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.

 

4 thoughts on “Says who?

  1. Michele, you raise an intriguing point in your blog post. So many of us wanting to investigate “best practice” ed tech go to these conferences, eager to find that “holy grail” that we can share with colleagues and use to improve our own teaching and student outcomes.

    But there is that point, especially at conferences like EduTech, where you feel that all you’re hearing is spruiking for an amazing new product with little robust evidence that it will improve anything.

    Indeed, I am quite concerned about the trend for presenters (I’m looking at you, Google!) to append the title “Evangelist” to their job description for conference programs. It conjures up all sorts of images of cult leaders and Ginsu steak knife/snake oil salesmen on TV…

    I am passionate about embracing our digital world to empower our young people to connect, critically think, and create (ooh, that’s catchy – must be the time away from everything here at the coast that has revitalised my brain!). But I’m not going be successful in doing so, or enthusing my colleagues to do so if it’s being treated as “the latest ed fad”: ie here today, gone tomorrow after someone’s maMichele, you raise an intriguing point in your blog post. So many of us wanting to investigate “best practice” ed tech go to these conferences, eager to find that “holy grail” that we can share with colleagues and use to improve our own teaching and student outcomes.

    But there is that point, especially at conferences like EduTech, where you feel that all you’re hearing is spruiking for an amazing new product with little robust evidence that it will improve anything.

    Indeed, I am quite concerned about the trend for presenters (I’m looking at you, Google!) to append the title “Evangelist” to their job description for conference programs. It conjures up all sorts of images of cult leaders and Ginsu steak knife/snake oil salesmen on TV…

    I am passionate about embracing our digital world to empower our young people to connect, critically think, and create (ooh, that’s catchy – must be the time away from everything here at the coast that has revitalised my brain!). But I’m not going be successful in doing so, or enthusing my colleagues to do so if it’s being treated as “the latest ed fad”: ie here today, gone tomorrow after someone’s made a quick buck.

    I love your concept of asking “says who?”. It’s a great mindset to adopt and one our youth need to be mindful of as well.

  2. Michelle, I too have been having this sense of ‘says who’, ‘who are you to say?’ but I am also cynical from the point that some of the researchers I find myself questioning as their research is a staged observation and recording of what it is they observe in a temporary moment of time, a snapshot. I applaud these teachers who are sharing the tools and resources as at least they are trying to promote a how. How can these digital technologies be incorporated into classrooms? I feel we are at a crossroads – do we follow the researchers who offer no direction as to how? or do we follow the how without much thought to the why?

    We need all three – research, purpose and practice but at the moment it seems that there is very little in the way of all three aspects working together. It’s a tension that needs to be addressed. Perhaps its not just classroom teachers that need to give up their identity as ‘experts’ but also those who claim to be even more of an expert by realising we are all on this journey together. It’s called lifelong learning and I for one am welcoming of the research but at the same time need to share ideas with others on the how can this research help the learning of the students in my care? How is this going to improve learning? What tools do I use to increase the learning achievements in my classroom? Why do I need to know about this? Why do I need the students in my care to know about this?

    It definitely has made for a different level of thinking when you realise that it needs to all work together.

  3. Some great thoughts shared Michele. Love the title too! I’m experiencing a very similar shift in thinking since beginning this course. Definitely viewing everything through a more critical lens, especially since completing the book review. There seems to be an abundance of shared thoughts and theories on what we should be doing without much, if any, evidence to back them up. Blog posts are among my favourite. I really love them as a forum for shared experiences and resources but I am eyeing wearily those that tell us what we should be doing without being able to support why. The good old bandwagons!

    I had a similar thought about the next conference I attend in June, EduTECH. I wonder if my experience will be different to previous years. Will be interesting to compare.

    Must admit we were warned that this might happen during this course! Something tells me others have been here before us! 😉

  4. Same same!!
    My job this year has been to (among a number of other things), to get innovative pedagogy “happening” in my school and help staff make better use of the learning management system we have just utilised. A few weeks ago, i was feeling a little downhearted, like I hadn’t had much traction, but now I’m starting to question a umber of assumptions in my role. Yes, learning needs to be more engaging, and we need to be more innovative and willing to develop more “21st century” learning. However, the other side of the job – to focus on digital technology, I’m now starting to ask a whole lot more questions, and I want to encourage the senior executive and staff too. As you say – “who says?” tech will make learning better? I know teaching students to collaborate more, to be critical and creative thinkers will. teaching them to make their way gainfully through the internet and to be more able to effectively read and critique what they find there.
    But there are no longer any assumptions that doing it digitally will be better.
    Yes there are some wonderful tools out there. Yes, we can help students engage more creatively and even collaboratively. But I’m taking it much slower than I did, and interrogating everything. Teaching and learning innovation is my job title – great learning is my goal – by whatever means, hifi or lofi!

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