Reexamining the Trust We Place in Edtech
Most edtech tools are gorgeous: they feature a clean design, intuitive interface, and attractive graphics in a way that puts most textbooks to shame. It’s easy to make the understandable leap from appreciating the appealing presentation to assuming that the content is just as attractive.
But that isn’t always the case. We can think about other problems in the tech sector and realize that, for education leaders, it is long past time to reexamine the trust that we place in edtech.
Recently, Facebook has experienced a public relations disaster because user data was stolen from users and harnessed by political consulting firms to shape opinions before the United States presidential election. The ensuing outrage is a sharp reminder of the importance of taking strong steps to maintain student privacy in the digital edge. Teachers and leaders should not simply trust edtech companies to secure student data—they need to perform their due diligence to ensure that student data is either not collected and not stored, or not used in inappropriate ways.
Further, teachers need to be sure that they are teaching students how to evaluate information before they allow students to use any Internet-based resources for learning projects. A recent—and alarming—study from Stanford University showed that many students completely lack the skills to do something as simple as to distinguish a paid advertisement from the main content of a website. Students need much more training around the topic of source evaluation before they are permitted to engage with the wild world of the Internet. All of the clever edtech tools that students can use to collaborate and present their information are of no use if that information is of poor quality.
Finally, teachers need to realize that the vetting of edtech products may be minimal to nonexistent. Teacher education programs have not emphasized the factors that should be involved in selecting instructional materials since teachers—especially newer ones—usually relied on well-established textbooks that had been through a thorough review process. But with the rise of websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers, even novice teachers now need to be experts in assessing materials before they, for example, purchase a Google Slide deck created by another teacher to use in their classrooms.
In other words, it is long past time to reconsider the trust that most people place in edtech.