Beyond the glitz of educational technology…

A friend called me yesterday, laughing because some guy on the radio had just gotten done explaining some new interactive, education program like it was magic, but clearly had no idea what it actually did.

We had a good laugh, but the serious point my friend was trying to make was that we, as the younger generation, have a responsibility to attend to educational technology in a practical way.

Now, I think we have a responsibility to do a great many other things too, but I get his point. My old boss once wanted to spend all of this potential grant money to buy an iPad for every kid in the school. I think I killed that dream, and I don’t feel bad about it to this day.

The thing with technology is that it really is amazing. And when I’m 30, or 40, or 50, there will be new technologies coming out that seem like they’re going to change the world. And the fact is that they very well may.

But when it comes to education, I think we have this problem where people get so wrapped up in the *~*wonder*~* that is instantaneous and interactive technology that we don’t really consider if it’s all that useful. Call me boring, but I think people could do a little less throwing around “21st century learning” like that means anything and a little more of being healthily unimpressed. (Given, I feel the same way about TED talks, but that’s a separate issue.)

It drives me a little crazy when the justification for using this technology is basically a “kids these days” kind of argument. Kids text. Kids tweet. Kids tumblr (is that a verb?). And while I can agree that there’s some value to meeting kids where they are, there’s nothing being gained by just shooting in the dark to find what seems like the coolest, next best thing.

Just because it’s run by a microchip instead of a human brain doesn’t mean the same type of real thought that goes into things like labor markets, curriculum, pedagogy, evaluation, finance, and governance don’t apply. On the policy side, I think we’ve done way too little in considering where educational technology fits into public education. And on the teaching side, I think we’ve done way too little in the way of being able to provide real evidence to teachers and school leaders that it works.

It’s almost like we choose things based on what’s going to be the “wave of the future,” and I just don’t think that makes sense. The future might be wrong, or you might be looking at the wrong wave. I think being excited about technology is great. But after that initial excitement, I hope people become more okay with asking really hard questions about it before putting kids in the ring.