From TC student Roger Horton, who led and organized the latest policy pop up discussion on Ed Tech:
Close to 25 people took part in a Pop-Up Discussion focused on Education Technology. Students from EPSA, Philosophy of Education, Math/Science/Technology and other departments attended, as did Prof Gary Natriello (Director of EdLab and Gottesman Libraries) and Prof Ellen Meier (Director or the Center for Technology and School Change). At least one alum who now works in the field of ed tech attended and participated.The discussion ranged across several topics related to ed tech. Several strands of the discussion centered on the size and rapid change of the ed tech industry and of technology more broadly. It was noted by several participants that we are still in the relatively early days of the digital technology revolution and it’s not surprising that there is a lack of clarity regarding the appropriate use and impact of technology in education. Large firms like Apple, Google and Amplify are making huge investments in ed tech but there are also many small firms engaged in innovation. It will take time for the best technologies to emerge and prove themselves.A scholar from Australia noted some of the positive impacts of ed tech when it is accompanied with proper planning and engagement by teachers. There was a long debate regarding the proper role of teachers. Do they have the knowledge to choose their own ed tech or do they need support through professional development to learn how to make proper use? Do they have the opportunity to experiment and fail with new technology?Another debate was whether technology can replace teachers for transmitting information in order to allow teachers to focus on the critical review of knowledge and how it is used. Many people did not agree that this role for teachers could be so easily replaced. There was no consensus about the role of virtual reality environments in education.Despite the possibilities of ed tech, there were many concerns expressed. Participants worried about the impact of ed tech on equity and equality in education, as well as on teaching. Could ed tech be just the latest hot trend that encourages schools to buy lots of shiny new and expensive equipment (such as Smart Boards) which do not actually get used much? (Several points of evidence on that point) NY State wants to issue $2 billion in bonds for ed tech, but one participant asked why that money would not be considered for other needs. Another concern was that massive ed tech companies could use their capital and political weight to influence policy decisions and the actual educational use of technology. A big concern is that tech companies do not have a deep enough understanding of teaching and learning to design products with the capabilities needed by teachers.If wealthier districts take the risks with new technology, will they end up farther ahead than poorer districts even though there may be some expensive failures?Overall a great discussion!