Edtech in the Classroom
In the past two to three decades, the development and accessibility of technology has become a natural part of our everyday lives and with it opened up a whole new range of possibilities in making our lives easier and more efficient. This development is also observed in the educational environment where billions of dollars are being invested each year for purchasing new technology. The lure of it all is quite understandable as it offers a range of (new) possibilities in improving teaching and learning. But while technology in the classroom is here to stay, its use is not always a success.
The Cautionary Tale of Edtech
There are some very interesting edtech products out there but approaching the topic of technology in education is often about finding the balance of selling and buying while also recognising the need.
“Too many school districts buy ed-tech products on the basis of good marketing rather than careful analysis — the way a child is attracted to the hot toy of the Christmas season.” Harold O. Levy
You might have heard about Interactive Whiteboards from late 1990s/early 2000s. This is among the examples that we as an edtech company are all too aware of when approaching educational institutions. Promised as ‘the next big thing’ in educational technology, Interactive Whiteboards were hugely successful when they first came out, but these days they are more of a cautionary tale.
The success of Interactive Whiteboards can probably be accounted to a great sales tactics, rather than exploring whether there is an actually need for the product. Although it promised to be the future of education and innovative teaching, the product ultimately fell flat due to the lack of implementation and the complexity of use. At the end of the day, Interactive Whiteboards were just really fancy and expensive whiteboards.
What can we learn from edtech failures?
Where is the need?: Though a product might look smart, there might not actually be a need for using it. Is the product supposed to solve a perceived need or one that teachers and students actually have?
Change starts with teachers: Oftentimes the lack of implementation or integration of a tool is due to the teachers having received limited or no training. It is well worth the time spent on educating teachers to use the product and let them explore all the possibilities it offers. Equally important is to offer continued support for whatever problems might occur after the introduction phase.
Ease of use: It should be also noted that in making the decision of buying edtech, it is necessary to consider the ease of use. Teachers already have a range of things to consider and keep in mind; technology should add to simplifying those matters, rather than making them more difficult.
And the students: it is important to also consider the student perspective when taking a new edtech product into use. Just as for teachers, is the technology amplifying and improving their education or is it just another app in their arsenal of technology.
Some things take time: Implementation takes time and taking on new technology requires teachers (or students) to change the way in which they work and think. It also requires the patience to deal with the challenges of implementing new technology, Rome wasn’t built in a day so don’t expect an entire classroom to be.
Even if you’ve been burned by edtech in the past there is hope. It can be difficult navigating the vast landscape of edtech products and finding the ones that fit best with your school and your classroom. But taking the time to research and having the patience to implement the changes can improve or even revolutionize the classroom.