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Educated By Design Blog

Filtering by Tag: tech

EdTech Is Maturing



Educational Technology is maturing, and it is without question that the instructors at EdTechTeacher, and the presenters they feature are leading the way. In 2012, I felt a whirlwind as apps arrive on the scene. Full of new features, new upgrades, they came in droves. There was so much new to be seen. As the years have passed, “1,000 Free Apps” sessions have made way for more thoughtful and intentional discussions about technology.

That is because EdTech is becoming less about what you can do with an app, and more about what the app can do for you.

As Beth Holland asked this week in Boston, “Who is in the driver seat?” If it's the iPad then we are doing it wrong. We have to be in control and use technology with purpose and not simply to “use technology”. This approach has a short rush with an uncontrollable descent into nightmares of classroom management and mediocre learning outcomes.

Now with this maturity, comes an awareness, and that is that technology isn’t going anywhere. On twitter this week I read a tweet that if the technology isn’t used “right” (whatever that means) then it shouldn’t be used at all. “Losing Tech” is no longer just a punishment, it is a prevention of learning. Imagine if we took students pencils for “inappropriate use” and refused to give them back at the end of class. Such a scenario would never happen because everyone agrees that students cannot learn without pencils. If our attitude is that technology used wrong can simply be removed, then what is our objective? Are we integrating technology to support unimaginable, unbelievable, and unstoppable learning, or is it to meet a quota or claim 21st-Century status?

As I shared in my session at EdTechTeachers iPad Summit this week, it's bad enough to pull the cart before the horse, now we have strapped rockets and roller-skates on the horse pulling the same old cart. The sessions at the iPad Summit questioned all of the above and more, as inspiring and creative educators sharing their stories. Their sessions spoke about students doing, making, and taking control of learning in the classroom. Today I saw first hand how traditional math solutions and 5 paragraph essays can evolve into interactive and real-world expressions of understanding. It is not the intent to replace them, but instead to add to the avenues in which our students can share their story and promote their understanding. This is lightyears ahead of conversations I have had in the past that seemed to focus on simply digitizing our 20th-Century lecture halls, I like to call “Consumption Classrooms”. During a keynote session, Justin Reich, Director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT shared a powerful quote from a scholarly paper on active learning, and STEM, and that is that

given our [research] results, it is reasonable to raise concerns about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in future experiments.

This quote is beyond powerful as it speaks to the disconnect between authentic 20th-Century and 21st-Century learning environments and experiences. To play on words, it requires us as educators to give up “control” over knowledge, and where it can take us. This can be hard for educators because to truly integrate technology into classroom learning, you have to start over.

We can no longer expect that the mere digitization of traditional learning will lead to sustainable and meaningful learning for students. Especially when we as adults show them how meaningless the memorization of information and even tasks can be. An anecdote for this is during the repair process of a complex networking component, I went to google to find some forum or youtube video to help solve the problem. I could barely even describe the problem due to its complexity. I found a video, worked through the issue and solved the problem. As I finished up, I turned around to see a student standing there, watch me. She said, “Rabbi Cohen, you use Google? I thought you knew everything.” I told her while I don’t know everything, I do know where to look when trying to solve problems. Why then are the classrooms full of googleable (did I make this word up?) information when instead we could be focusing on learning that pushes higher-order thinking, creative problem solving and knowing where to find resources to help us? While we might not be able to rewrite our entire educational outlook just yet, it is incumbent on use as educators to begin the process of not just redefining our use of technology, but redefining what learning can occur because of it.

Technology is a Tool, and so is a Hammer!



While it is true that there is an app for just about anything, that does not mean that it is a valuable and authentic replacement for other methods of achieving a specific goal. This is why I am a strong advocate of the philosophical approach that,

Technology is a Tool, and so is a Hammer!

The problem is that sometimes we use the wrong tool at the wrong time and justify it because we are using Technology!

I would like to preface the following with how inspired I get when I see teachers who have been in the profession for 20+ years tell me they want to use iPads in their class and they are serious about not only integrating the computer and tablet technology into their current curriculum but even to use it to create new ways to teach their students. It's unbelievable and really is something to reflect on as an educator who grew up with computer technology and doesn't know what life is like not using it.

One of the main challenges in integrating technology not just into education but life is general, is when individuals misunderstand what "technology" really is. Technology is not an iPad, or an app or even something battery powered.

Technology is making or modifying an object, in order to solve a problem, improve an existing solution and achieve a goal.

This means that a pencil is technology, and so is the printing press, and so is instant coffee, and thank God for the latter! Technology is when you are able to utilize tools and the advancement of these tools to achieve a better quality product with faster results.

While it is important to utilize all means possible to solve a problem or challenge, it is easier than ever to force a solution for the sake of using technology. Technology is supposed to give a user a better end-product in a more productive and effective manner. If it takes you twice as long to do something, even if the results surpass the quality of another method, the individual should honestly reevaluate whether this longer process is the best option or if it was done for the sake of Glorified Technology. A good example of this concept can be explained through the


Now, the first step is to acknowledge the problem or the challenge. In this case, I have two pieces of wood that I really want to attach together, and I need it done fast and as cheap as possible. I have decided that a thin small metal rod aka a nail would be the best method to secure the two pieces of wood together. The question is how do I complete this task? Anytime an individual attempts to solve a problem, the diagram below should be put into consideration.

In the ideal world, all three circles overlap. The outcome of the center of the venn diagram, should be top quality, low cost, and with a fast turn around. Unfortunately we live in reality where that central area does not exist. This means that

The cost involved in technology must be justified through the quality and time invested in its use.

This is simple with the above analogy because everyone can agree that using a rock to hammer in nails is cheap but gives you a time consuming and low quality result. The modern hammer is a huge leap in the right direction in that cost is still minimal, quality is greatly enhanced, yet time is still needed to get the job done . The more nails needed to hammer, the greater the time needed to finish the job. That is where the  Bostitch Nail Gun gets the quality job done fast, but with a price. The cost is justified by the precision and speed in which an individual is able to accomplish the task.

Cost = Success

The problem with Technology today, is that many users think that Cost = Success, in that if they invest the money, the best product is guaranteed. This is unfortunately FALSE, as you can find cheaper paper notebooks than $400 and cheaper whiteboard than $5,000 as we see many users using iPads and Smartboards as glorified technology that simply substitutes previous tools. When I read that Los Angeles Unified School District was putting an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher, I wondered how much of that $30 Million would go towards professional development? Why is an iPad any different than a robotic arm at an automobile assembly plant? A technician at an automobile plant is not permitted to operate such a machine without extensive training to make sure that they can safety operate the machine not only for themselves, but around others as well. Why is a teacher with an iPad any different? While, thank God, the iPad when used improperly is not able to sever a student's limb, technology in a classroom used superficially is very destructive.  

Image courtesy of:

Authentic Technology Integration

The above seems to be clear in the educational community because conferences such as #ISTE13 had dozens of presenters showing how they effectively and appropriately utilize technology in the classroom. The SAMAR Model is an amazing model of taking current projects and lessons and enhancing them through technology integration. Here is a great article in Understanding the SAMR Model in 120 seconds  by Med Kharbach.

The Power of Technology

Technology can be powerful, beautiful, inspiring, but it can also be destructive, revolting, and depressing. We have to be certain that we are using technology to benefit ourselves and humanity, and not just as an infatuation to let us shed our responsibility to work hard. If a process becomes instant through technology then it is our responsibility to utilize the time we would have spent to instead be innovative, creative, and thoughtful.