Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Talk a good #edtech problem

As I did with the 'Facilitating my teaching philosophy' blog post, I thought I would approach a particular question in the same way - reaching out to the wider community via Twitter.

This time I asked the following question along with an example of one of my problems as a practitioner.  "What are the most common #teacherproblems you have with #edtech? For me, if a tool is effective, I will use it a lot. But some learners will find it predictable. Use in moderation and try different techniques perhaps."  This has been quite a burning question I have and one that I have kept on the back-burner.  I decided to ask this 1) I feel that problem solving in the application of learning technology is not talked about enough, as it tends to be in the thought processes before the application.  2) get a sense of what kinds of problems people have during setting up and in the live use of learning technology and how they overcome, mitigate and potentially or even avoid it altogether.  I didn't specifically ask this as I wanted the discussion to naturally reveal these.  I didn't get all the answers as desired however there were quite a few unexpected responses that prompted some new areas of exploration.

The conversation

Simon Thomson - "Absolutely - in fact I know from experience that starting off with digital tools can be be a barrier to digital engagement."

The Pedagogical Panda - "It's not always about the technology. Even when it is."

Simon Thomson - "The trouble is that sometimes it feels like it's always about the technology even when it isn't!"

Dale Munday - "I found myself using a range when training teachers, challenging myself to use a different strategy and/or resource each week to keep it fresh. That way trainees could experience alternatives and use appropriate to their context."

Me - "I really like that approach Dale, definitely keeps it fresh! Most importantly you're modelling #edtech in different ways for them to aspire to. 👍"

Ann Gravells - "The most common problem I experienced in college was broken equipment!"

Me - "Broken and unreliable networks/Wi-Fi. 🙄 Enough to affect many educators' confidence in using #edtech live."

Scott Hayden - "Lack of time to learn a tool - we get around this by going in to their classrooms with them and doing it with them until the training wheels come off."

Me - "Yup. Time to learn it, time to find out whether it is the right tool or not and knowing if time has been wasted as a result. 😐"

Dan Williams - "In ITE teaching, the challenge is moving beyond general tech to more specific tech to support specific domains. I don’t specialise in all subjects but teach a generic FE ITE programme so would benefit from greater knowledge of effective tech in, for example, Art, or Engineering."

Me - "Yeh, in this situation you use #edtech to enhance your role and model it for future teachers. But students need to give it the context it requires. Perhaps you can obtain this through their teaching observations and micro-teaching?"

Dan Williams - "Generic tools are fine but subject specific stuff like performance analysis software for sport teachers is far more beneficial for them than, say, Kahoot, I would argue. I can do it for Sport but not for many other subjects."

Me - "Yeh, they'll most likely prefer tools that can allow them to dig deep on getting usable data to support relevant concepts etc."

Dale Munday - "Agree - always found myself researching subjects specific #edtech use in a variety of subjects (Horticulture, Sport, Animal Studies, Vet Nursing Arboriculture etc.) to fully inform it’s appropriate use in their context. Time consuming but very worthwhile."

Valeria Pashkova - "The problem I face as a subject coordinator is how to share a tool with other tutors on my teaching team &ensure they are confident in using it. Or if I stop teaching, how to hand it over to a new coordinator. E.g.I still own Quizlet cards &Prezis for a subject I used to teach."

Me - "I agree, some #edtech tools don't offer the capability to share content directly into another's account. Otherwise it's the traditional route of setting up a team account, which comes with issues of its own."

Carolyn O'Connor - "Time to familiarise myself with it before using in classroom. I don’t want to use something that I’m not confident with. Also, is it going to aid learning? If not, what’s the point?"

Dale Munday - "Couldn’t agree more. Only use #edtech when it enhances the engagement, learning, assessment and feedback opportunities. Otherwise it will just be an added barrier."

Me - "Exactly what I said here: https://twitter.com/_Daniel_Scott/status/1104044392841650177 … Evaluating the appropriateness of #edtech tools is actually the most time consuming part. @AngeliqueBodart has got a good acronym to help: https://twitter.com/AngeliqueBodart/status/1050092129454821377"

David Hopkins - "Is it actually solving a ‘problem’ or ha someone just invented a problem to be solved. With something shiny and new?"

Me - "Yeh that's the first question, identifying if there is a pedagogical problem or not. There's not always a problem, but to improve things for both teacher and learner. #edtech companies market the idea that education is always a problem to be solved: https://twitter.com/_Daniel_Scott/status/1076035674892132352"

David Hopkins - "Very rarely is there ever a ‘need’ for the new shiny tech other than to do something different with the new shiny tech or to automate a process that was working already. And often the new shiny tech messes/breaks the process."

Simon Thomson - "https://twitter.com/digisim/status/1076152928296202240"

Me - "Very true that David. Perfectly backed-up by those questions from Simon. @marcuselliott, some stuff here to consider for the VLE work."

The end is just the beginning

This conversation is far from over, we've not even begun to address the basics of potential practical problems and how these can be addressed.  There's more to be discussed here - so feel free to add to the conversation on the original Tweet if you want to contribute.  I'll continue to update this blog post as new thinking and responses come in.

As well as our collective responses above, here's some further comments that are worth a mention:

  • Perhaps it's just about the learning situation - if you know the learning technology works well and continues to have impact/benefits in and on teaching practice and learning, use it.  However, it's essential to continuously reflect on the purpose of the learning technology you are using.  It's not always about off the shelf stuff but having conversations internally with yourself and externally with the right people to help steer rational thinking.
  • You might not even know what the problem is until something goes wrong.
  • What's your back up plan if your plans fail?  Paper-based or not use at all?
  • Know when to switch up your use of learning technology by being brave and trying new ones out, all part of being a current and effective practitioner and help you build up digital capabilities.
  • Good question points from Simon Thomson:
    • "1. What human interactions are most critical for student success?
    • 2. How can technology enable better versions of those interactions?
    • 3. Where can tech replace people so that human resources can be redirected to accomplish more of those interactions?"
  • Angelique Bodart's DEBATE acronym for evaluating learning technology:
    • "Level of Difficulty to use
    • Environment (what you have at your disposal)
    • Blended (how does it fit within your f2f teaching)
    • Aim (problem you’re trying to solve)
    • Time (to learn & use)
    • Impact on Engagement"
  • As I later reflected on (could be a blog post itself) - "If #edtech is deemed current teaching practice, when do the processes stop being enhanced? Perhaps it doesn't stop? Or is it a language issue - should current teaching practice be rephrased to augmented teaching?"