Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Brainstorming an upcoming Talk for an Ed Tech company

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I’ve been invited to give a talk to the employees of an ed tech company. I am a little torn coz they produce mainly stuff for k-12 and I am always skeptical of hyperbole in ed tech, but I have looked at some of what they do and it seems quite good. On one hand i have been asked to make my talk encouraging and inspiring for them… On the other hand, I don’t want to be uncritical. I also have no idea who they are, really, and this makes it difficult. I don’t want to be patronizing and tell them stuff they already know. So i will make this explicit. It is also useful to begin by saying that because they themselves are sometimes technologists who never meet the learners using their products or the teachers or admins who request them.

So yeah. I will start by how difficult it was to prepare the talk. How i looked at their products and was impressed by what they do. How i hope the talk will not end up telling them what they already know – but the only way to do this is to have it be interactive as i go along. That way i will know if i should go faster or slower etc. Thought i might have a twitter stream going, too, if they like 🙂

Ok. So first an intro to myself and what i do in like 1 slide

Then… Something like –

A. even if you are not a teacher you know a LOT about education and learning (prompt them to call out some of what they know)

B. Buuuut there is also a lot that you don’t know… (prompt)

C. What about teachers – what do they know? What do they not know?

D. The delicate balance between listening to what teachers believe they need and recognizing how technology might offer more than what they imagine. Without arrogantly assuming you know better, because you don’t. And without making assumptions about what the teachers know

E. Also realizing the psychology of a teacher – what they are comfortable with, how they perceive themselves -and how they perceive the role of tech for their teaching: threat? Logistical support? Control? Time saver? Empowering students? Supporting sharing with colleagues?

So my key talking points about how technology and the abundance of the internet are changing the teaching/learning landscape (based loosely around products of this company to pick out some of the good features and extend them) are:

1. Learning is social and connected. Does the learning technology allow for more social interaction than is currently possible in our classrooms? Or does the learning technology allow us to have more space and time for social connection in the classroom? Even better, does the technology help us integrate our social connections inside and outside the classroom? Communication is important between learners, between learners and teachers, but also with parents and the community beyond the classroom. (one of their products creates space for this with a facebook like interface).

2. Learning is about creating, constructing, remixing. Does the learning technology treat the learner as a consumer to follow a pre-set path, or does the learning technology allow the learner to remix existing material or to create their own? Two good learning tools to look at are Play-Doh and Legos. Legos sometimes come with a pre-defined look you are supposed to build, but you still have freedom to create something different. Play-doh is so versatile that you can create almost anything with it. How can we design ed tech so that the child programs the computer rather than the computer programming the child (ideas of Papert – maybe get a quote?)

3. Learning happens when we take risks and fail. The wonderful thing about play-doh and legos is not only that you can create anything – but that you can fail comfortably and try again. A good learning environment allows us to take risks in a safe space so we can learn from our failures. (they have a virtual lab that works like a Wii so it seems really cool – but how can they give learners even more choices? More room to make mistakes?)

4. Learning needs to be accessible to different people. (Refer to Universal Design for Learning and gender – and accessibility issues in design of learning materials)

5. Learning should encourage values we wish to promote like sharing. We live in an age of knowledge abundance. Leveraging the power of the internet and open sharing in order to advance everyone’s knowledge is important. For younger children where open sharing is risky, smaller scale sharing within a school-based technology tool, and sharing between teachers in the same school or across schools can make a difference. (they have a tool for teachers to find resources made by each other or the web – ask if it allows them to share across schools??)

6. Learning is about human beings. No educational technology should attempt to remove the need for human interaction; instead, it can be used to enhance it. Even when there is no direct human interaction through the tool, the material learners interact with are produced by people, programmed by people, and builds on the ideas and work of other people. 

Ask audience: why do you do what you do? What inspires you to keep going? What worries you about what you do?

(not sure yet how to close it off.. But key theme i want to keep is the importance of recognizing what we don’t know and being open to sharing what we do know…or something)

Feedback welcome!

One Comment

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