Ed Tech’s Reputation Recovery: Reflections on ISTE 2012
Filed under: Education, Social Innovation, Technology | Tags: Bill Gates, broadband, communications strategy, digital divide, education technology, iPad, Matt Richtel, reputation management, Steve Jobs |
Last fall, education technology was under siege in The New York Times. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Matt Richtel was in the midst of his series criticizing ed tech for over-promising and under-delivering. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs highlighted the following conversation between Jobs and Bill Gates:
Jobs asked some questions about education and Gates sketched out his vision of what schools in the future would be like, with students watching lectures and video lessons on their own while using the classroom time for discussions and problem solving. They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools—far less than on other realms of society such as media and medicine and law.
Today, questions linger about the ROI associated with education technology, but the tone of the debate in the media seems to be softening. What’s changed and can we expect sentiments toward ed tech to continue to improve?
Now: Cool Gadgets
We love fun gadgets, and some iconic consumer tech products are making their way into the classroom. Too often we forget that teachers, administrators and policy makers (and reporters) are people. They are attracted to sleek, portable, multi-purpose devices the way we all are. And, when students can take their ed tech solution home with them, the whole family buys in.
Mobile was the hot topic at this week’s annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE.) How do you integrate mobile devices; should you allow/encourage students to BYOD (bring your own device); what about students who don’t have Internet access at home? I heard from one major publishing executive that when he meets with superintendents, they often pull out their iPad not to use, but to signal that they are tech savvy. School boards are embracing tablet initiatives to send the message to parents that they are innovative leaders. Tablets are replacing the SMART Board as the device that signals tech savvy. And, unlike SMART Boards, tablets are consumer technology that the general public is familiar with, and with Microsoft, Google and others entering the market, there will be no shortage of devices to choose from.
In the Works: Divorcing the What from the How
Tablets and e-readers are also changing the way the industry thinks about content. Publishers will either have to make their texts and lesson plans accessible across multiple platforms or devices, or they will need to demonstrate that their package deal enterprise solutions are truly superior. Rumor has it that some of the biggest players have quietly negotiated pay-for-performance contracts with districts based on student test scores. Meanwhile, content-agnostic startups were everywhere at ISTE. Any measure that helps identify high v. low quality content and gets it in front of students will be good for the ed tech industry’s reputation.
Coming Soon: Long Overdue Solutions to Underlying Problems
What educators value most is technology that solves their problems. Some of the underlying challenges plaguing ed tech like outdated networks, products that cannot communicate information with each other automatically (interoperability), or the inability for teachers to navigate the curriculum resources that exist to find what they are looking for are being tackled in a serious way.
Assessment 2014–a national move to computer-based testing–could lead to dramatic improvements in broadband support for schools. Several for-profit and non-profit (client) startups are building solutions to provide interoperability. The Learning Registry Management Initiative (LRMI) is working on a tagging system to help teachers find the ingredients they need to teach students as quickly and accurately as they would searching for a recipe they need to make dinner. (At ISTE, a representative from Intel as well as Karen Cator of the US Department of Education told me LRMI was key to revolutionizing technology in the classroom.)
Tablets will continue to be a popular, disruptive force in the education technology marketplace. Proven results for students will ultimately win the day, and some of the most significant barriers to impact are in the process of being whittled down. Ed tech seems to be headed toward a more positive narrative, but it will require a combination of easy-to-use, enticing, effective products and compelling stories about the students they benefit.
Post originally appeared at http://waggeneredstrom.com/blog/2012/06/29/ed-techs-reputation-recovery-reflections-on-iste-2012/