This past week, I received a wonderful email from a friend of mine (Dr.Z). Since he is a philosophy addict, we often have vibrant discussions about the importance of technology and education. Being obviously fed up with the technology at his fingers… this is what arrived in my inbox:
Dr. V!Google Drive vs. DropboxOpen Class vs. EduBlog by WordPressEvernote vs. whateverPower School vs. can we blow them up?Atlas Rubicon vs. wooo!Schola … something and then there is MendaleyHave you ever tried to integrate Box with Dropbox, I mean, why do we need two?The list is long … would you please draw a map for me?
Dr. Z is not alone. With the pace of technology advancement, how can educators keep up? Ed. Tech is a very fast moving target! Or as Scotty would put it:
Ed. Tech is not about hitting the mythical Technology Target (blindfolded while riding a horse) but realizing that our students are the reason we care in the first place – they are the things that are moving.
Ed. Tech is: Google, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Edmodo, EduBlogs, Wikis, WordPress. Or, Ed. Tech is every way that technology can touch and improve our lives! Our kids are on the cloud, so we must meet them on that cloud. If we fail to meet the students with the full gambit of technology and resources at their disposal, our entire education system will do the a great disservice.
Lets take this thought one step further. Is technology an addiction?
Many people, and myself included, have said that cellular phones are addicting. During my work on my Masters, I would always stress that we were watching students for signs of addiction. I mistakenly assumed that I could identify when a student was addicted to a technology that spends more time with me than my wife does. Looking back, I wonder if the first people who started wearing watches were accused of being addicted to them (or to time for that matter). By labeling games, cellphones, the internet, calculators, etc. as addicting, and protecting students from them, are we doing our students a disservice.
If I told you that the internet was addicting would you agree? Or has our civilization reached a point where we can rely on the internet for so much of our lives that it is “Rewiring our Brains.” If we have reached a point where google is an extension of our minds, do we really need to teach our students all of the State Capitals? I can only imagine the outcry if we proposed to remove the state capitals from the Common Core. By focusing all of our attention on teaching these easily searchable facts, “what the teachers are really saying is this: “We don’t trust the technology of today, or the future. We don’t trust the world in which you kids are going to live. We believe the way we did it in our time was the “real” way, the only reliable way, and that’s what we want to teach you kids – “the basics.” (As Marc Prensky Put it in his article “Backup Education”)
I have faith in the internet, I am a believer and I am proud of it. I believe that if the internet fails, or if the cloud comes crashing to earth, we have bigger problems than my inability to locate the capital of New Hampshire.
Educational Technology is less about which “program” to use, and more about which connections we want to foster. Lets face it, our modern world is an ecosystem of technology programs, applications, and hardware. The ecosystem evolves, programs grow, integrations increase, and the internet always expands.
In my life I cannot afford to have programs that have become so niche focused that they refuse to integrate into my ecosystem. There is nothing worse than than a program that fosters no connections (i.e. in my world right now, that is Atlas Rubicon). If a program cannot play well with everything else, it should be culled from the heard and make room for the stronger genes. For my school, my students, and my teachers, it is more important that I find was to integrate programs and services to build upon our ecosystem rather than finding a program that will fulfill a need by weaken the entire system. My long range plan is always to remove the dead weight – programs with no connection – and expand through consolidating into programs with strong genes (Google, Evernote, PowerSchool, etc.). Just like in the wild, if we find the right combination of genes, their offspring will be remarkable.
I use all of the services that Dr.Z listed (some with more fervor than others). Here is why: I need a platform to keep up my technical skills while allowing me to keep a digital portfolio (wordpress because that thing is always breaking and needing some coding), a method of providing instruction online (wordpress with google, sensei, blackboard, evernote, postach.io, and liveminutes), an easy way to document my digital life – in all forms (evernote with photo and video apps), a way to store all of my files everywhere (google drive, dropbox, and box) and still autobackup my phone (dropbox, facebook). I use all of these services, and they all support my healthy digital ecosystem. I also have an EduBlog, a Wiki, a WordPress, a Dojo, a Schoology, and an Edmodo. They fill the niches that my other programs do not, but they have are not and never will be isolated programs.
So… after reading this big long rant about how everything is Education Technology, I deleted the email and moved on… I bet my ramble didn’t really help. The truth is, nothing really can. You should use what you need in the moment, network it into what you currently have and if it doesn’t fit into your ecosystem, throw it back.
(after responding to Dr.Z, I realized that like most ecosystems, I really did need a food web to explain my technology choices. You can see that web below, and I will continue to expand that web as my ecosystem grows and evolves.)