A few weeks back, EdSurge published a podcast interview with education consultant and commentator Alan November, and Director of Secondary Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Houston Independent School District Mike Dorsey, after chatting with the two education experts at ISTE. The interview got quite a number of listens, likely because November said that the edtech industry had created a “mess” at one point in the interview. However, November was only able to be with us for about ten minutes in that interview, so we really didn’t get a chance to delve into what he meant by “a mess.”
He brings up some good points, but I disagree with two of them.
Without question, we have not improved productivity of teachers.
Technology has increased the productivity of teachers and has for almost 30 years. Twenty years ago I was in the music classroom, and technology was already improving my teaching and productivity. At the time I was digitizing songs to be used in the classroom onto the computer, so I could play any song I needed to instantly. This decreased downtime in the classroom and allowed me to cover more material in the same time frame. The computer was also put to use with a piece of software called Band-in-a-Box. Band-in-a-Box created accompaniment for songs in different styles from a song’s chord progressions. I could now teach general music with songs that were more than just the piano, all in a fraction of the time it would have taken 10-15 years earlier.
I haven’t even covered the ease at which teachers can research topics for their classroom, aggregating the best information to be share immediately with their students. In the past teachers used stale textbooks, now teachers use Open Educational Resources (OER) that are up to date.
Well, first, let’s discuss why schools are racing to buy technology. The biggest driver I can detect isn’t that they want to transform learning—it’s that they have to give every student a device for the new standards-based tests, which are all online. If new testing did not require technology, we would not see the enormous waste of money in part that we’re now seeing.
If schools were only buying technology for testing, then why are there so many interactive whiteboards in schools today? That is a technology that isn’t used for testing, but is found in a lot of classrooms. Technology is purchased because teachers see the advantage of giving students a tool that can be used in unimaginable ways. Steve Jobs said it really well:
What do you think? Is most educational technology purchasing a waste?