One of the biggest myths in EdTech today is that its introduction eradicates all previous negative issues, bad habits, laziness and apathy – in students and in teaching staff. It’s easy to forget that technology is not the solution to success, it is part of the tool kit to drive success forward – and like all good tradesmen know, the tools are only as effective as the person using them.
As outlined in previous articles, there are a multitude of technology options that can be brought in to revitalize courses and re-engage students but it’s worth remembering to use caution when applying new technology. No teacher worth their weight in gold would enter a classroom of twenty to thirty students without a plan, so why would implementing EdTech be any different? Careful, strategic planning and consideration can make a huge difference between using technology for the sake of it and using it to enhance teaching and learning.
So now that the biggest myth has been de-bunked, what other myths are doing the rounds that Higher Education leaders should be aware of today?
1. Cost. Our budgets don’t allow for big spends on technology
Spending portions of the annual budget on EdTech does appear to be on the rise , but it can still seem like a big expense when there are cheaper (even free) alternatives. The fact is that we live in the digital era and content that is available digitally is significantly cheaper than content in hard copy and text book formats. Looking at the bigger picture for institutions – if the cost of procuring technology creates engaged students who successfully complete their studies then the overall cost is negligible.
Costs are also recouped for teaching staff who are able to streamline their lessons, making them more effective. Often EdTech – such as Adaptive Learning – has built-in functions for easing the pressure of paperwork and enables a smoother, faster turnaround time for feedback for students.
Of course, there are many examples of expensive technology going to waste (interactive white boards anyone?). But careful planning from the outset, with analysis of what is required and what can be achieved by introducing EdTech should iron out the creases early on.
2. Nobody knows how to use it
Industry and businesses are constantly looking for new ways to streamline their work practices and outputs, and much of that is done by embracing technology in one way or another. Why should it be any different for educators? American philosopher John Dewey is quoted as saying: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”. A way to learn from his warning is to embrace EdTech tools, but also to pre-empt a lack of faculty’s confidence in using technology from the outset.
Administrators will be met with resistance from some faculty members – so the advice is to include them at the beginning, help them design the strategy, give them the necessary training. This will encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility, and they will soon enough relax into the idea and, in many cases, thrive.
3. Won’t technology replace face-to-face teaching?
This myth is like a bad cold – hard to shake off and takes everyone down with it. And it’s one of the main reasons for faculty resistance in the first place.
It comes back to setting up a proper development plan from the outset. Implementing the correct technology should mean that the EdTech is running parallel to teaching, otherwise what is the point of using it? It’s not there to ‘babysit’ the class; it’s there to enhance learning. The technology is there to help with pedagogical shifts – such as the implementation of flipped classrooms, enabling clear group discussions online, assessing student capabilities and performance in real-time, and easing the process of submitting course work. All of this means that teachers’ time can be spent on developing a deeper conversation with students and creating a more meaningful learning and teaching experience.
4. Students have enough screen time, there’s less distraction by learning the ‘proper way’
The digital age has changed so much in our world and those of us who didn’t have digital distractions growing up can feel that our way was ‘more’. More productive, more substantial, more effective.
Spend time with students outside of the classroom and you’ll be hard pressed to find them away from a screen – phones and tablets are used for taking pictures, chatting to friends, listening to music, watching films, dealing with finances and a lot more besides. Their screens are with them morning, noon and night, which means that it will be right beside them when they’re sitting with text books, folders and notepads, working on ‘traditional’ course work.
The likelihood is that their ‘traditional’ studies will be interrupted several times an hour by interaction with their devices – so why battle with that?
More and more students are developing ways to work around distractions so that they can drill down into activities and focus for shorter bursts of time – a concept known as ‘micro-learning’. By using smart technology you can fit inside these techniques to block out distractions temporarily, and make use of the short, but intense, times for active learning.
5. This is all just a marketing hype
In the last few years, Higher Education has been swamped with buzzwords for new pedagogical approaches supported by technology. As a result, a lot of vendors – established or newly founded – have jumped on the bandwagon and responded with an abundance of new EdTech tools. In such an overhyped field it is understandably hard to keep track of the reason why this movement came along in the first place: to find more effective and enjoyable ways of teaching and learning.
There is a lot of healthy skepticism around EdTech and its impact, but one thing is certain: technology-aided pedagogy is here to stay. As mentioned above, implementing an EdTech project requires careful thought and planning by both administrators and faculty. After defining the project goal and key requirements to achieve it, institutions might look for an EdTech vendor to support them. But finding the right partner can be quite laborious and frustrating. To ease this process, EdSurge just released the Digital Learning Network, a community to share information and best practices, and provide an EdTech product index. This network will have a big impact on streamlining the planning and purchasing process, and create meaningful relationships between faculty, administrators, and entrepreneurs.
Heraclius sagely put it that ‘the only constant is change’, yet knowing that doesn’t make it any less daunting. Embracing technology not only provides new ways to experience education but it also opens up dialogue within teams, faculties, and institutions. Use it as an opportunity to re-invigorate and re-engage and what follows will be rewarding. And any time you read a myth about EdTech, work out what the flip side is. You’ll find that most myths focus on reluctance to change – a sure fire way to be left behind.