Says who?

I attended the Sydney GAFE Summit last week – two days of edtech.

This was the fourth conference I have attended over the past five years, all of them relating to the use of technology in education. I have always come away from these events motivated to try the new ideas I have heard about. The keynote speakers evangelising about the need to change the way we teach in order to ensure 21st century learning is happening in our schools have made so much sense – at the time.

flickr photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle http://flickr.com/photos/omcoc/6751047205 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle http://flickr.com/photos/omcoc/6751047205 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

This year it was a different experience for me. Having just completed my scholarly book review, I  found myself attending sessions and asking the question – says who? – after almost every session. Whilst the presenters were obviously enthusiastic and passionate about the use of digital technology in their classrooms and shared some great ideas, I seemed to have a cynical feeling emerging. Maybe this feeling of cynicism could be interpreted as critical thinking.

I understand that schools do need to change in order to be relevant, but this change must be based on sound, authoritative research. We have a great responsibility to our students (and their parents) to provide the best education possible. I am left wondering if the organisers of these events promote or require reference to academic research when making broad statements about “21st Century” learning. If the workshop is simply designed to teach a new tool or give ideas on their use in the classroom then it should remain just that. When presenters promote the use of a particular technology or pedagogy to improve learning outcomes for students I now need to know what they are basing this on.

I look forward to attending the ACER Research Conference in August and comparing that experience with my recent one. I imagine that when I ask the question, “says who?” I may be able to answer it.