This is the first of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions.
Warning: These are quick-write style answers. These answers are fast, honest, and unedited. Enjoy the unplugged ideas from these leaders, the responses here knocked my socks off.
Meet Rachelle, Rafranz, Sue, Megan, and Carolyn.
Rachelle Wooten @rwootenits is an Educational Technology Specialist
Rafranz Davis @rafranzdavis
A learner first and foremost who is passionate about inspiring the future of our world through helping teachers and students create innovative learning environments.
Sue Gorman @sjgorman
Director of Innovation at the Racine Unified School District, Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Teacher. She is a digital architect who is passionate about global collaboration in the classroom.
Megan Valois @MsValois
A high school teacher in Ottawa, Ontario who is passionate about differentiated instruction, #edtech and student success. She loves learning about new ways to engage students.
Carolyn Skibba @skibtech
Tech specialist and teacher working toward collaboration, curiosity, authenticity, creativity and joy for all students and educators.
Q1: In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening right now in digital learning?
Rachelle A1: Personalized learning, student centered.
Rafranz A1: For me, the most exciting thing happening in digital learning is our openness to allow students to define the “what” and “how” of their learning…along with collaboratively defining the “why”.
Sue A1: I truly believe the world is our classroom. The fact that we can chat, blog, have discussions and learn first hand from others in real time around the world is beyond amazing. The connectedness and real world examples across the content areas is so engaging. There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator…and this is my 30th year!!
Megan A1: I think paperless classrooms and the shift to online learning and digital products. It’s an exciting time where so much learning can be done online – research, collaboration, communication, engagement, sharing, critical thinking, applying skills… there are sites, apps and tools for all of these things!
Carolyn A1: Connectedness and content creation are changing the lives of students and teachers. The traditional model of teachers toiling alone in their classrooms and kids submitting canned work for a grade is breaking down — and that’s a beautiful thing! Digital tools make this change possible, and the creativity and passion of educators and kids makes it inevitable.
Q2: Technology versus textbooks: will there ever be a winner?
Rachelle A2: I believe there is a place for both it greatly depends on the task at hand. As technology becomes more affordable for schools, I believe there will be more technology and fewer textbooks, if any.
Rafranz A2: Technology has to be a winner, however I think that it is a winner more so when the text is personalized and guided by students…less definition from beginning to end by instructors and more relevant to student interest and need.
Sue A2: Yes, I believe there will be a time when interactive, and I stress interactive digital textbooks, will over take the textbooks. The fact that you can research, view videos, collaborate, chat, write notes, take or make assessments are all available in the digital realm. The differentiation capabilities are a huge factor as well.
Megan A2: I think that even if we keep “textbooks”, it will be in digital form; I look at it in the same vein as what is happening with many major newspapers and magazines… more and more they are shifting to online versions because that is what people want. I don’t read papers or watch the news; I have news apps and follow news sites on Twitter. I think it’s the way of the future.
Carolyn A2: I think the real question is this: what is the nature of classroom learning? Is the curriculum prescribed, or is it responsive to student curiosity, interest, and need? Is there one pre-defined path for learners, or multiple paths driven by authentic questions and real-world resources? Do publishers determine what, when, and how kids learn, or are standards met through content and challenges co-constructed by students and teachers? Do we want schools to fill kids’ minds with identical information, or to help them grow into thinkers and problem-solvers with a real voice in the world? If those are the questions, then in my view, there’s really only one possible answer.
Q3: What is going to be the next big thing in ed tech?
Rachelle A3: 3D technology
Rafranz A3: It’s definitely not going to be a “one-platform” world but more of an “any platform” applies. The next big thing in ed tech is that it is taking a back seat to curriculum & content which is driving why students are exploring beyond. The edtech world is seeing that it is a conduit to that learning…not a “thing”.
Sue A3: I can only imagine, and that is what makes it so exciting. I truly hope it is one of our students who invents it though! They are amazing, creative, global thinkers!
Megan A3: I wish I knew! I’m not much of an innovator, unfortunately, but I know a good side when I see it and like to be with it at the get-go, trying things out and learning, rather than trying to catch up after years of nay-saying!
Carolyn A3: This isn’t the good kind of “next big thing,” but it’s a growing trend I’m wondering about. Many products are springing up that are co-opting terms like “personalized learning” to mean varied delivery of skill-based test rehearsal. Unfortunately, for the tech-hesitant teacher or administrator under enormous pressure to raise test scores, this can be a very appealing safety net. However, I think this approach can undercut the power and potential of technology to enable deeper, more meaningful, connected learning for students. If your goal is to build skills or improve test scores, those products may play a role. If your goal is to bring real engagement, critical thinking, and authenticity to the classroom, then you need to go beyond skill development and start thinking differently about what “personalized learning” really means – and to reject the notion that it’s something you can buy.
Q4: If you could give one piece of advice to teachers about how to integrate technology in their classroom this fall, what would it be?
Rachelle A4: I saw this on Wes Fryer’s website: Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
Rafranz A4: Let the curriculum be your guide but allow students to make suggestions and choices as to how they interact with it.
Sue A4: I am using a quote from Chris Lehman, “Technology should be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” I would tell them to use the right tool for the task.
Megan A4: Start small! Don’t get overwhelmed trying to use too many tools in every class and then give up. It’s worth it! There’s so much out there (and that’s been out there for years!) that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed… just when you learn one thing a new thing comes out! Use technology as a tool for success – have a learning goal and work towards it… otherwise technology is just a device and not a learning tool. I started with Twitter and Edmodo; now I’m hooked and always seeking to find new things to try.
Carolyn A4: Start small, but think big. Be very deliberate in the tools you choose. If you focus on tools that are multifaceted and flexible (e.g. a creation or collaboration tool vs. math practice apps) you will have room to grow as you and your students develop as digitally-empowered learners. This gives you more time to focus on how to move toward transformation with the tools you have, rather than hunting around for the next app or tool to meet a single need. It puts the focus on creativity, thinking, audience, and connection, rather than on a single skill or subject. That’s not to say skill practice doesn’t have a place – clearly it does. But if you build your program around skill practice, it’s tempting to stay there. Leave the door open for amazing things to happen.
Q5: What’s your best kept ed tech secret?
Rachelle A5: Keep learning and think students first!
Rafranz A5: I learn a lot more of how students interact with tech by listening to actual students and how it fits into their world. I like to use that in framing my own instructional practice.
Sue A5: It is not much of a secret…it is totally my PLN. I could not do my job without these amazing educators.
Megan A5: I’m not sure it’s a secret but it’s networking and my professional learning network (PLN). In the last year on Twitter, I’ve connected with so many amazing ed tech educators from around the globe. I have learned so much from them and they’ve helped fuel my passion to learn more. Find great people and learn from them!
Carolyn A5: Hmm.. I don’t think I have any secrets! But I think when teachers wonder how their colleague down the hall knows so much about technology and always feel inspired with new ideas, I think it’s because they haven’t yet discovered life as a connected educator. Once you have a network of people (whether online or in person) to support and challenge you, your life as a teacher totally changes.
Credits and Attribution: