From the Archives: EdTech is not a panacea

Note: This was originally written back in July, 2012. I’ve migrated it here as part of an effort to collect some of my previous writings and to make sure I don’t lose it. Five years is a long time, and opinions and technology are sure to have changed since the original post. The article to which this post refers existed here: http://www.edudemic.com/2012/07/4-questions-to-ask-before-implementing-education-technology/

This is a difficult lesson for schools and districts to learn: the implementation of technology does not magically make education (or edtech, for that matter) happen. Technology is simply a tool. Without a clear purpose, the tool will sit, idle.

The linked article outlines some of the basic questions that schools and districts should answer before pursuing a technology solution. Truncated from the article:

1. What are the ultimate goals for student tech proficiency? In the area of technology, what would a well-educated student from your district know and be able to do with technology by the end of 12th grade?
2. How do the various tech devices and tools used throughout the district lead to the proficiencies described above?
3. What professional development will teachers need to be successful in helping students meet the proficiencies described above?
4. What data should be collected to track the progress of our ed tech initiatives?

The article does not touch upon the cultural changes that may be necessary to take full advantage of technology. A traditional math class with a computer in front of every student will be no more engaging. In fact, technology essentially breaks traditional math classes.

Head over to wolframalpha.com, type in “solve x²+4x=0” and hit “Enter.” The system tells you the solution right there. X can equal -4 or zero. That’s not much different than having the answers in the back of a math book. That’s why teachers ask students to show their work, to prove that they understand the process.

But, just to the right of the “Results” header is a button that says “Show steps.” When you click that button, every step between the original equation and the solution is displayed with detailed descriptions of the action taken.

And just like that, the rules of traditional math class are broken by technology.

Technology is not a solution; it is a tool that requires a re-imagining of how curricula are delivered and how classroom content is treated.

Gamification provides a structure for that re-imagining that is focused on student engagement, encourages experimentation and exploration, and rewards not the completion of busy work but the mastery of the ideas that we are working so hard to instill in our students.

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