Where Should Ed Tech Be Headed?
If the field of edtech reminds you just a bit of the wild west, you are not wrong. It’s new, there’s great potential, but there is also a lot of chaos and, right now, nothing is quite as it will be in a decade. So where should edtech be headed? Here are four thoughts:
First, every stakeholder needs to check and double check before they adopt anything—even if it is a free service. Unlike traditional educational publishers—who have layers upon layers of vetting and review—anyone can enter the edtech market and provide a product with no review by teachers, educational psychologists, curriculum specialists, or content matter experts. So no matter how many bells and whistles it has or how cool it is or how much students love using it, successful edtech requires teachers to develop and exercise their content curation skills before they commit.
Second, edtech needs a bit of humility and caution. A recent and thorough review of research on the results of using emerging technology in the classroom had some extremely disappointing results. In some cases, educational technology can hinder student learning. In other cases, the benefits are minimal, especially once the opportunity costs are taken into consideration. So, the field would benefit from remembering that educational technology is not automatically beneficial and will not always improve student learning.
Third, edtech needs to emphasize higher-order thinking skills. Too many tools simply require students to learn and regurgitate fact-based information, perhaps because this kind of knowledge is easier to incorporate into a learning platform. But in a world that emphasizes twenty-first-century learning skills, edtech should find ways to encourage and assess deeper learning and critical thinking skills.
Fourth, edtech needs to tackle the achievement gap. As the Horizons Report indicates, this is a tough challenge to overcome. The gaps between the educational outcomes of various student groups have long been a reality in education, and emerging educational technologies may have much to offer in addressing these gaps. At the same time, if it is not well-implemented, edtech can exacerbate these gaps. The adoption of any emerging technology should always be contingent upon the ability of all students to access it. For example, a “bring your device policy” will require careful modification unless every single student has an adequate device. Similarly, flipping the classroom can produce impressive results—but not when some students lack reliable internet access at home. Teachers and policymakers will have to attend carefully to equity issues as they consider new ed tech.