I’m writing this post the day after yet another government press conference, yet another public health state of emergency in Alberta, and yet another list of province-wide restrictions. K-12 students will continue to head to school, but many post-secondary institutions in Alberta have temporarily cancelled in-person classes and moved to online learning (CBC News, 2021). I wonder what tomorrow, what next week will look like, and it is tough not to feel … hopeless.
That being said, reading Weller’s book could not have come at a better time. 25 Years in Ed Tech is great, and I loved it. It was informative, engaging, thoughtful, reflective, and was refreshingly humourous too. After finishing the book, my brain was a windstorm of thoughts and ideas. Yes, I am a teacher in K-12 public education, and yes, this was a book that focused on ed tech in higher education. However, the take-aways go beyond Weller’s stated purpose, and in fact, have implications for K-12 education and society in general as we traverse the rocky landscape of the 21st century. Here are some of my final, Weller-inspired thoughts:
- There is a commercial side to education, of which the primary goal is to make money. Educators should be skeptical of technological cure-all solutions, and educational technologists need to be present when vendors are pitching technology to institutions (p. 185).
- Education is “a fundamentally human experience” (p. 159) and the human connections that occur in education are invaluable. Technology that “recognizes this and seeks to work collaboratively with human educators” (p. 186) will have the greatest impact and success.
- Change in education occurs slowly. This comes up many times in this book, and it is worth acknowledging that there are aspects of tradition or analog elements of education people want to hold on to. Weller captures this notion perfectly in his discussion of the production of quality open textbooks when he states “Books are artifacts with which people tend to have an emotional connection” (p. 139), and he is 100% correct (sidenote: I love this quote so much I wish I could get it printed on a t-shirt!).
- Technology has had a role in transforming discovery from an active to a passive experience (p. 175), and society is now dealing with the repercussions of the darker side of ed tech. In order to counter the darker side of ed tech, Weller suggested four elements that educators can incorporate into their practice: acknowledging duty of care, practicing appropriate skepticism, actively developing critical skills in students, and engaging in research and gathering evidence (p. 175-176).
- It is okay to be both optimistic and skeptical about technology in education. In fact, it would be prudent for educators and education systems to ask hard questions to determine how to best serve students. Weller states “… although technology has been the dominant force in ed tech, its prevalence in society now means that the educational component needs to come to the fore” (p. 180) and I cannot agree more.
My reflections led me back to the advice Dr. Veletsianos gave us in response to our research-related questions for him at the end of LRNT 522. I wrote about this in my “Thoughts from a geriatric millennial” blog post (Donahue, 2021), and the advice that resonated most with me was that we have the ability to make the world a better place by addressing existing issues and problems through education and research. In a time when things seem to be generally grim, it is nice to have a reminder that we can, with a bit of time and effort, work to bring some sanity and calm back to humanity. Weller’s book carries this same message, and I am excited and hopeful to see what the next 25 years of ed tech will bring.
CBC News (2021, September 16). Alberta post-secondary schools cancel in-person classes as new COVID-19 rules kick in. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-post-secondary-schools-cancel-in-person-classes-as-new-covid-19-rules-kick-in-1.6178322
Donahue, A. (2021, August 18). Thoughts from a Geriatric Millennial. Amber’s Blog. https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0202/thoughts-from-a-geriatric-millennial/
Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.