Back to school…back to blogging. Time to stretch those intellectual muscles again, after a few weeks of atrophy. Given the number of articles to read and information contained therein, I will not dissect, as much as interpret and apply, as they pertain to me.

Article 1 –  “Top 10 K-12 Educational Technology Trends.”

Before going too far, I reflect on what Dr. Thom stressed, and what most researchers would do when reading critically: know the author. That is, who is writing the articles? What is their background? What biases are they bringing to their writing? With that in mind, I look at Steven Lahullier and want to know what the Robert Gordon School in New Jersey is like. Is it affluent? Is it Inner City? Just that information can reveal a lot about his article. As a “trend,” is his list more a reflection of schools with money? That is maybe more important to know than the items on the list.

Article 2 – ISTE “The 9 hottest topics in edtech”

Again, to begin, this article is from the International Society for Technology in Education website. At the very bottom, Julie Randles does write that, “This list of hot edtech topics emerged from a review of thousands of educator-created sessions submitted for the 2018 ISTE Conference & Expo.” While I am consciously aware that being critical does not mean being negative, this organization obviously has a bias towards technology in education. The fact that the “hot edtech topics” came from the organization’s Conference and Expo does not necessarily grant it validity. Reliability, yes.

Having said all that, the topics are not without merit. However, as topics under the heading “edtech,” a full five of the nine are not exactly tech dependent. The topics of “AR, VR, and Mixed Reality,” and “Artificial Intelligence,” and “Digital Citizenship” may have direct connections to technology in education, but even “Computational Thinking” would be on the periphery. The others, like “Global Learning” and “Learning Sciences” are all valuable trends, but they are not dependent on technology to achieve their goals.

Article 3 – “Top 6 Educational Technology Trends Right Now”

By now, in this third article, it has become apparent that even when the writers are not explicitly saying that technology is making education better, the implicit messages are there. In this article, while I agree with the assertion that speech-to-text capabilities can greatly benefit some students and their learning, the writer states at the end of the section that it, “makes note taking and writing even more comfortable and fast-paced.” We are to infer that “comfortable” and “fast-paced” equals better, and that it likely improves student achievement. Certainly, “Cloud Computing” has changed student access to material, and the interactiveness of collaborating on writing a single document, but other problems arise when students and teachers are having to deal with cross-platform differences and incompatibility.

Article 4 – “The Biggest Education Technology Trends for 2019”

The first article to acknowledge that technology in education is there to enhance, not to replace. At the same time, the five trends listed all address a segment of the student population, certainly not the majority. As an example, “Remote Learning” traditionally, and currently would likely only apply to specific cases, like a student who is too incapacitated to come to school, or lives too far away. In both cases, there would be an adult around to be able to supervise and take care of the student. This is not a solution that working parents would agree to – that is, having a child remain home to do his or her schooling independently without supervision. At best, remote learning may work when parents can be present, which then becomes home-schooling.

Article 5 – “Technology in Education 2019: 5 Trends to Watch”

The article begins tepidly, by looking at predictions of the future with some reserve. In quoting Isaac Asimov, Quin Parker makes the point that, “predictions of future technology fail when they suggest that technology replaces, rather than reforms and reorients, human relationships.” This observation may apply to all of the articles that are cited here. For all of the trends and looks into the future of the workforce and needs, these must be tempered with the fact that the future does not always unfold in the way that people predict. Isaac Asimov being a case in point. He did accurately predict some things, but was far off on others. A good recent example would be the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Many people expected in 1969 that 50 years later would see major advancements in space travel and that in 2019 humans would have colonized Mars. New industries would have been created and the jobs of the future would entail much more need for aerospace expertise. In terms of technology in education, this may follow a similar path – that is, the leaps that are expected may be slower and in a different direction than predicted.

Article 6 – “2019 EdTech Trends You Should Be Excited About”

Back to the first observation about who the author is, Brandon Jarman is listed as a freelance education and technology journalist. What is his connection to education? With the benefit of the doubt, I will acknowledge that his points are possible. That is, his sixth trend, “Adaptive Learning” can eventually happen in a regular classroom but this is a long way away from 2019. The use of technology to customize learning is limited in its focus only on the individual student, and not the interactions between students and between student and teacher.

Article 7 – Holland and Holland “Implications of Shifting Technology in Education”

This article is almost a summary of the “trends” articles, in that it examines the various ways that technology affects and enhances education. From looking at Problem-based learning and Inquiry learning, to Globalization and Active hands-on learning, Holland and Holland examine how technology makes those aspects better. At the same time, there is a criticism of post-secondary pedagogy and its rigidity and unchanging approach to education. It is almost a call to action, to challenge both public schools and universities and colleges to move to a more rich, personalized experience for students. The key difficulty in putting secondary and post-secondary students in the same learning category is that post-secondary students have chosen to attend, and thus have motivation to learn. As well, they are older and more mature in their outlook, which affects their educational journey. Students in the public system require a much more nuanced approach, and this cannot be left entirely to them to guide.

Personal reflection

In my high school, which is considered Inner City, students tend not to come from affluent homes. Certainly there are many devices, but a general look at my roughly 90 students this semester would reveal about 15%, or 3 out of 20 who don’t have phones (for a variety of reasons, to be clear). As for the 1:1 ratio, we are nowhere near that, and according to our part-time tech person – who must split his time between a few schools because funding is not there to employ him full time at one school – our school is better than many, and we have about 1:2 ratio. When budget time comes and each department scrambles to get their “needs” and an occasional “want,” technology (arguably a “need”) is bumped up at the expense of some other “need.” Maybe that is new mats for PE, or lab equipment in Science rooms. Whatever the item, someone must give for the school to get, when it comes to technology. We do not begrudge this, because it is “the way of the future.” Climb on board or be left behind. There is a certain amount of “FOMO,” or “Fear Of Missing Out” behind the technology push, and it drives the sales of devices and software so each person can have the “latest.” A device that uses iOS 6 is no longer supported, and cannot access new apps. Windows 7 will no longer be updated. If you own a device that is over five years old, you will be limited in using it because the software will eventually become redundant.

This is all to say that in a ideal world, the trends and technology would generate amazing results. Mine is not an ideal world, but we do the best with what we have.