Thursday, 26 June 2014

Do Teachers Really Know Best? 2,000 years of Questionable Edu Models

Ineffective EdTech often comes under scrutiny... But what about ineffective education models?

And what if THE most effective EdTech provider was critical of THE most inefficient education model? I think this would cause offense, defensiveness and lead to an "us" and "them" mentality. I've observed some of these interactions previously at education technology events;
I feel that EdSurge is the future of welcome engagement with Educators and EdTech so try to observe how they go about doing things. I mentioned in my last post how and why EdSurge's methods are similar to Apple, Google et al and highlighted why they seem to be an exemplar model of some "Social Selling"

One of my all time faviourite leaders is Ernest Shackleton and one of his top priorities was unity;

"Shackleton's leadership style was formed when working under people like Scott and vowing not to treat men they way he and his crew mates were treated. What he hated most about these jobs were pettiness, irresponsible bosses, insufferable working conditions and a lack of trust and respect among crew members. In the early expeditions which he led he learned that leadership that was rigid, remote, undemocratic, and uncertain didn't work. On the Endurance he focused on the one thing that that gave the best chance at reaching their goals: Unity"

Unity appears to be another important ingredient to EdSurge's success, which is something that few others have managed to achieve. EdSurge is able to bring all stakeholders together and gets them to mix and play nice together!

As I highlight in the posts above there are other events that also bring Educators and EdTech together but, based on the Tweets, they don't appear to manage to get the mix quite right. I've even made attempts at this myself, but didn't get it "quite right" (See Presenting Ideas in Edu)

What's Really Happening in EdTech
Have you ever wondered about what EdSurge's secret ingredient is?

I'd say it's Trust

EdSurge is trusted with all the stakeholders within the EdTech community, which is a rather unique position. Who else has 79 articles specifically on "Criticisms of EdTech" AND have EdTech companies queuing up to attend their Summits?

How have they built up this level of trust?

In my opinion they have achieve this by researching the issues and listening to all sides to weigh up the facts... and then tell it like it is. This provides a balanced and impartial platform to survey the world of EdTech.

When they share information they are able to tell it like it is and the various stakeholders listen... without taking offense, getting defensive or trying to second guess any agendas... They are the Switzerland or UN of EdTech.

EdTech can get it wrong... but so can Educators!
But what if you are in the EdTech camp and want to make educators aware of the challenges that EdTech faces? What if you want to highlight that creating a fantastic experience for your users is tough no matter what sector or organisation you work in!

  • Finding the right product and education model
  • Establishing the right culture 
  • Getting the right level of buy in (and enthusiasm) from staff 
  • Developing the right case studies and, 
  • Rolling out an idea effectively 
Is tough for any organisation... This is just as tough for educators to achieve as it is for EdTech!

Sure, it's not every EdTech product that works in every school and/or for every educator; but neither does every school work for every student. Here's one of my faviourite examples;

"Many schools are designed for extroverts. Introverts need different kinds of instruction from extroverts...too often very little is made available to that learner except constant advice on becoming more social and gregarious. We tend to forget that there is nothing sacrosanct about learning in large group classrooms, and that we organize students this way not because it's the best way to learn but because it's cost-effective... We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids "blossom" into secure happy adults. We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it's not the children who change but their environments... they choose occupations, roles and settings that are concordant with their personalities" Susan Cain, Quiet

I do think that educators can be harsh with EdTech when things go wrong, and as EdSurge's "Criticisms of EdTech" highlights there is plenty that can and does go wrong... but it's also extremely hard to get everything right.

However, highlighting the challenges associated with "getting it right" and the problems that EdTech faces can come across as either a list of excuses and/or a "woe is me" lament. If an EdTech entrepreneur were to try a different tack and counter any argument about the shortcomings of EdTech with "Well, education isn't perfect either" this could lead to defensiveness and division, especially if it's followed by "Education needs to be disrupted."

2,000 years of Questionable Education Models
Being on the EdTech side of the fence, the best thing that I have found when trying to demonstrate to educators how tough EdTech can be is to highlight examples of educators being critical of education models, how some can gather support, get promoted and rolled out...even when they are largely untested and unqualified and end up being disproved, debunked and ridiculed as being ineffective further down the line.

Finding resources like is even better if they were to vindicate the merits of the work of technology companies which could do more for teaching and learning than some of these education models.

I saw a great example of this recently in the form of a really fun and engaging presentation by Donald Clark. The topic was "Three Tech Trends that Could Change Learning Forever" please find an overview, video and slides on the following links. Enjoy!

Presentation Overview
Presentation Slides

In an effort to be as neutral and as balanced as EdSurge... I think I'll chalk this one up as a win for EdTech! Lol

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