Is there a difference between educational technology and just plain old regular technology? The question used to be whether there’s a point to designing hardware specifically for “educational” use, rather than just using the devices or programs that everyone else uses. However, the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) seems to have settled the question for hardware even as it raised questions of access. Edtech can make educational gaps wider — a recent Pew Research Center poll on smartphone use established that
Today nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information and for staying connected to the world around them — either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report, at the current rate of adoption it will be NINE YEARS before the United States achieves 100% internet penetration. And the question of software that is built for “educational” purposes is still open. Audrey Watters recently wrote a post titled “Ed-Tech’s Inequalities” in which she points out that the end goals of technovangelists must be questioned:
with a renewed effort recently for one-to-one computing at school, which children get this opportunity? Which get to use computers for self-directed learning? Which children experience this epistemological turn? And which children, which students still experience education technology only on the days they’re taking assessments – with the computers “putting them through their paces”?
The question here is about the use to which technology is put — even in a home or school with zippy broadband access and a laptop for every student, how is that technology being used? Is it limited to selfies on Snapchat while streaming Netflix, or is it being used to explore what is known about life, the universe, and everything? Consumption or education?
We here at WorldView Software do not believe that the purpose of edtech is to replace teachers, or to drill students to the exam. The purpose is to enrich the learning experience by making more things possible — not fewer. We’ve designed our programs to do everything a printed textbook and workbook can do (so you can still print stuff out if you need to), but added the flexibility and reach of software. Students will need teachers who can reach them no matter their gender, race, culture, or class. And they should be encouraged to explore the massive amount of content in our programs, and then to follow up on things they find interesting.
After all, the technology is advancing all the time, but humans still learn in the same ways we always have. Humans are still version 1.0.