Thoughts of EdTech History 2002 – 2011

by Michael MacKay

September 12th, 2020

Weller had some interesting takes on educational technology from the years 2002 to 2011. I completely agree with his argument that much of the issues educators have with the LMS is the institutional “sediment” that accompanies it. In many cases, educators feel forced to use the tool to keep relevant in the current educational landscape. This force participation becomes more absorbing each year, as currently, many of my colleagues are scrambling to develop online videos for students that cannot join their class. To them, this online world is foreign, and being asked to become a producer of content conjures anxiety and fears. 

After years of helping many educators navigate the online world, I have found most people against its adoption fall into two categories:

  • The self-proclaimed “Not Tech People.”
  • he fear of the unknown or undesired.

The “Not Tech People” often have decided that they either have no interest or do not think they have the skills to operate technology. This decision comes typically after a negative experience or merely comparing themselves to other more proficient users. While I could write at length about how this view is a fallacy, I will state that nearly all experienced technology users have spent thousands of hours (or much more) honing their skills. To put it in sports terms, the proficient people have spent a lot more time practicing and engrossing themself in related activities. The fear group often views the horror stories of social media or data breaches and thinks everyone or everything in the online world is out to get them. These fears are often exacerbated by false or misleading tales and constant news reports of foul play. I will admit, I struggle with this group. My only success with individuals who fear the online world is by helping them shift their view and understand that the real world creates the internet world.

Now onto my next point that Weller never directly expressed but eluded to with each new technology. When the field adopts new technology, do we need to have a majority of professionals learn it and incorporate it? To be clear, when I say adopt, I do mean that the technology has become mainstream. I bring this up because, in my current position, I tend to give recommendations to school divisions on the “best” technology to implement for their usage. One issue that always arises is the resistance to change that is shockingly embedded in the education profession. I have always had a stance to “do with you are comfortable with,” but I am beginning to question that stance recently. One reason, as educators, our job is to challenge learners to engage in new content; this often means that we are telling them to engage in what is uncomfortable. I find it hypocritical of me as an educator to say to my students to do the uncomfortable because it is for their good, but in the next breath, tell my colleagues it is okay to stay in their comfort zones. Even when I ignore the mental and social aspects involved in the process, I find myself challenging my educational lethargy view.

Let me explain, if a person, let’s say, Mike, chooses not to engage in new technology or methodologies because it makes them uncomfortable, they are more likely to not engage in further related technologies. Mike will become further and further behind his colleagues in a snowballing type of effect. Even down the line, if Mike decides to engage in the technology, he will most likely be so far behind that even the most fundamental elements will cause him to struggle.

In this scenario, would it not have been better to have Mike learn the technology even though he may not want to (at least in the longitudinal view)? What makes this more interesting, thanks to COVID-19, we have discovered that the educational profession does not live in a vacuum and is required to adapt to the world’s events. Today, nearly all educators find themselves teaching online, using videos, widgets, LMS, video chat, and other online tools to not only supplement their practice but deliver it. Perhaps a lot of anxiety could have been alleviated by requiring professionals to expose themselves to these technologies. In many ways, requiring the adoption of mainstream technology is a mercy.

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

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