A Plea to Ed Tech Entrepreneurs (Randy Weiner)

Randy Weiner is a co-founder and CEO at BrainQuake, a co-founder at Urban Montessori Charter School in Oakland, CA and former Board Chair, a former teacher, father to two elementary school-aged daughters. In this post, he uses the phrase “we” to refer to those who, like himself, are high-tech entrepreneurs, start companies aimed at the school market, produce software and “solutions” to educators’ problems, and, in general, want to improve the quality of schooling in the U.S.

Weiner anticipates that some readers will disagree with his definition of ed tech. In comments, if you do disagree, offer your amended or new definition and indicate reasons for changes you would make.

 

Last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for education technology companies to focus on addressing problems that matter. Implicit in the Secretary’s challenge is the assumption that education technology can, in fact, actually have an impact on important education problems and opportunities.

To date, however, precious little efficacy research exists to support this assumption, and it is easy to find data that raises questions about ed tech’s potential.

For example, we ed tech entrepreneurs are flooding schools with ed tech offerings, arguably in a counterproductive manner. Numerous studies and surveys, including Digital Promise’s late 2014 “Improving Ed Tech Purchasing”, find school leaders and teachers are overwhelmed by the number of ed tech offerings foisted upon them, making the task of simply identifying those products that might solve problems that matter unnecessarily challenging.

Also, according to the Annie. E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center, between 2005 and 2013, the number of American children living in poverty increased by 3%, from ~13.4M to 16.1M. During roughly that same time period, nearly $2B flowed into ed tech ventures and 2014 alone saw over $1B in U.S. ed tech investment. $2B hardly registers within the context of the U.S. Department of Education budget, but it is roughly one-third of Los Angeles Unified’s school budget and nearly one-tenth of New York City’s Department of Education budget. If one of education’s goals is to increase economic opportunity and lift children out of poverty, ed tech dollars have yet to demonstrate a meaningful impact on children’s prospects.

To rise to the Secretary’s challenge, we in the ed tech community must take a few steps backward to clearly define what we mean by education technology itself.

Ed tech’s fundamental responsibility is to re-imagine the very interface to education. That is, technology, intelligently applied, should reveal insight to previously inaccessible, actionable teaching and learning opportunities that impact student outcomes, whether they pertain to the student, the teacher, the parent, the administrator and/or the community.

We need an ed tech definition that has a sense of pedagogical and education product development history. We need an ed tech definition that reflects an understanding of how to identify and assess a potential innovation related to an education problem that matters. With such a definition, we will improve the probability of aligning technology to opportunities to impact stagnant education problems.

My proposed definition pertains to both existing low tech solutions (for example, Audrey Watters has rightly observed that windows in a classroom ought to be considered instructional technology) that are generally not considered to be “education technology” and future ed tech product development that emphasizes demonstrably improved student outcomes ahead of a product’s codebase.

Education technology is a previously unavailable, best possible and proven interface that increases student achievement on one of the nation’s top three education problems or opportunities.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition’s key components.

*”Previously unavailable”: If your problem is not already successfully addressed by a person, product or service, then you may have an ed tech opportunity.

We in the ed tech community can help simply by checking ourselves: there is no need to develop redundant offerings when schools are already distracted by an overabundance of products.

*”Best possible”: Ed tech developers must force themselves to articulate why the use of technology in their product is unquestionably the absolute best possible choice for impacting student outcomes. Unfortunately, we ed tech entrepreneurs have yet to evolve the following to the cliché it should be: Focus needs to be on problems first, solutions second.

*”Proven” – This word echoes Secretary Duncan’s call for ed tech companies to conduct comparison or control group research – a relative rarity today — to justify a product’s adoption when America’s teachers have not a minute to waste in preparing children to participate in tomorrow’s economy.

*”Interface”: Refer to my initial comments above regarding what it means to view ed tech as an interface to accessing and experiencing education in new ways.

Taken together, “previously unavailable”, “best possible”, “proven” and “interface” combine to form a concise, outcomes-oriented focus for ed tech product development that any education technologist can apply to his or her work.

The last phrase in my definition, “that increases student achievement on one of the nation’s top three problems or opportunities” is equally important.

My own biases suggest that the nation’s top three opportunities include:

1. Future-proofing our children by teaching the concrete creative problem-solving skills and mindsets that consistently produce breakthrough organizations, products and services (non-profit or for-profit

2. Developing a national, lifelong learning culture that imbues children with the creative confidence to change the worl

3. Scaling pedagogy and assessment that recognizes that a “one size fits all” approach may not fit anyone

My point, however, is not to establish that my priorities are correct – of course there will be plenty of disagreement. Rather, the larger point is that we in ed tech should unite to prioritize our efforts so as to minimize redundancy and increase investment focus. Intensely disciplined focus on one to three problems at a time will minimize distractions at the school site and incentivize ed tech entrepreneurs to concentrate on deeply understanding critical problems that limit children’s futures and constrain economic growth.

Fortunately, there is a tool that drives such focus: the X Prize’s community platform, HeroX.

HeroX is not the X Prize, though it is related. HeroX crowdfunds prizes for solutions to problems that matter. At the time of this post, searches for “education technology” and “ed tech” do not yield a single relevant result. The ed tech community could lead by example, banding together to establish a disciplined priority list for U.S. students. Each year a new prize (assuming a past year’s prize has been claimed) could arise to drive focus and innovation on problems that truly matter.

A more focused definition of ed tech can provide guidance for entrepreneurs and stakeholders looking to use technology to improve educational outcomes for children. To date, we in ed tech have flooded the market with unproven products that distract schools from otherwise focusing on serving their children. In doing so, we have attracted billions of dollars that have not changed children’s future at scale. We can do better and we should start with an inspiring definition of and laser focus on what it is we are trying to deliver in the first place.

 

23 Comments

Filed under school reform policies, technology use

23 responses to “A Plea to Ed Tech Entrepreneurs (Randy Weiner)

  1. As a 35-year veteran of teaching and R&D for ed tech companies, I applaud Mr. Weiner’s perspective. However, I think there are some additional words of advice for ed tech entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers about what kinds of investments in ed tech are likely to make a real difference. To his criteria, I suggest we add:

    Scale
    If there is to be a substantial and worthwhile improvement in outcomes, the ed tech innovation must make a substantial and worthwhile improvement in some aspect of teaching and learning. That doesn’t just mean “millions of users;” it means “an important part of the curriculum” and “a worthwhile improvement in the teaching, learning, and/or assessment processes.” Stated differently, “moving the needle” on an important problem (such as improving the success rate in Algebra through application of the Common Core State Standards for mathematics) is challenge that is both larger and more complex than building the next game or social media tool and leaving it to teachers to figure out how to integrate the new resource into a complete solution.

    Scaling up also means designing the new ed tech product to be easily adopted and used by “middle adopter” teachers whose priority is to devote their time to their students, not to fiddling with the next new tech tool to see if it can be made to work. My personal motto: if average teachers need days or weeks of professional development, coaching and support to use a product, then the product was designed only for early adopters.

    Cost/Time/Resource savings
    The scarcest and most expensive resource in the classroom is the teacher’s time. One can make a logical argument that innovations such as differentiated instruction typically are impractical because they exceed the availability of this critical resource. We need technologies that improve the cost-efficiency of the teacher (and the school). Unfortunately, most schools have no way of tracking their real costs against service delivery, and thus have no way of making data-driven cost-efficiency tradeoffs. None the less, we are seeing a few examples of ed tech innovations driven by cost-efficiency considerations, such as e-textbooks and online test administration. One could also argue that the “flipped classroom” is an instructional management innovation aimed at improving cost-efficiency (note that most definitions of “flipped classroom” only define how time is used, and say nothing about instructional strategies).

    • larrycuban

      Thanks, Rob, for the comment.

    • Randy Weiner

      Thanks so much for your comments, Rob!

      I agree with your comment regarding scale. For me, that is implicit in the proposed definition and assuming a successful product. That said, I certainly have no problem with the suggestion to be more explicit about the importance of naming scale as a central consideration when thinking about developing impactful ed tech.

      I may be of a somewhat different mind on your second observations regarding cost/time/resource savings. My experience at the public Montessori school I co-founded suggests that highly differentiated instruction is doable in low tech/no tech scenarios (and that as we begin to implement tech intelligently, we will only improve our ability to provide differentiated instruction). We’ve done this on a relative shoestring here in California over the last few years. There’s much more to this than can be explored in a comment, but my sense is that the issue is less about tech in this case and more about considering which pedagogies we’re attempting to use tech to improve and/or scale.

      I’m also always given to a bit of reflection when considering an emphasis on costs first rather than outcomes first. I don’t mean to suggest that you are not considering outcomes, I merely mean to point to the notion that without assessing what outcomes we might expect relative to the costs involved, we may not be viewing the full picture.

      I would be happy to continue to exchange thoughts, so feel free to reach out to me – I very much appreciate your experience and perspectives!

      • Randy,
        I’m glad you found my comments of interest.

        On differentiation, I don’t think we’re disagreeing; the central issue is that there is no common definition of the construct of differentiation.

        I do think we are seeing examples of ed tech uses that are justified solely on the basis of cost/time/resource efficiency, with no clearly defined direct impact on learning outcomes. I think an argument can be made that this is the case for the examples I give.

        I don’t know if my email is visible to you, but I’d be happy to continue the exchange off-list at rfoshay@foshay.org.

      • larrycuban

        Randy will read your follow-up comment, Rob. Thanks for offering him the chance to continue your exchange off-list.

  2. JoeN

    As an educationalist who has worked for and with many ed tech companies, I have waited 15 years to read something like this. Mr Weiner’s definition is outstanding as a working principle.

    However, the way sales and marketing teams work, especially in large companies, completely mitigates against this being a viable strategy. It is far easier and more profitable to re-skin or re-purpose technology from one arena into education, simply via some clever marketing rhetoric. The casino dealing tables sold to UK schools under the BSF programme is a perfect example and the last 15 years has been littered with others. The entire UK school improvement agenda is underpinned by one such “solution.”

    While applauding Mr Weiner’s stance, I would urge him to think equally hard about the impact gurus have in the educational technology world. Their naive zealotry continues to cost schools (and tax payers) billions for minimal, if any, meaningful educational benefits.

    • larrycuban

      Thanks, Joe, for the comment.

    • Randy Weiner

      Thanks so much, Joe, for taking the time to comment!

      I must admit I am not familiar with the UK experiences you reference. If I am understanding you correctly, though, my experiences here in the U.S. suggest that we in the ed tech community — and the larger education community — do have an opportunity to try to push back against the kind of dealings you are referencing. To do it, however, it seems to me that we must first hold ourselves to a higher standard, whether that is the standard I am proposing here or someone else’s!

      I would be interested to hear your perspective on what would be required to change the current state.

      • JoeN

        I wish I had any easy answers but the combination of pressures I described in research I did for a previous employer on this issue (link at the end) show little sign of diminishing. However, since writing that report I’ve definitely seen a rise in more balanced views, but a much higher standard needs to be applied to what is too often passed off as “research” when it is really marketing or vanity publishing. Here in the UK, government have removed the word “transformation” from the documentation that commercial bidders selling technology into schools were previously encouraged to respond to, in favour of the term “educational impact” which is a change I’m pleased to have influenced, but it is only minor.

        One thing I’d definitely like to see is a much more robust level of debate in the conference world on this. Whenever I speak at one I am completely the odd one out, yet people inevitably approach me afterwards eager to agree. There is a real emperor’s-new-clothes syndrome about this that persists, even after almost two decades. The UK calendar is packed with events like this one http://www.educationictconference.co.uk/visiting-information/show-at-a-glance/ exemplifying the unhealthy zealot / business relationship I identified in my research for CfBT. Positive sales messages and zealots’ rhetoric will dominate but there is rarely any serious scholarship at such an event. Oxford University used to run a series called “The Shock of…” which was superb but that came to an end a few years ago and I’ve never found anything to replace it.

        I’d also like to see decision-making individuals in ed tech companies, who in my experience never have any educational experience at all, display at least a willingness to listen. They never do. It wasn’t long ago that I posted in Larry’s blog how I’d attended a bid clinic run by one of the global players in this space for a potentially huge contract. They did not have one, single educationalist in their entire group…world wide.

        http://www.ictliteracy.info/rf.pdf/ICTinSchools.pdf

      • larrycuban

        Thanks for reply to Randy, Joe.

  3. Sandy

    Is it semantics or is there an actual difference between: education technology (edtech), educational technology, instructional technology? The latter two come closest to my description of the kinds of tools used in the classroom that students can use to facilitate learning.

    Education technology describes technology that schools make use of that further the business side of education, i.e., attendance, grades, testing, reporting, communication; in general, the student information system that tracks students during their k-12 years. And all the supposed data that now “drive instruction.”

    “Their [gurus of ed tech] naive zealotry continues to cost schools (and tax payers) billions for minimal, if any, meaningful educational benefits.” I concur. The pervasive belief that technology by itself is transformative makes me feel like I’ve had this conversation before, in say, 1996.
    When resources are ubiquitious, when society settles on real equity for all, perhaps the conversation will change. That may take the arrival of the Vulcans.😉

    • larrycuban

      Thanks for the comment, Sandy.

    • Randy Weiner

      Hi Sandy! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      I appreciate your question around the semantics and the distinction you draw as my definition is meant to encompass the whole of what you describe. I mention this only for clarity’s sake, not to push on your perspective.

      I feel privileged to have the opportunity to serve an extremely diverse public school in Oakland, CA — with an explicit equity focus – and to work in ed tech at the same time. At the school, we evaluate our technology choices based upon how they support our school’s mission and vision, and I find that that frame helps to keep me focused on the big picture of what we might aspire to do in ed tech. If you’re interested in speaking with a small number of Vulcans, let me know!

  4. There is a natural paradox between “best possible” and opposing “one size fits all.” Educational entrepreneurs are often not highly-qualified pedagogically-sound teachers of children and often fail to consider all modalities, and if they do, they rarely (in my experience) articulate that understanding with facility.

    There does come a point when we’re being asinine about our expansive definitions. Audrey and Liz (who Audrey was quoting) are being a bit cartoonish when they say “windows are educational technology.” Windows are not designed to achieve a learning outcome. While we can and ought to make a significant case that instructional environments and the materials within them need to be thoughtfully designed for children and learning, to include that in educational technology is akin to the statement “a pencil is technology.” Yeah. We get it. Everything a kid experiences in learning is in our wheelhouse.

    But let’s not be absurd.

    The definition of “previously unavailable” also presupposes a need for constant reinvention, and while I daresay “forward, ever forward!” is a good pedagogical battlecry, that doesn’t mean a handheld erasable whiteboard might not be a good option for a child, nor does it mean an iPad (which is hardly “previously unavailable” at this point) isn’t a better option in some cases.

    I’ve already lamented “best possible” as impossible to define, as it seems anti-individualized, which is incompatible with my educational philosophy, technological or otherwise.

    Unproved educational technology is not invalid educational technology. I once built a wireless bluetooth-based interactive projector out of a Nintendo Wii remote. Is that invalid? Was 3D printing proved when it was deployed?

    I think there are some significant generalizations made in the presented definition that are troublesome for both innovators and pedagogues alike.

    While I concur that the idea that educational technology itself is transformative, I’d much rather see educational technologists concerning themselves with the police, practice, and pedagogical side of the house, rather than concern themselves with tool definitions. We have consistently failed, as a field, to keep our eye on the ball: individual children and their individualized learning.

    As Sandy intimates, our problem is societal, not semantic.

    • larrycuban

      Thanks, Keith, for taking the time to comment.

    • Randy Weiner

      Hi Keith! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and my apologies for the delayed response.

      There is so much to consider in your post, so I’d like to also extend an offer to continue the conversation in another forum, if you are so inclined. While I may not agree with all of your positions, I really do appreciate what you’ve said and how they’ve pushed me to continue thinking about these topics. My thoughts below are simply meant to continue the discussion and not so much to attempt to rebut any of your positions.

      *I’m not sure I’m yet able to see (though I am continuing to think about it!) the natural paradox of “best possible” and “one size fits all”. I’d also note that in the definition I’ve proposed, those two ideas are not explicitly linked (“one size fits all” comes out of one of the problems I find compelling, but that I’m sure others will not). At the public Montessori school I’ve co-founded, I think we try hard to demonstrate that such a paradox need not exist. For example, one of the Montessori’s strengths is recognizing that children are different, develop at different rates and have different interests at different times. I suppose you and I might be able to argue that in that we chose to create a public Montessori school rather than any other school we might imply that we think this is a “best possible” solution, but once through the doors, different children experience their learning in many ways that are different from their peers. I’m trying to connect “one size fits all” to our pedagogy, but I can’t yet do it (and I am definitely biased as we really do try to provide a model that rejects that notion, in the main).

      *Your comments related to the window and the pencil are very important. The point that I am trying to convey above is that I find that some ed tech entrepreneurs — and I think you’re agreeing with this, though absolutely correct me if I am mistaken — leap to technology-based solutions before fully understanding the problem they wish to solve, thereby perhaps overlooking an existing tool/manipulative/thing that might be a perfectly acceptable solution to that problem. I agree that the window was almost certainly not designed with an educational outcome in mind. But that seems besides the point if a window can be leveraged to achieve educational outcomes, which it certainly can. But even that isn’t really the point — I think the larger point is if, in service of solving an important edu problem that matters we take the time to reflect on whether or not any currently available tools could help us solve that problem, and we find that a window could serve our needs, then we might do well to consider that rather than jump to a more modern technology-based solution.

      *In including “previously unavailable” in my proposed definition, I actually meant to suggest exactly the opposite of what it appears you’ve understood. That is to say, I think we’re in agreement here. I chose that language to prompt ed tech entrepreneurs to check themselves a la the window point above. Constant reinvention hasn’t yet seemed to serve us well, so my goal is to try to help us move to a point where we can better target our innovations and inventions to address problems that matter.

      *I agree that unproven ed tech is not invalid ed tech. My intent was to highlight the need, however, for ed tech to do a better job of understanding whether or not its work can or does have a meaningful impact on important student outcomes. The 3D printer, like the window, was almost certainly not designed with specific student outcomes in mind. And, that does not negate the fact that we don’t have to look far to find many experts who believe mastering 3D printing is critical to creating breakthrough products and services in our children’s lifetimes. I am also comfortable hypothesizing, based upon my own extremely limited observations of instructors attempting to implement 3D printers in both formal and informal learning environments, that the technology is not yet to a point where it is likely to have significant impact on learning outcomes because the “ease-of-use” factor hasn’t been brought down to a sufficiently manageable and scalable level yet (and I understand that you are not so much making a case for 3D printers as an excellent ed tech solution as you are raising questions about the value of including “proven” in the proposed definition). So, for ed tech entrepreneurs or makers enamored with 3D printers — and any other possible solution, for that matter — I simply mean to suggest that it is important that we take the time to assess whether or not our solutions can actually impact student outcomes or not.

      *I VERY much appreciate your call to keep the focus on individual children and their needs. My own professional choices to engage in the education initiatives that I do are driven by exactly that, and every day I aspire to rise to that challenge you’ve laid out. Thank you for that.

      *Lastly, I have a hard time separating semantics from societal issues. My experience here in Oakland is that words matter immensely, and only more so as we talk with and across diversity. That said, I do think that, perhaps like you and like Sandy, that with respect to ed tech, we may be a point where, in order to evolve the conversation in the way I’d hoped to do in some small way by writing the piece, it is time to do away with the term “ed tech” entirely. I suggest this in what I think is alignment with your stated values above: we need to focus on kids. Windows, 3D printers, pencils, iPads, the next great piece of tech — all of them might be powerful tools and solutions to edu problems that matter, but let’s put the focus on solving those problems for children and not get caught up in whether or not something does or does not use technology in accordance with anyone’s definition.

  5. Hello Both,

    Joe Nutt pointed me to your excellent post on the back of a review of a recent UK report that I did at http://edtechnow.net/2015/05/14/after-etag.

    I have had a fair amount of contact with various US communities, particularly through the SCORM community and the IMS GLC, and it strikes me that the UK was a little ahead of the US in its big-spending enthusiasm for ed-tech in K12 (mainly under our Labour government of 1997-2010, while you started looking for the magical technological bullet when Obama came into office). And we did not place so much emphasis as the US on the technology itself, preferring to give teachers generic technologies (iPads, browsers, file-sharing platforms) and let teachers work out for themselves how to use these technologies. So the UK problem was no ed-tech and the US problem is ineffective ed-tech.

    It is interesting that the recent UK advisory group, which was set up by government ministers under the name of the “Education Technology Action Group”, does not mention “education technology” once (beyond the title page), preferring “learning technology”. This is defined as any technology that can be used for learning – i.e. any technology. Which illustrates my point about the UK attitude.

    I applaud Randy for his analysis of the problem – but I do not entirely buy his definition of ed-tech. For various reasons.

    “Proven”. It is part of the cycle of innovation that one cannot prove what has not yet been tried. So one should be prepared to suck it and see – with the proviso that one should expect evidence to come along later. One of the bizarre statements in the UK ETAG report is that “evidence is a problematic concept” – and I agree that this attitude has been characteristic of the zealots, who have sought to sweep under the carpet the startling lack of evidence for impact so far, after huge amounts of money have been spent looking.

    “Previously unavailable”. What if the existing solution simply isn’t very good or is perhaps too expensive? Who is to say that solution x is not legitimate because we already have solution y? In the UK, we have been dogged by bureaucracies which have stifled competition. I am a great believer in competition. And it is not as if we do not know how to educate people very well indeed – it is just that we do not know how to do it at the scale that the modern world requires.

    Similarly with “best possible”. How do we know yet what is the best possible or, indeed, how to measure “best”?

    “Interface”. To my mind, this tends to emphasise the relationship between software and student – the user interface – but much very important technology may need to happen at the back end: e.g. analytics, sequencing or automated feedback algorithms. In my view, a frequent problem with ed-tech is an over-emphasis on the superficial interface and not enough on back-end intelligence.

    I see the same problem as Randy (a lack of any/effective ed-tech) but would not try to put the solution to this problem in the definition. I would define (digital) ed-tech broadly as:

    “Technology designed for use in education”…

    …then set up an effective, competitive market that ensures that teachers can call the shots and pass judgement on whether any particular piece of ed-tech is any good or not. What is designed for education will often sit on top of other more generic technologies in the technology stack.

    One further point about the definition of technology, which I explore in another of my posts, “Its the technology, stupid!” at http://edtechnow.net/2013/11/10/wheel/. Too many people think of technology as the “what”, the stuff that you can pick up at the local store and put in your shopping cart. But my definition of technology is “the replicable means by which we achieve our ends” – in other words, technology is about *process*. The stuff, the tools, are just the visible embodiment of those processes.

    The BBC put on an excellent set of Reith Lectures this year by Dr Atul Gawande about medicine. I would particularly recommend no 2 of 4, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04sv1s5. He argues that medicine has been transfixed by two equally false gods: one is the promise of the professional (in fact, its the people who generally make the mistakes) and the other is the promise of the silver bullet technology, such as vaccines in medicine. The real solution to very complex problems is process. In my view, a similar argument could be applied to teaching, where we have become transfixed by the importance of the teacher (who is undoubtedly a vital part of the mix) and have ignored the importance of teaching process – which is what I would call pedagogy and which can be captured in digital media.

    Following this logic, the underlying (non-digital) ed-tech, the technology that is native to the business of teaching, is pedagogy – and part of our problem is that this is poorly understood. There is a new generation of writers in the UK attacking myths of progressive education, such as Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths about Education (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seven-Myths-About-Education-Christodoulou/dp/0415746825). Part of the problem of designing and selling good digital ed-tech is that we do not have much consensus about what the underlying requirement analysis looks like.

    This also militates against the sort of approach that Randy is urging – (1) sort out the requirement, (2) design the supporting tool. It is true that if you were publishing a book, you would first write it (sort out the conceptual bit) and print it second (the technological bit). But consider, a a more general systems level, the relationship between printing and the Reformation – the technological revolution came first and the conceptual revolution second. That is because the technology provided a medium by which concepts could be expressed, replicated and proved. The technology provided the basis for a conceptual market. That is the relationship that I think we need to aim for between digital ed-tech and underlying pedagogy.

    Apart from anything else, producing reliable RCTs to prove educational effectiveness is difficult under current (non-digital) circumstances. It will only be by producing ed-tech that automatically harvests data about student attainment that we will be able to collect sufficient data to demonstrate what works and what doesn’t. It will help that evidence base when the pedagogical interventions that we are measuring are consistently applied, as will be the case when those pedagogies are encapsulated in digital form, rather than being applied inconsistently by different teachers, each with their preferred style.

    I have long believed that data interoperabiliy is the critical characteristic of ed-tech. Instructional programmes that cannot be reused and integrated with back-end assignment, sequencing and analytics systems are useless in practical terms – and that rules out pretty much the whole of the current market.

    As a final note, I think it is dangerous to say, as Randy does in his reply to Keith, that “it is time to do away with the term “ed tech” entirely…[and] we need to focus on kids”. To me, that’s a bit like saying we should be focusing on arriving at where we want to go and not bother too much with developing new transportation. You cannot do the first without the second – they are not alternatives. My solution is to make sure that technology, which I define as the means to achieve our ends, focuses on doing exactly that, and is not seen as an end in itself.

    Thanks for tolerating this cuckoo of a comment on your blog, Larry!
    Best, Crispin.

  6. Seems to me that the definition Crispin proposes, “the means to [reliably] achieve [specified] educational ends” aptly applies Occam’s razor to Randy’s definition, consistent with the standard technical distinction between Science and Technology. Using this definition, pre-collegiate schooling has damned little Technology, and many influential players have ruled out the possibility/desirability with “one size doesn’t fit all” and “the teacher is the most important variable.”

    What say you, Randy, Larry, and Crowd?

  7. Pingback: Some problems are better than others: Reflections on the English Australia Conference 2015 | pedagogablog

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