Can a "gadget guy" also be an "education guy"?

Summary:A university student takes issue with my approach and brings up some great points about educational technology.

I read a very interesting critique of one of my articles the other day. A student at the University of British Columbia reviewed my "Top 10 Ed Tech predictions for 2011" and concluded that the piece, a combination of my interview with Dell's Adam Garry and my own thoughts on where we were headed in the land of Ed Tech, was "uneven", complimenting Garry's focus on education and criticizing my focus on gadgets.

I'll be the first to admit that I love all things hardware. My gadget lust is, well, kind of sad. My wife would absolutely throw me under the bus in a heartbeat and agree with her. I wonder, though, if hardware and educational focuses can't go hand in hand, though? After all, schools don't spend very much, unfortunately, on pedagogy around the use of technology in education. Rather, they spend money on hardware which, in theory, should support the pedagogy.

This isn't meant to be a rebuttal of the student's analysis, by the way. It was actually a very well-written blog and I understand where she's coming from. It's really more of a late-night musing on how my views of education and technology come together. I recently gave a talk at the Bridgewater State University Ed Tech Day conference on ways in which tech and pedagogy have a tendency not to come together. I've embedded both the YouTube video of my talk and the presentation itself:

And the presentation, a few clips of which you saw in the video, if you could stand watching me talk for that long:

Gadgets, my friends, are great. Many of them can be incredibly cool in the classroom. I get emails all the time from people who have come up with a compelling use case for iPads or interactive response systems or their new lab full of Ubuntu desktops. More often, though, I get pitches from companies wanting me to talk about the "next big thing in ed tech." Sometimes, I can immediately envision myself back in the classroom using the device or bit of software. Other times I think, "Really? This is a business model based on the ability to convince administrators that they really need this gadget for their students."

I'm inclined to think that talking about gadgets (and I mean that in the broadest sense) is an opportunity to talk about what we really need and don't need to support teaching. Sometimes it's just plain fun, because gadgets fill our lives and our students and teachers can often derive some value from them if they know they exist and have a chance to think about cool ways to use them in a classroom that's relevant and timely. All of us, though (even the most gadget-inclined), have to know when to say when, and understand that, as the student at UBC pointed out, evaluate "their applicability to educational practice."

Topics: Ubuntu, Dell, Hardware, iPad, Tablets

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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