#Edtech: The Current Contradiction in Education
Authors note: This is a post I wrote for my previous blog, The Dumb Jock Myth in December, 2012.
For the past year and a half, I have been working on getting my Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Portland State University. As part of my program, I had an excellent opportunity to attend the 2012 Oregon School Law conference in Eugene, Oregon this past week. Often, I find myself blurring the lines between the teacher lens and the administrative lens.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Rudy Crew who is the Chief Education Officer for the state of Oregon. Listening to his speech, the teacher side of me felt a powerful emotional response. It was easy to forget that this was an “administrative” conference with mostly people in leadership positions within their districts attending. I think at its core–the teacher and administrative lens are intertwined. At the end of the day, we are all educators who want what is best for children. Where I feel some differences do exist is on attitudes and a general mistrust towards technology.
One of the things I was most excited about doing while attending this conference was getting the chance to “backchannel” on Twitter while the conference was live. One of the coolest things about doing this was during a hosted lunch being asked to chat and reflect with people on certain discussion questions that were projected on a screen. I thought to myself, “I have already been doing this all morning long by chatting with several connected educators.” I had done this by creating the hashtag #OSLC2012 on the eve of the conference and several connected educators found my hashtag. In fact, the conversation started on the night before when I posted my first tweet:
Tom Whitby is someone I admire on Twitter. He is the founder of #edchat and has an educational blog, My Island View. I first learned who he was by participating in several #edchats. One of the reasons I admire Tom so much is because he is the definition of a power user on Twitter: he has tweeted almost 44,000 times, follows almost 2,000 and has over 26,000 followers. However, when a guy from way out in Oregon posts about back channeling at a conference he is quick to reply. I cannot say this about all connected educators. There are many exciting educational blogs and educational personalities on Twitter. However, a criticism of mine would be that there are some educators who seem to have more interest in furthering their own image than in making connections with other educators, even if they share things in common. This can be frustrating for someone who is trying to expand their #PLN. Tom Whitby is the opposite of this. Within our short conversation, I mentioned that one of the early break out sessions was on social networking. His advice was sage like:
While sitting in on the breakout sessions at #OSLC2012, I noticed a terrific irony developing. I saw a thoroughly impressive amount of technology in the hands of the attendees of this conference. So much technology that it would make any classroom teacher jealous to be able to have that tech in a student’s hands. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, Android, iOS; this conference had it all. With this technology at the leader’s fingertips, none of them seemed to be connected. In fact, the tone of many of the sessions was one of fear and mistrust of students and teachers using some of the powerful tools available right now for learning purposes.
I heard actual comments from presenters stating:
“I hate social media, no student should ever have a Facebook”
“The thought of teachers having connections with students on social media makes me want to *insert gagging sound*”
There was very little pushback in reaction to these comments when they were made. It was almost like all of these leaders sat typing away on their laptops, tablets and smart phones and nodded in agreement. When a colleague of mine did voice his objection to some comments made with respect to using Facebook to connect with parents–the presenter didn’t seem to understand his question and continued to advocate their viewpoint that it was dangerous and reckless to use social media as a professional.
Despite this, I found this conference to be particularly inspiring and informational regarding education in general. It was not inspiring for someone who is a supporter of educational technology. This is where the contradiction exists:
There is an enormous desire for new technology in education today, yet there is an equally enormous misconception among leaders that teachers and especially students will use that technology inappropriately.
The paradigm that currently exists in many cases is that kids are going to use technology, and there is nothing that we can do about it. It has moved beyond the culture of preventing access and has turned into a culture of, “well, then we just won’t participate.” This paradigm needs to shift. One of the few sessions that I felt was positive towards social media use was the first one that I attended. This lawyer talked extensively about educating students about the dangers of social media and how to use it appropriately. One of my colleagues (who I happened to meet for the first time at this conference through using #OSLC2012) eloquently pointed out:
“How can we educate students on using social media, if we don’t model appropriate use with them?”
Well said, my friend.