Never Let Schooling Interfere with Your Education.

Ariel Norling here. I write about education, technology, and my adventures in entrepreneurship- i.e. everything that I've learned outside of a classroom's walls. I am often sarcastic, sometimes serious, but always infinitely curious.

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#edtech

“What is this, church camp?” »

I wrote what is easily the most important, intense blog post I’ve ever written. The outreach from the education, technology, and educational technology sectors has been astounding. I’ve cried reading some of the stories women have started sharing with me about their experiences. Sexism and rape culture is a very real problem in edtech and education, and it clearly has been receiving too little attention. I just hope we can this as an opportunity for reflection, healing, and progress, and that we all can start incorporating empathy into our practices.

Note: It’s a bit of a dark read and might/should make you uncomfortable. I did my best to keep it light, but there’s only so much one can do considering the subject matter.

Let’s Skip the Professional Development: Because No One Says “Let’s Create Lifelong Students”

This week, I’ve been writing my Statement of Purpose for a graduate school application- with a theme about learners versus students- and having conversations around teacher feedback for education technology company product development. So it seems fitting that I should stumble across this today: 

 I find there are still learners and students.  The learners search for information on how to use the tools, play around with them and experiment in the classroom.  The students wait for a training session or workshop, attend them, complete assignments but there is not a significant change in the use of the tools.

One conversation I had recently was with a teacher-turned-entrepreneur about getting teachers more meaningfully engaged in education technology feedback. In our conversation one thing that really stood out was her assertion that we need to give teachers professional development so that they can learn how to give useful feedback to companies. That assumption rubbed me the wrong way.

Professional development seems to be the go-to for doing new things in the field of education. It never really seems to get questioned more than “Does #edchat do a better job?” It’s telling of the system’s attitude towards learning. It screams “you can only learn if you’re being taught.” It’s a horrible tone for a system that has recently become much more reflective on creating lifelong learners.

Fortunately, some teachers are learners, not just students. They’re already experimenting and giving their feedback, whether you teach them or not.

world-shaker:

Nerdy observation from someone who works in edtech:
It is no longer okay to not know how to hook your computer up to the projector. Are you using a computer? Does it need to be hooked up to a projector? Then you need to learn how to do that.
I tried giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the laptop VGA connection is missing or hidden. Maybe he’s not wise enough to know he can unhook the VGA cable from that doc camera, or even the computer in the workstation to his left (and use that for his laptop instead). Maybe he forgot the dongle he needs to hook up his Mac. But if none of those things are true, then this type of nonsense is just not okay.


As someone who actually wants to work in edtech, it’s actually really sad to have to say these kinds of observations. It’s sad that being able to connect a laptop to a projector to show a PowerPoint/Keynote (or Prezi- but please, God, no Prezi) is considered instructional technology. It should be common sense, not the introduction to an entire field.
And if it’s a PowerPont/Keynote, he should know what’s he’s presenting on well enough to be able to lecture about it (or pitch) without having to use slides. 

world-shaker:

Nerdy observation from someone who works in edtech:

It is no longer okay to not know how to hook your computer up to the projector. Are you using a computer? Does it need to be hooked up to a projector? Then you need to learn how to do that.

I tried giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the laptop VGA connection is missing or hidden. Maybe he’s not wise enough to know he can unhook the VGA cable from that doc camera, or even the computer in the workstation to his left (and use that for his laptop instead). Maybe he forgot the dongle he needs to hook up his Mac. But if none of those things are true, then this type of nonsense is just not okay.

As someone who actually wants to work in edtech, it’s actually really sad to have to say these kinds of observations. It’s sad that being able to connect a laptop to a projector to show a PowerPoint/Keynote (or Prezi- but please, God, no Prezi) is considered instructional technology. It should be common sense, not the introduction to an entire field.

And if it’s a PowerPont/Keynote, he should know what’s he’s presenting on well enough to be able to lecture about it (or pitch) without having to use slides. 

Why Every Educator Should Read Hacker News »

stevekinney:

Even more interesting is the idea of an education-focused GitHub.

I love his points about culture, and how the conversation isn’t just about hacking, but about anything intellectually stimulating. There should be more communities like that. 

As educators we are constantly trying to spark our student’s “intellectual curiosity”.  Many of us have sought out to spark our colleagues’ intellectual curiosity as well through social media sharing. However, what makes Hacker News so special is the community within this simple site…

The list could go on, but I think the point is clear. If we want education to continue to move forward we all need to get on board with sharing, collaborating, and discussing best and next practices. I’m thrilled that thousands of educators around the world have been doing this for years, and I know how many of us want this type of open culture to be “our culture”

I think the one point he misses is wanting it to be an educator only community. Yes, there is a lot to be said for sharing lesson plans and advice, but those communities already exist. What’s missing is a place where everyone involved in the education community: edtech hackers, entrepreneurs, administrators, counselors, students, parents, designers, bloggers, etc., could engage in conversations, collaborate, and share resources. That’s the other thing about the hacking community, they realize that it’s not just programmers that make an excellent hacking community. It also takes designers, marketers, business experts, and more to make a lively community that creates a lot of great products. Education needs more of that.

Our open, publicly-funded public school system, deeply woven into the fabric of our open, freedom- and innovation-loving society, is the gem in the crown of America that people from around the world for decades have tried to replicate…

Poverty, hunger, homelessness, parents who are ineffective or unable to parent – these are all analog problems kids have that need the help of other people, not only computers, to solve. What Gene Marks and other Silicon Valley “edupreneurs” forget is that we live in a complicated three-dimensional world that doesn’t fit on a spreadsheet or a computer screen. Digital bootstraps aren’t enough; to help all the nation’s kids we need lifelines offered face to face to real kids, from a person who cares in their neighborhood schools.

"Digital Bootstraps for Analog Problems" - Cynthia Liu

Am I the only one who catches the irony of a tradition-laden school system in an innovation-loving society? 

Education technology is not supposed to be the magic cure all for all of society’s ills, or even education’s. But if students aren’t getting what they need from the traditional method, don’t they deserve to have a chance to digitally bootstrap? Support is the most powerful thing that someone can give a student, and if a teacher, counselor, parent, or administrator isn’t there to give it to them, why should we criticize those who are digitally offering support? Besides, there’s more to education technology than AV technology and learning management systems, something that is often ignored in #pencilchat-type debates. Most importantly, people forget that there are people behind these products. People who care about students and education. From experience in trying to build a technology startup, one simply cannot start a tech company just for fun. They have to be committed to the idea, or else their hours, blood, sweat, and tears, and minimal income (especially in the education sector) are going to waste because lack of passion will kill them and their company.

Digital bootstrapping may not be sufficient for many, but why should we be angry at edupreneurs for trying? They’re the ones trying the hardest to innovate our public schools, and they’re moving faster than policy makers and individual teachers can. Maybe we should let them go full speed ahead, and let the rest of us focus on solving “analog problems.”

Does anyone else see a problem with this screen capture? Heaven forbid, there isn’t any clip art.
This isn’t just about design or taste. Personally, I think that Jeff Goins sums it up best in his blog post, “Why Clip Art Sucks.” Clip art sucks because:
It’s a lazy way to tell a story.
There are better alternatives.
It’s just plain tacky.
You know better.
This is even more so the case for educators. Clip art is bad teaching. Subversive ICT describes why:

Now this isn’t just a matter of aesthetics or taste. This stuff sends important messages to kids about what is “good” and that their own stuff needs tarting up before it’s any good, and that “fluff” is cool and “teacher approved”. And all this is wrong. BAN THE FLUFF. Value the kids’ creativity, which is so much better than the commercial monkeys and floating flowers. Teachers must teach this, model it. No clipart in our school, ever. No superfluous borders and other crap. Worry about the content. Ask the students, “What are you saying, what are you showing? Is is quality? How do you know?” These are thinking skills. The thinking skills we neglect, unfortunately. Critical judgement.

Does anyone else see a problem with this screen capture? Heaven forbid, there isn’t any clip art.

This isn’t just about design or taste. Personally, I think that Jeff Goins sums it up best in his blog post, “Why Clip Art Sucks.” Clip art sucks because:

  1. It’s a lazy way to tell a story.
  2. There are better alternatives.
  3. It’s just plain tacky.
  4. You know better.

This is even more so the case for educators. Clip art is bad teaching. Subversive ICT describes why:

Now this isn’t just a matter of aesthetics or taste. This stuff sends important messages to kids about what is “good” and that their own stuff needs tarting up before it’s any good, and that “fluff” is cool and “teacher approved”. And all this is wrong. BAN THE FLUFF. Value the kids’ creativity, which is so much better than the commercial monkeys and floating flowers. Teachers must teach this, model it. No clipart in our school, ever. No superfluous borders and other crap. 

Worry about the content. Ask the students, “What are you saying, what are you showing? Is is quality? How do you know?” These are thinking skills. The thinking skills we neglect, unfortunately. Critical judgement.

This is a waste of a word cloud. Word clouds are to convey the interconnected nature of phrases, their relativity to one another, and their popularity. This is just a messy logo and three word tagline.
But it’s not about the word cloud.
Part of what disturbs me about pushes for education technology and discussions around education technology are things like this. This jpeg is the perfect analogy for many tools that are marketed as great educational technology tools. In theory, the tools are great, but without researching and analyzing the capabilities of tools and possible uses for them, there is often a lack of great application in the education context. Take smartboards for example; they are capable of so much more than just being a touchscreen board for powerpoint presentations, but so seldom does one see a teacher using it for other purposes, at least in the schools I have seen. I’m not saying that there has to be intensive professional development for the use of education technology. In fact, there should be less professional development. Too often, professional development becomes consulting from afar or for a day, when it should be about mentorship and facilitated learning (funny, that sounds just like teaching!). And as any millennial will tell you, there’s no way to learn technology than to just play with it for a little while. Teachers should have time to just play with technology, like their students do, and be encouraged to be creative and collaborative with one another in the use of technology, not just told case uses for new tools. If we’re using education technology with the goal of helping students build 21st century skills and to not just manual readers, why are we making teachers read the manual and not use their own 21st century skills?

This is a waste of a word cloud. Word clouds are to convey the interconnected nature of phrases, their relativity to one another, and their popularity. This is just a messy logo and three word tagline.

But it’s not about the word cloud.

Part of what disturbs me about pushes for education technology and discussions around education technology are things like this. This jpeg is the perfect analogy for many tools that are marketed as great educational technology tools. In theory, the tools are great, but without researching and analyzing the capabilities of tools and possible uses for them, there is often a lack of great application in the education context. Take smartboards for example; they are capable of so much more than just being a touchscreen board for powerpoint presentations, but so seldom does one see a teacher using it for other purposes, at least in the schools I have seen. I’m not saying that there has to be intensive professional development for the use of education technology. In fact, there should be less professional development. Too often, professional development becomes consulting from afar or for a day, when it should be about mentorship and facilitated learning (funny, that sounds just like teaching!). And as any millennial will tell you, there’s no way to learn technology than to just play with it for a little while. Teachers should have time to just play with technology, like their students do, and be encouraged to be creative and collaborative with one another in the use of technology, not just told case uses for new tools. If we’re using education technology with the goal of helping students build 21st century skills and to not just manual readers, why are we making teachers read the manual and not use their own 21st century skills?

I still cannot get over how great my friend Adam Bellow’s (of EduTecher) presentation at #140edu was. He has some great quotes, the right sentiment, and an excellent presentation. The girl cheering at the end was me. 

Every time I hear about the wonders of the flipped classroom, I can’t help but to think about this tweet: 

Not that I’m a disbeliever, but can we really expect such dramatic shift in school learning with flipped classrooms? It obviously works well for college students and personal learning plans, but what about younger students? Heaven knows our National History Test results weren’t too hot this year. What makes the flipped classroom different?

Every time I hear about the wonders of the flipped classroom, I can’t help but to think about this tweet: 

Not that I’m a disbeliever, but can we really expect such dramatic shift in school learning with flipped classrooms? It obviously works well for college students and personal learning plans, but what about younger students? Heaven knows our National History Test results weren’t too hot this year. What makes the flipped classroom different?