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Response: 'Why Can't the Future of Ed-Tech Start Now?'

 (This is the last post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here.)


The new "question-of-the-week" is:

What will ed-tech look like 25 years from now?


Mark Estrada, Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin, Sarah Thomas, and Tom Daccord share their answers in Part One. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Jenny, Mark, and Sarah on my BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

Today, Dr. Jayme Linton, Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad, Beth Konomoto, and Kelly Wickham Hurst share their thoughts on the future of ed-tech.

Response From Dr. Jayme Linton

Dr. Jayme Linton is the author of The Blended Learning Blueprint for Elementary Teachers. She is an educational consultant who formerly served as an assistant professor of education, instructional technology facilitator, staff-development coordinator, and elementary teacher. Her research and professional learning focus on preparation and support for online instructors, online and blended learning communities for educators, blended and personalized learning, and the edcamp professional learning model:

My hope is that 25 years from now, we'll no longer be talking about ed-tech or digital learning or blended learning or 21st-century skills.

My hope is that technology in classrooms will be as seamless and ordinary as notebook paper and pencils.

My hope is that gadgets will lose their appeal, and the shininess will wear off.

My hope is that we will return our focus to the learner.

Don't get me wrong. I am, have been, and will be an advocate for technology in the teaching and learning experience. I am a believer in the potential of technology to transform the learning experience and provide opportunities for learners that were previously unavailable. I have experienced for myself, as an educator and a learner, how technology can open doors to new opportunities, serve as a catalyst for making connections, shorten the time from learner need to teacher response, increase efficiency, and enable anytime, anywhere learning.

The educational community's increasing focus on technology is exciting and fun and challenging. I get excited about new gadgets, too. But this growing emphasis on tools can cause us to remove our focus from what's really important.

In our conversations about educational technology, we need to talk less about the latest app or the newest upgrade and more about how to match technology with a specific learner's needs and passions. And I would argue that some of these conversations should lead us to consider how technology might not be the best solution for a particular learner need.

So much of our time, resources, and professional learning focus on how to use technology. In 25 years, I hope we invest our time, resources, and professional learning instead in knowing why and why not to use technology. And more importantly, in 25 years our learners should be the ones making those decisions about their own learning.

I wrote this post in response to the question, "What will ed-tech look like 25 years from now?" So here's my question for you: Why can't the future of ed-tech start now?

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Response From Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad is a speaker and author (Everyday Instructional Coaching: 7 Daily Drivers to support Teacher Effectiveness). He was a former teacher, vice principal, professor, district curriculum and instruction director, and education supervisor at NASA. Follow him on Twitter (@drlangraad):

When predicting what ed-tech will look like 25 years from now, one would likely look at current trends in ed-tech and then imagine a future projection of that trend. Or look at past innovations and track the advancement of that technology leading up to today. We would probably conclude that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a critical role in diagnosing students' current levels of learning and more accurately curating a learning path for each student. Or we might predict the use of Virtual Reality (VR) to create virtual learning environments inside the classroom.

Instead of attempting futurist visions of what technology will look like or do for the classroom, I want to answer a more important question. How will we use technology in tandem with developing learning opportunities to finally give students the permission to freely create, think at the most complex levels, amplify their voice, and become the leaders of today and tomorrow?

You ask the students of today about what they'd like to be and you might hear "YouTuber." Familzone.com reports that 8-year-old students spend 65% of their online time on YouTube. Twitch™, an online streaming platform geared for gamers, has recently gained popularity due to the young video streamers making a good revenue from streaming (some streamers get $500K per month). Twitch is an informal community used to talk about interests and passions. Nearly half of the 100 million monthly users spend at least 20 hours per week on Twitch. What can we conclude? That students want to create and that students want to use their voice to make an impact (and make money).

As educators, how do we respond? We inspire them to create and we empower them to share their voice. We create meaningful learning experiences that leverage tools to develop skills for success. We help students with creating content and sharing it via vodcasts or podcasts (great tools for this: WeVideo, Flipgrid, YouTube, etc.). We provide feedback to students to help them strengthen communication skills. We spark the entrepreneurial spirit (and learn math concepts) by providing opportunities for students to use a website like Kiva.org to lend money to borrowers looking to make a difference in the world. We create opportunities for students to engage in projects that are interesting to them and that have a strong relevant connection to their daily life and the community they live in.

No matter what the ed-tech tool, present and future, we must continue to spark creativity and fuel innovation by empowering students to create "stuff" and share their voice. With the social-media revolution we have experienced, we will only continue to evolve in the use of technology to extend our reach and create new ideas together.

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Response From Beth Konomoto

Beth Konomoto loves balancing new technology and tried-and-true methods for language learning. She teaches in the English-development department at Camosun College. She holds a master's degree in TEFL/TESL from the University of Birmingham and continues to learn from a network of talented educators and students both in person and online:

Looking ahead 25 years to the year 2043, education and education technology (ed tech) could look different on the outside (physical cases for computers or smart phones, different platforms or operating systems, the skins of applications), but the inside and core functions will most likely stay the same. This is because our reasons for using ed-tech will most likely stay the same.

The kinds of things we, as educators, do with technology will become more refined, and our use of technology will filter its way to those who still have not been able to embrace ed-tech as innovators or early adopters. As Matthew Lynch wrote on thetechadvocate.org, educators have been using technology to collaborate, collect information, learn and teach remotely, and share lesson ideas and content. These ways of using ed-tech will spread and diversify in the next 25 years.

From smart phones to smart boards, one-to-one VOIP lessons to MOOCs, in-person lessons to flipped classrooms, we have so many possibilities for connecting and sharing. Advent of new devices is always a possibility, but for the moment the biggest change is how we think about our connections using ed-tech. Fake news, data breaches, filter bubbles, and other incidents have complicated our communications and knowledge base. Educators have to employ heightened critical-thinking skills and ensure our learners think critically as well when using ed-tech. There seems to be a potential backlash brewing against the way we are consumed by our devices and how they are always stealing our attention. Learners may be starting to desire a more human interaction in addition to the convenience that ed-tech provides. We can learn anything from a video online these days, but the video does not give a viewer feedback, which is an essential part of deeper learning.

To prepare our students for the world beyond the classroom, technology must be experienced in a variety of contexts including a supportive classroom. Rohit Bhargava (Non-Obvious How To Predict Trends and Win the Future, 2018) explains that we need to learn communication strategies to keep "human" jobs and avoid becoming obsolete by automation. We need to keep ed-tech accessible and safe for learners and educators in order to create the future we want.

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Response From Kelly Wickham Hurst

Kelly Wickham Hurst is a 23-year educator, classroom teacher, and administrator who founded Being Black at School in 2016. BBAS is an advocacy organization that uses frameworks and data to assist schools in being more equitable. She's a mom of six and grandmother of two and lives with her husband in Springfield, Ill.:

Hopefully, it'll be full of equity and a lens that allows students to utilize it in powerful ways that makes learning the center. There are so many incredible things we can do but there are also leaders out there (shoutout: Rafranz Davis!) who see the pitfalls and are warning us right now about them. We have to craft this now for how we want it to look in the future. It's only going to look as good as we're currently building it by listening to experts.

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Thanks to Jayme, Nathan, Beth, and Kelly  for their contributions.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected]. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it's selected or if you'd prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It's titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

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