Ed Tech Friday: Education Technology Overview

Ed Tech Friday is a weekly look at the issues, trends, and conversations that are important in the world of education technology. This week we are doing a broad overview of the field in order to introduce this new series.

Wikipedia defines Education Technology this way:

“the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

Technology has been changing at a tremendous rate, and continues to do so. Emerging technologies and tools have opened the door for education to take a new approach and to solve previously stubborn problems.

Education technology is the source and solution of many issues we are seeing today. New opportunities are opening for all students, but staying at the front of technology is something richer school districts can do much more easily than those that struggle. This contributes to a growing digital divide separating well-off students from those who come from poorer backgrounds.

Adoption and implementation is often a challenge. One school in Hoboken purchased laptops for each student with a large grant. But they quickly found that they had not accounted for the support required. After all the security software was installed, most of the laptops had little memory left to perform the actual tasks. Less visible but even more costly are the bad decisions made when purchasing enterprise applications. One common outcome is an expensive software suite that gets used by very few teachers and even they use only a small part of what is there.

Different types of teaching are now available. Flipping the classroom, blended learning, and one to one instruction are emerging trends that have been enabled by our new technological infrastructure. We will be looking at these approaches as well. Many people who use the term “education technology” are also including methods of instruction.

We will also touch on some of the opportunities and issues that come with student data. Some educators advocate using data in a business intelligence role, to increase the effectiveness of all their efforts. Others are concerned by the privacy issues that are being created.

Privacy is also an issue when students are given greater access to the internet as part of their education. Not all are prepared to handle it. Security, privacy, and control over a student’s online activities are also part of our upcoming discussions.

Of course we will also be looking at who is providing much of this new technology. There are big players involved, of course, but this is also a field that has attracted start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Ed Tech companies and entrepreneurs are lining up to provide some of the tools and infrastructure required. As is always the case with an emerging field, many of the initial efforts are misfiring. On the other hand, some initiatives have been very successful. We will be looking at both.

We also want to look at how government is an important component, for better or for worse. The Department of Education includes an Office of Education Technology. Their mission includes:

  • Promoting equity of access by ensuring a device for every learner and connecting all schools to broadband internet.
  • Supporting powered-up educators and a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • Leading cutting-edge research in learning analytics and data to provide new types of evidence and customize and improve learning.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a significant change to something called the “E-rate,” which provides funding for wifi and broadband in schools.

Education has little choice but change. The students of today are often at the forefront of these emerging technologies. They come to class with mobile devices that can search for answers to any question and provide instant communication with their peers. These students are computer and internet savvy and are used to being entertained digitally. Modern educators could not ignore these changes even if they wanted to do so.

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