Quotes and Comments about Progress in Ed.Tech- Everyone Has It Wrong

Am I getting ready to state that 100s if not 1000s of pundits are wrong, and I, a lone technology director working for an obscure school in Shanghai, am correct?

Yes.

Proving my point will take time, more than a blog post, but I believe this post will at least force people to start asking questions. I am actually hoping those in Educational Leadership, who are not working in technology, will have more questions and comments than those working in technology. Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

Assumption

I have seen no less than five quotes this week, with many “likes” associated, about people moving forward, moving at the speed of change, etc. Every quote and comment, and every post and opinion, all assume one thing- the chosen path is the correct path.

Think about it. Two people come to a fork in the road. The left side is normal. Paved. Two lane. The right side is different. It has a new type of surface and it includes a bicycle. The assumption is that the path on the right will allow someone to travel faster, and thus, succeed or achieve at a higher rate than the person on the left.

But no one ever stops to ask, where do these roads end? Or do they end? Do they just circle back onto one another? Do they cross? Can a traveler ever get off this path? Does one lead straight to Chernobyl?

If a person chooses the wrong road, it does not matter how fast they move down it, and their progress certainly has nothing to do with the person on the other road. The choice and the reason for that choice, are significantly more important then the speed.

Opportunity

We should not be relating education, learning, and forward-thinking to the concept of speed. Speed can destroy, at the same time it creates. In fact, the physical concept of speed does create vacuums, wind, and destructive forces. The speed of change is no different than the physical concept of speed. In fact, it could be much worse considering speed of change can leave people behind, and not just dust and objects.

Progress in learning, educational technology, and other areas that impact children should be measured in opportunity(or the inverse- opportunity cost). School leaders need to stop asking, “What new technology do we have?”, and the need to ask, “What new opportunities will this create for our students?”; or “In five years from now how will what you are doing help these students”?

Looking at technology, or any subject, as a NOW instead of as a LATER satisfies only curriculum benchmarks and paperwork. It is exciting and great for conferences and presentations as well. However, that outlook does not demonstrate a concern for the future knowledge children will need to create solutions from past experiences.

Creation VS Consumption

I have a slight disdain for App Culture. App Culture exists when students and teachers stop making and solving, and instead simply start buying Apps that short-cut the processes of making and solving. K-12 education should not be about polished ready to use and perfectly functional software. K-12 education should be the place where experiments and chaos lead entire groups of people towards new ideas, and where failure is expected.
Failure leads to Feedback.

More importantly, data and products created by students and teachers should be able to be used by students and teachers in the future, regardless of devices, software licensing, and subscriptions. Schools should also be able to access these artifacts as needed to show growth or even problems within the curriculum.

I personally have projects and data from the 1990’s that I can still use. Situations and problems are rarely new, they are simply in a different package. Believing all solutions are in the future, negates the need for studying the past. Human history has taught the world what happens when we fail to study the past, therefore we make a great effort to include history in all modern curricula.

Keeping the past alive and accessible should be a conscience endeavor of all institutions focused on learning. These endeavors cannot ignore data and digital artifacts, and therefore institutions must strive to set the bar higher for the technology that is allowed to play a core function within the classroom.

The priority should be on technology and environments that encourage creating, making, solving, reusing, and even breaking. There should be oversight to prevent the day-to-day life of a student from being consumed by pushing buttons that simply redistribute trivial content, and promote badges over authentic feedback.

1983

Here is a video from 1983. This video features Seymour Paper who is the founder of constructionism. After watching this video, I am hoping most people will realize that the trends in education now are frightening. Ignore the polish and quality of the graphics. Focus on the process. Focus on the learning connections and augmented reality. Then ask yourself, when did education get away from this path, and why is everyone so happy about it?

Tony DePrato

http://www.tonydeprato.com

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About Tony DePrato

about.me/tonydeprato
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6 Responses to Quotes and Comments about Progress in Ed.Tech- Everyone Has It Wrong

  1. polskayankee says:

    Tony, I agree with much of what you say – I am not at all sure that we are on the “right” path…so can you recommend some tools to help me get kids new opportunities to create? 🙂

    It’s funny, I was recently thinking that we should bring in a typewriter to show kids & ask them to analyze it as a communication tool….

    • polskayankee says:

      oh, it’s Scott Schaffner.

    • tdeprato says:

      Scott,
      You don’t need tools. You have everything you need. I would say a good idea would be a task that involves a large number of students, and impacts them across subjects. For example, one of the biggest issues with media today and science reporting are stats that are skewed (and sometimes fabricated). Find something controversial that is local, or an issue the students are into. Work with IT Teachers or Math (it needs to start in the classroom) and set up a research project that involves a student survey. Seems easy. It is’nt.

      The standards for the survey should include, but are not limited to:
      1. 20%-30% representation by age and gender for the survey (Requires reading/using spreadsheets of school data)
      2. Getting balanced input based-on nationality (Requires reading/using spreadsheets of school data)
      3. Reporting all the data visually
      4. Requiring the summary of meaningful information be explained in less than five minutes
      5. Having a small group look at “long tail” data. This is difficult but perfect for some students who really can focus
      6. Reporting a standard deviation
      7. Sharing the final results online with video explanations
      8. Preparing a printing a quality report for the Admin team
      9. Require all the data be collected via Google Apps or in Excel
      10. Do not allow any manual calculation

      These are the types of projects I use to do, and now find to be rare. I see students spending hours trying to fit square pegs into circles with iPad apps, working massive unsharable movie files, and working with media that is illegally obtained (or pre-produced).

      Projects like the one above can run for a semester and be done in-between the normal curriculum topics. In fact, as student spirals through various courses they will tick-off a box for skills needed to complete the large project.

      The last time I did the project above, my students found that the overwhelming majority of their peers would not use Facebook for learning or school work and only use it to waste time; they concluded (with some regret) it needed to stay blocked.

      Hopefully when they see stats on Climate Change and Election Polling, they have a better awareness of what those numbers mean and how to check the validity.

      Good resource to help get adults behind the importance of the process:
      http://www.shadowstats.com/
      http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt (this expresses how stats can be fatal yet seem positive)

      We can talk more. I have many ideas.

  2. tdeprato says:

    Bill- Thanks. I used a plugin to add the video…noticed the issue…and used another one :). WordPress strips so many tags away.

  3. Hey Tony 🙂 Another wonderful article. I don’t see a link to the video. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place?

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