The Pace of Educational Technology!

I’m sold on new technology in the classroom.

If a ‘traditional’ style with rows of students and weighty textbooks works then I understand why there is no motivation to change. It just didn’t work for me. I always felt I was preparing a student for a test and not their future. The classroom was ordered but not supportive of the type of learning environment the students and I craved.

So we turned to ‘Edtech‘. YouTube videos and presentations filtered into content delivery and collaborative work supported discovery. A number of devices invaded the classroom and were used to inform the process and result when appropriate tasks were set. If I’m honest the ‘new’ feel to the classroom worked when I got the tasks right and let us down when I hadn’t thought everything through.

The trial with a number of devices ended up with a decision to roll out iPads, on a 1:1 level, this academic year. It is a personal device and in our opinion won’t work as well in the ‘class set’ model. Consequently, we are training up staff and students to make the most of the device and enhance the learning process. So what’s the problem?

It used to be that hardware was a real factor in what you could do with technology in the classroom. A visualiser or interactive whiteboard does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. You can understand its limitations and work to its potential. However software, in the form of apps, is changing so quickly that there is always another development to take into account. Don’t get me wrong, this in itself is not a bad thing. The problem lies in keeping up with developments and allowing staff to feel comfortable with the whole process. It has been difficult enough to get educators to persevere when learning about the potential of an iPad in the classroom. Now we are faced with changes every time a developer releases an update.

Take iOS 6 for example. The ability to ‘open in app’ allows the user to open a document/picture etc in any app that is compatible. This has huge ramifications for student workflow and the ability to annotate or add a sound clip to an assignment. In a single stroke the new operating system rendered a workflow training programme unfit for purpose. Again I am grateful for the update as it has made life a lot simpler. I just wish there was a way of keeping abreast of all the modifications in the secretive world of ‘Edtech’ development.

On an individual app level, this week I stumbled upon a twitter conversation that inferred that the superb Explain Everything app was going to receive an update. The ‘new’ ability to add video from the camera roll to the whiteboard interface has great potential in the classroom. Last week I presented two separate apps to solve this problem and this is now out of date! Sure, there are always going to be developments but the need to embed working, reliable ‘Edtech’ and allow educators to be comfortable with it means developments almost outstrip demand. Even the recent Skitch update required a further training session to get up to speed with one of our favourite apps.

The competition between app developers is definitely a good thing for any educator with tablets in the classroom. The need to be at the forefront of our requirements means that they listen to educators and seek guidance to help develop their software. I’m glad it ‘makes my brain hurt’ because the slicker and more appropriate the applications the greater the potential to enhance learning.

I just wish I could keep up with it all!

Please feel free to let me know if there is any way to stay ahead of the game?

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK (stephenperse.com). Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

25 Responses to The Pace of Educational Technology!

  1. Carolyn says:

    I feel your pain (and excitement). Perhaps someone can write an app that adds a few hours to my day!

  2. Jacky says:

    As the iPad GoTo person in my school, I do spend a lot of my time looking at Apps and I also find keeping up mind numbing at times. I’ll discover a new App and work out how it can be used in the classroom, then forget about it for a while as new stuff comes along. Then get frustrated as I realise I missed a perfect opportunity to use it. But, at the end of the day we are only human and so long as I feel I have done my best, I’m now content to let the undiscovered Apps and new techniques wait until another day. It’s a bit like riding a wave (not that I’ve ever surfed – but it’s how I imagine it) where you just have to concentrate on staying upright on that wave, while looking out of the corner of your eyes in case a bigger wave creeps up behind that you can switch to, without falling off. When I joined twitter I used to religiously read every Tweet every day, going back over all the previous hours, just in case I might have missed some gem of an idea. Now, while I do scan back sometimes, I don’t panic if I miss a day or two. The best ideas will get re-tweeted and I’ll get to them soon enough.
    I regard you, Daniel, as being on one of the biggest waves at the front ( no pressure) and you should just enjoy the ride.

    • Thank you for commenting Jacky and I completely agree. The needs of staff are so varied it can be a little overwhelming.
      Although your last sentence is a little scary.
      Take care.

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  9. Greg Hughes says:

    As usual Dan, I agree – great thoughts. On the plus side, once staff get used to one way of managing AFL or workflow on a 1:1 device, they can usually pick up alternatives pretty quick. I liken it to driving a different type Of car – same skills, maybe more challenging/ intimidating if it’s a faster one….

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  13. Ruth says:

    Hi Daniel, I think that you have eloquently expressed what lots of people are thinking. We are used to physical products like cars and hoovers evolving slowly but the world of app development is fast moving and responsive and, as you say, it’s great. However just keeping up to date can feel like a full time occupation sometimes! :-)

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  20. As an IT person as well as an educator I can tell you the usual response to change breaking things is to lock everything down. Change requires “a process”. Basically, nothing then ever changes until it actually breaks and has to change. In the case of the iPad, simply never click “Install” when it tells you 42 of your apps have updates available.

    Are we depressed yet?

    A true IT sage once said there are two ways to have stability when it comes to an application: never change it, or change it all the time. The latter works because one lives with the code and knows it so well and makes it better all the time so change goes more smoothly.

    ps As for hardware being immune to this, I am still waiting for Apple to come out with two iPod versions in a row that use the same USB connectors.

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