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.
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.
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.”