It isn’t about any one type of technology, but it is about how teaching needs to change in order to involve all students—and not just a few each class time—and outside. Even the best tech educators are missing students they could be involving. Dropping a whole bunch of technology, or the hottest device on the planet into the laps of teachers or kids isn’t necessarily a plan for success either. All that seems fairly obvious, but if it is, why do we still see only the simplest of lesson plans for technology, as well as disjointed, fragmented lessons in most classes today? I think that it is partly due to the same reasons most of us love technology. It creates an easy way to do something, and limits the choices—for us. We like easy, but great lesson plans require more time and a bit of work. And while I love teachable moments, they shouldn’t be considered complete and complex lessons.
I know that (media) onsite school visits are not quite reality either. So maybe what I’m seeing isn’t the very best a teacher or students are doing. And in many cases the real star educators, schools, and districts aren’t getting picked up for education stories or video. That’s difficult for companies and public relations staff to do. There’s often times a separation of education solution provider and education consumer. There’s a lot of reasons for it, some of which involves ethics, and the appearance of influencing purchases. There has to be change. We need to see and hear more from real future-thinking educators and districts, rather than from the same ones, where opening a window and shouting for tech seems to have it fall from the sky. Can you imagine, if the majority of public school educators or administrators asked for a tech solution for a really great learning plan—and it appeared—quickly, as if dropping out of the sky? Unfortunately, that kind of magic rarely occurs outside of a media-anointed few. For most, making change is a bit more difficult, so let’s hear more about that!
I like when company representatives talk about the entirety of classroom technology use, rather than keying in on a specific product, even if it is theirs. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the bottom line for marketing and sales is selling, but understanding the bigger education picture is so important. The best representatives in the education marketplace know this, and in their actions they talk education and education change rather than product specifications.
Believe me, companies know that education consumers will ask for what they want—and companies will gladly sell it to them. We can talk about the science of marketing for days, but when it comes right down to it, the we want—we’ll sell you that approach is the route. For that reason, it is increasingly important to help educators and districts know more. If you only know what you know—it’s not enough. Beyond that, if you continue to do the same thing, and it hasn’t worked, continuing to do it will only end in the same or similar results. Furthermore, if only a very few are doing—or can do something—while that may be interesting, it doesn’t address education, or learning change as a whole—and for most.
That not only goes for educators, administrators and boards of education, but for the marketplace as well. It becomes more imperative to future inform, by that I mean, share what will be doing—rather than what is—and do it for more than the selected few.
I was once told that writing about new education trends and ideas would be over the heads of sales people and partners selling to schools. I was also told that they’d rather hear and read wiring, specs and product reporting. I didn’t argue, just decided that writing about it elsewhere would be my best option. The truth is, that if you’re selling to education, not knowing what’s really happening is a sure-fire way to sell yourself right out of the marketplace. You need to read, talk, and even write education to sell to education today, and that will be as true in the future.
An editor once told me, in a very proud way, that an education background isn’t needed to write and promote education ideas. I was quiet, again, but thought; maybe that’s what’s wrong with so much we read in education journals today. I usually feel confident that when someone with an education background shares, it’s not necessarily more exciting, but most often more real-life education accurate. Someone tweeted something like this recently, “The people we tend to read and listen to in education have never taught students.” To be honest, I’ve heard some really whacky stuff from educators, too, but there is something important, at least to me, regarding knowledge gained by actually teaching or administrating in a school or district. Looking at 25-30 students, each day, is a wonderfully unique experience. Planning for that can be a lot like academically herding cats. When you’ve taught, you think, write and present based on that experience and reality. Having education and education technology common sense seems so much easier when you’ve taught.
Ken Royal is a teacher/education and education technology blogger/reporter, video interviewer, podcaster, education event news commentator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience. His teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, and Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. Read more of Ken’s work at Royal Reports.