sometime after all of that you have to find a way to fit this into your lesson plan and engage your students with it.

You can end up spending a lot of time putting these things together for your students and still belly flop your performance in the classroom, possibly due to anxiety, worrying whether it will all actually work the way you hoped and planned. That might leave you merely pontificating about what you know in front of the students, with your buggy technology not working; not cool.

Even if they come from a loving and supportive family environment, pressures from school are generally not fun for students. Some students genuinely like tests though, like they might a game or a puzzle. Albert Einstein, amongst others, dropped out. I think he liked puzzles.

And just in case computers crash or the internet goes down, being stuck with merely a book and your subject knowledge has also worked fine for teachers for a long time before this current edtech boom. Good teachers can be effective with just those two too. Teaching is an art of sorts, one where teachers create an environment where students want to take responsibility for improving their knowledge, amongst other things.

And education is a better process if students are more engaged because they want to be, not because they have to be. And teachers would do a better job if they really enjoyed improving the lives of their students through teaching too. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we all felt that way about our jobs? Probably.

The purpose of edtech should be just that, to improve the process and the end result of education, engaging students and teachers because they find that it is a fun and intuitive process, not just using technology to meet some requirement.

We have a lot of technology now and just need to find the right way to use it without getting overwhelmed. What can a good teacher do to find a good source of edtech? This teacher recommends finding resources where people are already recommending tried and tested resources for you, like an art curator might. Based on my limited time searching the web for some data to include with this article, I found many teachers out there blogging about the next best resources obsessively. I like checking out www.scoop.it for topics sometimes. Those curators probably all get together and practice using edtech at meetings on the weekends, like witches in some teacher cult....or maybe just at school staff meetings.

“So go ahead and recommend something already!,” you might be thinking. Well I liked using edmodo as a learning management system(LMS) with my students. Students would request that I post a quiz for them sometimes. I did surveys to confirm that the majority of them wanted these timed online take home quizzes. Of course then I had to get one up there ASAP, not to let them down. It came recommended to me by some good teachers. Other teachers in our school were drawn into using it naturally, because the students were asking them, “why don’t you use edmodo too.” It was free and intuitive to set up and use, and made life easier while connecting my classes with each other and online quizzes and assignments. Total quiz results combined automatically on edmodo.com, making graphs to tell me which questions I needed to go over with students during class.

Before typing up this article I made an LMS shortlist, very short, based on what I considered to be some of the more useful ones, for my current employer in China. You might want to settle on the one you are most comfortable with, or one that you and all the other teachers in your school agree to use. Connecting with other teachers online can also be useful. And then all the students will not have to switch between a different LMS per teacher, at least mid-semester.

Chart Data: from company official websites and crunchbase.com profiles as of March, 2013, except: moodle date from wikipedia; interface appeal is author's opinion from watching current video presentations for each LMS, and personally using Instructure as well as edmodo for high school Environmental Science classes

My current company went ahead with Instructure’s Canvas, due to; ability to be customized, testing capabilities, full course downloads/transfers, and a few other powerful options offered by Instructure.