Technology has been a part of my classroom ever since I started teaching. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for using technology in education, but my definition of Educational Technology, otherwise known as EdTech, has evolved and changed over time. There are many ways to describe EdTech, but according to Wikipedia, it’s “the combined use of computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning” and “improve user academic performance.” If I were to critically examine this definition of EdTech, I would say it’s lacking some substance. If I looked at this definition when I first became familiar with EdTech seven years ago, I would have simply agreed with it.
When I first started teaching, I was eager to use technology in my new grade 3 classroom. I didn’t have a lot of experience with it, but I was creative, ambitious, and willing to experiment through trial and error. However, when I first began, I used EdTech for the sole purpose of using EdTech. It was for the image and the anticipation of the “cool” tricks I could perform in my classroom. I didn’t think about the purpose, the repercussions, and most importantly, the privacy or protection of my students. I was unaware that with the use of EdTech comes responsibility to do my research.
Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and critic of media and culture, wrote an article that analyzes and critiques modern advancements and change in technology. He reminds us that “we need to proceed with our
eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.” This is something I didn’t consider when I first started my journey with EdTech as a first year teacher. Postman lists “5 Things We Need To Know About Technological Change.” The ideas can be summed up like this:
- “For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” Lisa talks more about this idea in her recent post, “The Price of Technology.”
- “The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.” He suggests that we ask ourselves important questions when we use technology and media, such as:
Why do you do this?
What interests do you represent?
To whom are you hoping to give power?
From whom will you be withholding power?
As educators, it’s absolutely critical that we ask these questions.
- “Every technology has a prejudice.” Postman goes on to say that technology and media have biases. He reminds us that “it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments.”
- “We must be cautious about technological innovation” because “the consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.”
- “When a technology becomes mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.” Postman means that when we think of technology as the “be-all and end-all”, then there is no room to be critical and conscious of what we are using or promoting. He encourages us to ” view technology as a strange intruder.”
I still have a long way to go, but with the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through my teaching experience and my Master’s classes, I have come to realize that EdTech has multiple layers. These layers include digital access, security and privacy, equality and diversity, digital citizenship… a lot of which are included in Mike Ribble’s “9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.” It is not just about the “cool” tricks I can do in my classroom. EdTech needs to have deeper meaning and purpose, because at the end of the day, EdTech is not the teacher. So what does a deeper definition of EdTech look like? Here is what I would include in my definition today:
Educational Technology: “Using technology purposefully in education to enhance learning, empower students, provide access, establish protection and security, critically analyze media and news, and give equal opportunity.”
What does your deeper definition of EdTech look like?