What are the big themes in #edtech?

As of late, I’ve been thinking about the question above quite often.

In the next three months, my task is to prepare librarians and technical support in my buildings for an upcoming transition – away from in-building instructional technology support and to a more distributed system of technology development.  In light of this, I have been attempting to summarize what I’ve learned over the last four years into a format I can hand off to teacher leaders and support personnel.

I began by asking this question to a number of teachers at the recent #edcamp in St. Louis.  We came up with an extensive list, pictured on the right.

These elements seem to be a nice point from which to start.  Taking the list another step, I’d like to collect these concepts into domains I could then summarize and present to those interested in continuing the work.  This post is the beginning of that work.  If the question intrigues you, or you’d like to help me out, I’d appreciate your input!

Possible themes of importance to educational technology and sub-topics:

Life is now both online and offline – and each piece influences the other.

  • Online identity – The way we use the web will impact the way we live in the face-to-face world (if it doesn’t already).  It will become increasingly easier to track and broadcast a person’s online patterns, interactions, and decisions.  Because of this transparency, our approach to the web should be forthright and honest, remembering that nothing is ever truly “private” on the Internet.
  • Civil discourse – Online spaces that are more protected (Moodle, edmodo, private blogs and wikis) allow our students to make social mistakes in a moderated space.  Mistakes in “walled gardens” allow teachers to intervene and coach students on the impact such mistakes have on their online identities.
  • Ethical use – Digital projects open numerous opportunities to teach kids about the nature of intellectual property and “ownership” in the context of the Internet.

Publishing means sharing.  Networking means creating community.

  • Authentic audience – The web offers so much in terms of opening up the walls of the classroom.  If a student is creating something of worth, that product should be published in some way.  Doing so has the potential to change classroom dynamics in a very positive way.
  • Connect kids to kids – Whether the project extends from one period to another or one classroom to another across the world, kids want to produce work for other kids.
  • Lurking is okay.  Participation is even better – Offer teachers permission to “watch” online communities operate, communities like hashtag discussions on Twitter, the forums on Classroom 2.0, or podcasts on EdTechTalk or iTunes.  If people lurk long enough, they usually want to engage.  Encourage questions before “sharing”, and remind one another that people in these communities are just like people in our own face-to-face community.  Ask for help, and offer it when you can.  
  • People are generally helpful – Make connections in the spirit of mutual benefit.  See publishing as sharing resources with someone you don’t know (yet), and networking as reaching out to make someone’s experience a bit richer.  In general, don’t yell for help in an empty room – send a note to a specific person for a specific reason.

Technology should neither be ignored nor exalted.

  • Simply using technology will not make learning happen – This is self-explanatory.  
  • Novelty and fun should not be snubbed or dismissed – Though big ideas, clear objectives, transparent assessments and a great plan are essential to our units and lessons, if our activities and experiences are dry and uninteresting, learning becomes a tedious exercise.  The “affective” elements of activities play into their effectiveness, and technology can bring some of those with it.  
  • Certain elemental principles hold much of the web together – Understanding basic HTML tags and the idea behind RSS open multiple ways to make information flow from one piece of the web to another.  Solutions to complex problems 

Consume in order to create.

  • Mentor texts abound – With the web, students can absorb the wisdom of others and remix it into their own words.  They can also develop skills to filter the wheat from the chaff as they look for mentor material.
  • Author anywhere – As tools are selected, pursue solutions that work across platforms.
  • Simplicity is always the trump card – In the best creation scenarios, the tools are simple enough to use that the focus is predominantly on learning and expressing the content rather than learning the tool.

These are just the first pieces that come to my mind.  They are largely focused on the web and not the innumerable other pieces of hardware present in the rooms of teachers.  How can I weave those elements in?  What else have I missed?   What should I change?

These are also posted on a public Google Doc.  Feel free to add your comments, edits, and suggestions there!





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