A Shiny and Refurbished Future: Speculating on Educational Technology in the year 2030

When steering educational technology towards the future, we hope to follow the road towards solutions. This essay sets to provide one potential future in response to our present context. This year presented a unique social, educational, political, and environmental setting. The first global pandemic in over a century, COVID-19, inundated the world and measures were introduced to protect citizens. In British Columbia (BC), schools and businesses quickly shifted to a distant model with parents working alongside their children learning at home. Within the first two months of the pandemic approximately 400,000 British Columbians lost their jobs (CBC 2020). The United Nations called a “global education emergency” (Fore, H. as cited in Feuer, 2020, first paragraph) as students discontinued school. Political instability lead to elections as governments need economic recover and families choked on the smoke of forest fires. Amidst this worry, there remains hope for the future.

Considering this climate, goals for a positive future must steady the turbulent present. This potential future attempts to meet goals for educational technology and increase equality while decreasing pollution (Macgilchrist, Allert, and Bush, 2020). Research has identified technology’s role in providing more equal opportunity and quality of education (BCCampus, 2020). BC’s Ministry of Education (2020) aims to provide consistent success among vulnerable students. Even Canada’s chief public officer (Tam, as cited by D’Amore, 2020) suggests a future where planning is centered around equality. Imagine a potential future where centralized, open educational resources, and internships to refurbish technology provide equal access to equal education in BC’s secondary schools.

The solutions of 2030 begin after the pandemic when governments move to recover the economy. First the minimum age to work in BC is increased to 18, thus forcing adolescents back into the classroom and parents back to work. The pandemic demonstrated that employees and students can work remotely. People with mobility limitations or chronic illnesses now maintain employment. Students also have more choice. Open educational resources (OER), centralized content, internships, refurbished technologies, and supportive policies are implemented. Philanthropic programs that were previously in the community are structured within schools. Programs like Computers for Kids and Free Geeks now use students for labour. BC’s secondary curriculum changed in 2018-19 which reduced required. Future grade 11 and 12 students will complete the language and math fundamentals (Friedman, 2020), but then get to choose four to six internships in the elective subjects of their choice.

For flexibility and equality sake, it is important to consider equal access to quality teaching and resources (BCCampus, 2020). The ministry’s proposed funding-model change and the lack of contract language for Distributing Learning (DL) teachers has already shifted DL towards centralized content (Barbour & LaBonte, 2019). In another ten years, all teachers will draw from centralized content. Having content available means teachers can focus on the relevant skills of the future and less on content specific materials. The other side to centralized content is having this content openly available. In the future, teachers create and share content (Mishra, 2017). OER also benefits students as it can “empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path” (Andrade as cited in Mishra, 2017, p. 376). Similar empowerment can arrive from hands-on, relevant, practical activities, such as internships.

Along with having equal content, there also needs to be equal access to technology. In the future, in technology-related internships, students rebuild outdated hardware or maintain existing infrastructures and programs. There are several benefits to this program. First, there is an economic as school districts no longer must source replacement technologies and technological support (Clapp et al., 2016). The benefits to internships also include better social and community skills, thereby satisfying many of the short-comings researchers identify with educational technology (Muilenburg & Berge, as cited in BCCampus, 2020). The act of working leads to community building and this social engagement further leading to higher retention (Olesova, Yang, & Richardson, as cited in BCCampus, 2020) justifying internships in the future. Kumar (as cited in Friedman, 2020) predicts that the distinction between employers and educators will be lost in the future. He also suggests that experience is more valuable than a post-secondary degree. Students having hands-on experiences with technology could shift us away from society’s obsession with consumerism and waste (Clapp et al., 2016). In 2030 interneships, students gain not only course credit but school store credit to buy their own technology or other needs. An internship program in collaboration with the IT department will help to reduce the amount of technology that is wasted. During the technological internships of 2030 students, guided by teachers and IT professionals, refurbish hardware, and build and maintain school-wide systems similar to “complex adaptive coalitions” (Friedman, 2020, p. 22).

The solution to equitable access to hardware needs to be something other than increased production or corporate funding. Refurbishing technology not only positively impacts the environment by keeping waste from filling landfills or being shipped overseas, but also benefits learning (Fosdick, 2012). Other outcomes of allowing students experience with building and fixing technology include developing agency (Clapp et al., 2016). Afterall, it is with access to technology and “tinkering” that Bill Gates become a technological mastermind (Wallace et al., 1992). Students building or repairing technology could lead to a paradigmatic shift that prioritizes environment conservation over profit (Weaver, 2000). Rather than choosing technology to fix societies problems, we can use society to fix problems caused by technologies of over consumption and consumerism. This future draws from the good will and curiosity in youth but also from the support from policy makers.

In 2030, policy demands students have equal access to learning and technological resources. During the pandemic of 2020, we witnessed how quickly the Ministry of Education was able to set new practices and how school districts and educators met these expectations. True, there was resistance among parents and educators. We know though, that if the government implements environmentally and equitable practices, the majority will comply. Just as the success of OER needs political support through policies (Mishra, 2017) so does equal access to technology through secondary school internships. Public sector spending is already shifting to sustainability (Everdene, 2018). With the support of politicians and ministry level policies, people who profit from inequality and pollution ridden policies will have limited options.

The benefits of this potential future are promising. Parents have steady employment. Schools have higher retention and completion rates. Students have the skills to attain employment after graduation. Also, by empowering our youth through hands-on, practical experiences we ensure that the optimism present in 2030 continues. After 2030 possible extensions of this model would be where employers become more responsible for specific training or skills in between shorter spurts of formal education. Internships could trickle down to lower grades. Maybe secondary students supervise or mentor middle school students. In either respect, by imagining a positive future, we will be motivated to stand by today’s choices.

References

Barbour, M. & LaBonte, R. (2019). State of the nation: K – 12 e-learning in Canada (12th ed). https://k12sotn.ca/.

BCCampus. (2020). Removing barriers to online learning through a teaching and learning lens. https://bccampus.ca/about-us/reports-and-reviews/

BC Ministry of Education. Vision for student success. Government of British Coloumbia. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/administration/program-management/vision-for-student-success

CBC. (May 8, 2020). “BC lost nearly 400,000 jobs in March and April province says. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/unemployment-bc-covid-19-carole-james-1.5561174

Clapp, E., Ross, J., Ryan, J. O., & Tishman, S. (2016). Maker-centered learning: empowering young people to shape their worlds. https://royalroads.on.worldcat.org/oclc/962753031

D’Amour, R. (October 28, 2020). Canada’s top doctor outlines ‘uncomfortable facts’ on coronavirus inequalities. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/7427339/coronavirus-canada-report-tam-inequities/

Everdene, B. (2018). Canadian public spending. Municipal World 128(8), 25-26. https://royalroads.on.worldcat.org/oclc/7870094454

Feuer, W. (Sept 15, 2020). At least 24 million students could drop out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic, UN says. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/15/at-least-24-million-students-could-drop-out-of-school-due-to-the-coronavirus-un-says.html

Fosdick, H. (2012). Computer refurbishing: environmentally reducing the digital divide. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology38(3), 58–62. https://doi.org/10.1002/bult.2012.1720380314

Friedman, T. (October 21, 2020 Wednesday). After the pandemic, a revolution in education and work awaits. The New York Times. https://advance-lexis-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:6140-5R41-DXY4-X2WC-00000-00&context=1516831.

Macgilchrist, F., Allert, H. & Bruch, A. (2020) Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology, Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 76-89, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235

Mishra, S. (2017) Open educational resources: removing barriers from within, Distance Education, 38:3, 369-380, DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2017.1369350

Wallace, J., Erickson, J. (1992). Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 42–46ISBN 0-471-56886-4 (p. ?)

Weaver, P. (2000). Sustainable technology development. Greenleaf Pub. https://royalroads.on.worldcat.org/oclc/828743287,

 

 

 

Ed Tech in 2030

Keyboard
Technologies by Annie at Flickr

For the speculative futures essay, I am choosing to focus on hope and positive outcomes as these motivate students, educators, and policy-makers alike. As Veletsianos (2020) and MacGilchrist (2020) noted, the decisions we make today shape our future. I am hopeful that we can shape it with MacGilchrist’s (2019) first two prioritized goals of educational technology, inclusion and environment. Imagine a potential future where the environmentally conscious production and consumption of technology is part of a secondary school program that provides equal access to equal education. Our experiences during the pandemic and the provincial election of 2020 will undoubtedly contribute to this future. For instance, I would expect that many will be unwilling to go back to an inflexible model. The elected party of 2020 implemented childcare and economic plans that focus on employment for adults. Adolescents return to school and, similar to Selwyn et al.’s (2020) vignette, have flexibility to choose areas for practical experience and extra credit. The solution to equitable access to hardware needs to be something other than increased production or corporate funding. In 2030, I foresee philanthropic programs like Freegeek in schools providing access to technologies and technological skills. However, so that optimism does not appear naïve, I will remove the rose-coloured glasses just long enough to identify potential resistance and counter movements. Some of the resistance could come from competition or corporations looking for economic gain as in singh and Maughan (2014). There will remain a need for dominant and systemic support for equality and environmentally conscious programs that are firmly grounded in research and policies.

References

Macgilchrist, F., Allert, H., & Bruch, A. (2020). Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology. Learning, Media & Technology45(1), 76–89. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235

Selwyn, N., Pangrazio, L., Nemorin, S., & Perrotta, C. (2020). What might the school of 2030 be like? An exercise in social science fictionLearning, Media and Technology45(1), 90-106.

sigh, s. & Maughan, T. (2014, June 22). The future of ed tech is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. https://medium.com/futures-exchange/the-future-of-ed-tech-is-here-its-just-not-evenly-distributed-210778a423d7.

Veletsianos, George. (October 12, 2020). LRNT 523: Unit 3 [Video]. RRU WordPress. https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt523/schedule/unit-3/

The Media Debate in Current Events

Photo by Russell Davies at Flikr.com

By Kristin Beeby and Sandra Norum  

The great media debate between Clark and Kozma highlights the significance of critically evaluating the learning media.  Their arguments are relevant today especially in light of the quick pivot to online education during the global pandemic. The following articles will be explored through their perspectives.

Article #1 Summary

The article, How Technology will transform learning in the COVID-19 era by Utkarash Amitabh discusses how higher education is ultimately changing to match economic trends and the ‘unbundling’ of education—this unbundling is where ed-tech provides opportunity and innovation. The author outlines four major shifts; return on investment career specializations, lifelong learning, shorter periods for learning and new business models. The author argues this unbundling will bring about a certain amount of disruption in ed-tech. These disruptions include; “learning hard skills with direct employment prospects…networking…[and] a push for soft skills”, (Amitabh, 2020). The author then points out that if higher education is to survive this era of unbundling and disruption, it will need to combine both AI and communities. Amitabh (2020) argues that ed-tech using AI and communities will bring together the world’s brightest minds to collaborate on real-world problems. Ultimately, however, the author notes that AI is still missing the community aspect and must overcome this deficit to be successful. The article ends on the notion that socio-economic factors and market trends are always a function of ed-tech being equitable. Ultimately, this clamouring for the market share may make ed-tech increasingly affordable.

Clark’s Response to Article #1

Clark’s (1994) response to Amitabh’s noted changes to education would be that they do not represent improved learning through technology. Instead, he would argue that these changes are driven by the pandemic’s political and economic climate. If Clark’s “armchair experimental criteria” (p. 1) were applied to the Artificial Intelligent (AI) referred to by Amitabh, it would fail. Even Amitabh explains that AI is most effective when used within a community. The name alone of Artificial Intelligence refers to attributes that mimic human processes; therefore, the true human interaction would be more beneficial to learning than AI acting like Clark’s metaphorical delivery truck. Amitabh identifies other trends in education like the unbundling of education as students want shorter, more specified courses. Clark would resent the great economic investment in ed-tech but would receive some reassurance that the trends brought on by COVID-19 are trends that look at providing a solution to a problem rather than trying to fit a solution to a problem.  To this, he would caution us to continue to question evidence and to carefully consider our choices in a medium.

Kozma’s response to Article #1

Ed-tech is a way for educators to innovate and bring alive the topics to engage our learners. In some cases, it is even a way for educators to streamline and capitalize on what the current societal needs are. Using the ideas put forth by Kozma (1994) in the debate whether media influences learning; we can frame Amitabh’s arguments with the following lens: In this particular era of online learning, educators can reach learners who may not otherwise be able without online platforms and e-learning. This disruption and unbundling of education provide learners with more specified and economic avenues to achieving their educational goals. Learners from around the world can now connect seamlessly to collaborate. Kozma would agree that this closing of geographical gaps has made the scope of ed-tech even more dynamic and prosperous. Kozma would likely contend that AI, one of the most intriguing technological innovations of 21st-century learning, has the potential to personalize learning and provide access to marginalized or differently-abled learners. In moving forward, the educator’s greatest challenge then becomes addressing the need to connect to others and build communities for our learners. These connection needs and the innate human drive to belong is where ed-tech should point its compass.

Article #2 Summary

In their article, The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Li and Lalani (2020) consider the potential long-term implications of learning due to the rapid shift to online education caused by the global pandemic. They outline how ed-tech companies are taking advantage of this opportunity by offering free access, one-stop shops, and partnerships. These authors identify two possible outcomes to this shift in education. The first is that the poor preparation will lead to poor sustained adoption. The second possible outcome is a new hybrid form of education. These authors list several examples of the latter but caution the effect of the digital divide. Research is cited that claims improved retention and increased speed in online learning. They provide a conflicting argument, however, that younger learners need more structure. To summarize, there are benefits and drawbacks to the shift to online learning and only time will show any lasting effects on education.

Clark’s Response to Article #2

With the pandemic closing schools worldwide and students and teachers having to shift to online learning, some educators face moving outside of their comfort zone and teaching with an unfamiliar medium. Richard E. Clark (1994) would say this shift is also forcing learners to adjust their cognition to suit these fads. There was already a growing movement for implementing e-learning across the education field, but true empiricists like Clark, know this is premature. Clark would point out that a lacklustre showing of evidence that media influences technology, the education sector needs to tread carefully through this minefield of ‘free platforms’ and ‘unlimited access’ to the unmanageable number of providers. We see the continued monetization of education in businesses pairing with public school districts under the guise of helping parents navigate online learning during school shutdowns. Clark highlights concerns on the shifting to untested and unproven methods of teaching we see in these e-learning situations. There is also the problem of equitable access. With a large percentage of families not supported with tools or bandwidth, we are only widening the education gap for those who are already struggling. Clark would agree there is an argument to be made for e-learning becoming a more efficient and seemingly economical way of learning, he would contend there is much work to be done in the realm of methodology and theory. Online learning may have the potential to democratize education and disseminate knowledge, but it should not be at the cost of sound practice and positive student outcomes.

Kozma’s Response to Article #2

Kozma’s (1994) argument avoids absolutes by considering the potential role technologies may play in the future, a future that is perhaps now being realized. Technology and the world has changed immensely, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. Has the not-too-distant future Kozma refers to arrived? Kozma’s argument uses the improved cognitive processes for the students using ThinkerTools like the benefits in the article. Kozma points to the role of research in learning more about the influence of media on technology and he would be enthused by the number of real-world experiences occurring in education’s response to COVID-19 and the resulting shift in perspective. “Perhaps a more productive approach would be to view the design process is a dynamic, creative interaction – or conversation, to us Schon’s term – between the designer, the situation, and the medium in which the design both shapes and is shaped by each of these factors” (p. 21). In Li and Lalani’s article, we witness the mutual interactions Kozma describes as school districts, educators, and ed-tech companies work together to form a swift option for students at home. This shift to remote learning has also put more emphasis on the accessibility of technology. This prevalence of users may lead to some of the innovations and patterns Kozma alluded to.

References

Amitabh, U. G. (2020, August 31). How technology will transform learning in the COVID-19 era. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/how-edtech-will-transform-learning-in-the-covid-19-era/

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development42(2), 21-29. http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development42(2), 7-19. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.167.4904

Li, C. and Lalani, F. (2020, April 29). The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning

Technology is not Neutral

Photo by Matthew Fassnacht on Unsplash

In the final third of Wellers 25 years of ed tech (2020) the quote, “technology is not ethnically or politically neutral” (p. 188) resonated with me. I agree with this comment so completely and yet it is rarely at the forefront of my thinking when developing or instructing an online course. From Weller’s book it seems as though there are two main causes for the biases of technology. The first are the structures of search engines. Second is the human construction of online courses. These points are accentuated when I read articles like Bloomberg’s “Trump Wants $5 Billion from TikTok deal for history project”  where there is a blatant misuse of power and technology to spur biased information.

In his discussion of computer-mediated communications, Weller refers to how the natural process of communication that occured in a university settings needed to be intentionally built into online courses. However, there is the potential for courses developers that are building in these natural processes to provide limited or biased perspectives. In a face-to-face classroom, there would be more natural checks and balances by the opportunities to learn from each others perspectives and experiences. Having an awareness of our own biases and limitations is important when constructing online courses so that our intentional structures don’t unintentionally restrict the learning process or present bias. Could the potential lesson here be to provide more options within online courses to limit our own biases? Or to have teams of course developers?

According to Weller, another cause of bias within technology are the algorithms that promote “polarizing content” (173). Weller is right in pointing out the social responsiblity educators have. As a K-12 teacher there needs to be some safe guards when allowing students to find their own resources. This also emphasizes the importance of teaching skills that would allow students to find and process information online in a critical and thoughtful way.

An awareness of the bias within technology is important to use as a mirror to reflect on our own practice.

References

Jacobs, J., Parker, M., & Wingrove, J. (2020, September 20). Trump Wants $5 Billion From TikTok Deal for History Project. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-20/trump-wants-5-billion-from-tiktok-deal-for-new-history-project?utm_source=EdSurgeInnovate

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Janette Hughes: Person in the Field of Educational Technology

Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Janette Hughes is a current Canadian Research Chair in Technology and Pedagogy and professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Hughes’ contributions focus on pedagogy and empowering all people in the school community to use technology to incite positive change.

Hughes’ impressive resume includes 47 peer-reviewed and frequently cited articles among other presentations and publications. She received eight awards, including the Early Researchers Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation. Her blog marks her involvement in every level of education. She consults with school districts and policy makers and published The Digital Principal (2014) to encourage the thoughtful and purposeful use of technology in schools. She also supports teachers and students through her research projects and publications like Becoming a Teacher (2015).

Her background as a Language Arts teacher brings a unique perspective on literacies including digital literacy and new media literacy. She is also involved in STEM research, but has placed an emphasis on the Arts, the ‘A’ in her STEAM 3-D Maker Space project. She uses technology to strengthen marginalized students’ identities and voices as agents of change, a particularly admirable goal in our uncertain and tumultuous world. This focus aligns with Watters’ (2014) suggestion that the educational technology should, as Papert’s said, lead students to “powerful ideas.” Hughes continues on this path to support educators and learners through the pandemic’s pivot to online education as mentioned in this video. Janette Hughes is person to watch in educational technology.

References

Hughes, J. & Burke, A. (2014). The Digital Principal. Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Parkay, Vaillancourt, Stephens, Harris, Hughes, Gadanidis & Petrarca. (2017). Becoming a Teacher, 5th Canadian Edition. Toronto, ON: Pearson.

Watters, A. (2014, June 18). Un-Fathom-able: The hidden history of Ed-Tech. Hack Education. http://hackeducation.com/2014/06/18/unfathomable-cetis2014

Blogs versus LMS

In the second third of Weller’s 25 years of Ed Tech (2020) the blog versus learning management system (LMS) debate was particularly compelling. This is relevant as, in my school district, our neighboring brick-and-mortar high school teachers are using a blog format to deliver courses online. Across the way, DL teachers on Moodle are watching closely. Below, I consider this choice within my current practice.

The lesson that aligns with my practice is that control an LMS provides is desirable for many reasons. While Weller’s focus is on higher education, the control within LMS is more relevant for school aged students who are still learning  skills for finding and evaluating resources. Another key difference is that the school I work at tends to draw highly anxious students. The protection afforded by the LMS structure adds a sense of security. They feel more comfortable nested in a familiar environment that is consistent between teachers, courses, and grades.

The lesson that conflicts with my current practice is Weller’s understanding of the degree of control being a pedagogical choice. This is true to some degree and in higher education it makes sense to allow students more freedoms. More so, the amount of control is a question of the student, content provider, and teaching load.  Our LMS is used by students from grade six to twelve. Having a consistent layout helps our students in their transition from middle school to secondary. The other determining factor, other than pedagogy, is that our content provider uses Moodle. With teachers teaching between 15 to 20 courses, there is currently no time allowed to transition away from this. This is where the sedimentation Weller refers to lies.

This blog format at the brick-and-mortar school is potentially more feasible due to fewer courses the teachers need to prepare. I expect though that it will be used to varying degrees of sophistication, much like Weller’s criticism of LMS’s early use. I will continue to explore this choice as it is so important to continually evaluate our practice and the tools within it.

Reference

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Reflecting on Weller

Reflection of tree on water
Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

In reflecting on Weller’s discussion of educational technologies (2020), I strongly connected to the reoccurring theme of collaboration. Collaboration resonates with my own experiences as an educator, but it is also an interesting lens for the public criticisms of the online learning as we attempted to adjust education during a pandemic.

Weller refers frequently to how the collaboration of educators was influential in a technology’s adoption into education. Weller’s summary of bulletin board systems refers to the “use of academic real estate” (13). This is an effective term to refer to how educators need to selectively expend their time and energy. Through collaboration they can share this burden. Again, in the chapter on learning objects, Weller explains how elements of learning objects survived through consortiums of subscribed educators. This reminds me of the Western Canadian Learning Network (WCLN) on which our school relies for our own content and is what makes it possible for DL schools in BC to offer diverse courses. It seems from Weller’s summaries that those technologies that survived to be adopted into education were adopted because there was a collaborative effort to share information and thereby share the burden of time and energy.

As a firm advocate of Distributed Learning, I struggle with the criticisms of BC’s schools’ online model that was adopted after Spring break. I hear “well we know that that didn’t work” from colleagues, senior administration, and government officials. Rather than dismissing it as failure, we could all gain more from reflecting on why it failed. The primary reason for its assumed failure is that there was little opportunity for collaborative planning and a motivation driven by panic rather than sound pedagogical theory. I admit, that prior to this book, the history of educational technology was a self-centered one that lived within my own experiences. The history that Weller presents could have helped us all in the transition in response to the pandemic. Instead of reliving some of history’s mistakes we could have moved forward collaboratively with focus and support.

Reference

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.