There are No Long-Term Relationships in EdTech
Pepsi or Coke? Mac or PC? Burger King or McDonalds? With brand rivalries like these people tend to pick their team and stick with it. I've witnessed patrons sending back drinks when they order a Coke and instead receive a Pepsi. I've seen wedding guests venomously arguing about which french fry reigns supreme. It seems that they are married to their brand choice - and for many this comes with a fierce loyalty.
But what about EdTech rivalries? iPads or Chromebooks? Edmodo or Schoology? AppleTV or Chromecast? In these cases, I was once a stauch advocate for or adversary against one program, site or device. I thought these loyalties were forever. However as I spend longer in the emerging field that is mobile learning, I am discovering a new truth: There are no long-term relationships in EdTech. I may be a staunch advocate of brand A or device B one month, but next year -- or even sometimes next week -- something new will come about that will tip the ship. And I find myself switching teams. Here are three tips I've learned along the way.
Tip #1: Embrace the competition
Competition in some forms can definitely be ugly. However, in the case of competing companies, they can boost progress. When the iPhone first came out it was the only one of its kind. It was, by virtue, unique and innovative. However, as the Android smartphones started to improve, they pushed iOS developers to rethink their game and up the ante. The two big teams had to find ways to think outside of the box that their competitor created... and as such the box grew bigger. As spoiled consumers, used to the bigger and the better, this is great. As educators, used to glacial progress when it comes to learning tools, this is incredibly refreshing and exciting. Finally teachers are the recipients of a speedy improvement loop.
Tip #2: Consistently audit what you think you know
As a result of this competition, these products are constantly updating. A product that was once subpar or missing a key feature can overnight become the best fit for your needs. For example, I used to harbor strong negative feelings towards a certain Learning Management System while favoring another. Then a large site update occurred and I was forced to reevalute my stance. I must admit that it's hard to keep up; as everything is changing nothing is ever set in stone. This can be frustrating when we're used to learning something - for example what "guided reading" means - and then relying on that knowledge as we move through our work. However taking time to regularly revisit tools you think you "know", or ones you've previously dismissed, can prove incredibly fruitful.
Tip #3: We should only be loyal to our students
At the end of the day it isn't about brand loyalty. It's about what is best for our students. I used to feel bad about switching from one product to another. I thought of myself as a "fill-in-the-blank-brand" person. In some ways, it was part of my personal identity. But when it comes to choosing devices or programs for teaching and learning that all goes out the window. We shouldn't be loyal to brands, we need to be loyal to our students. When selecting an instructional tool, we need to be asking, What can solve our problems of practice? What can push our pedogogy? What is going to provide the best user experience and opportunity for my students to excel? And if that answer changes from one week to another, that's okay... as long as it's our students who are benefiting.