in Technology

I want educational technology to be boring.

A few weeks ago on an episode of the excellent podcast EdTechWeekly, Jeff Lebow, one of the co-hosts, expressed how he is still a little amazed by wireless networking. It started me thinking about how much technological stuff in my everyday life I take for granted these days – and how that’s a good thing. :-)

Then, in a post which referenced my recent issues with a certain VLE provider, Will Richardson linked to a presentation by Clay Shirky. For those of you who haven’t heard of Shirky, he’s the Next Big Thing™ after Thomas Friedman. He’s written a book called Here Comes Everybody that I feel I should read this year. Within the first couple of minutes of the presentation, Shirky said something that made me lose track of everything which followed:

Clay Shirky on technology

Absolutely! I don’t mean by the title of this post that I want educational technology to be ‘boring’ in the sense of it being tedious. No, I mean ‘boring’ in the sense of it being so commonplace and ubiquitous that it isn’t thought about. I want us to get to a stage with all of this Web 2.0 stuff1 where we’re constantly focused on what we can do with the technology. A bit like wireless networking – at least for most of us… :-p

1 Tom Barrett’s getting there with his pupils and Google Docs

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14 Comments

  1. Doug, I think that anyone reading your blog would say Amen to that. Things do need to move on if education is to remain relevant. We all agree. Clay Shirky and other well-known keynote speakers have very good ideas which are delivered in a deliberately punchy way alongside clever PowerPoint presentations: it hits you and it makes you think. That’s cool. It did that to you and it did that to me.

    I find, however, that often (not always) keynote speakers are less impressive when it comes to suggesting practical ways in which schools can change they way they educate their pupils. Often it’s all big ideas and not so big on the substance.

    Daft people like me, at the chalk face, need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it and, most importantly, it needs to make sense to us on a number of levels. To most of us ideas like the one in your speech-bubble are bright and punchy for a moment and then they pop out of our consciousness, forever in most cases, and we get on with our exam marking with one half of our brains while the other half plans 3 lessons, orders new books, writes some reports and drafts a risk assessment.

    That, in my view, is how change really happens: make it make sense to the teachers. “do as I do” not “do as I say”. What do you think?

    • You’re absolutely right, José – we need people who ‘walk the walk’. That’s why, without naming names, I’ve quietly unsubscribed from a number of blogs of people who, for whatever reason, aren’t in the classroom any more. I forget what it’s like teaching over the summer holidays, so how people who *used* to teach can tell us what to do is beyong me… ;-)

  2. Doug, speaking as a university student with fresh memories of my school and sixth form days I am glad to have found a blog committed to tackling a huge disparity between the sheer potential of web 2.0 for use in education and its frankly lacklustre current application.

    Cynics of Friedman/Shirky will most likely phrase their arguments as ‘realism’ (i.e. the status quo) rather then ‘idealism’ (read ‘progressive’ or ‘new’) . IMO however, education at its best should always be firmly focussed on what is achievable rather then what is already achieved.

    • Tom, you’re absolutely right to say “education at its best should always be firmly focussed on what is achievable rather then what is already achieved.” I sincerely hope you’re considerin entering the teaching profession when you’ve finished uni! :-)

  3. Doug, speaking as a university student with fresh memories of my school and sixth form days I am glad to have found a blog committed to tackling a huge disparity between the sheer potential of web 2.0 for use in education and its frankly lacklustre current application.Cynics of Friedman/Shirky will most likely phrase their arguments as 'realism' (i.e. the status quo) rather then 'idealism' (read 'progressive' or 'new') . IMO however, education at its best should always be firmly focussed on what is achievable rather then what is already achieved.

  4. Doug.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head. However we are a long way away from that happening. I am delivering some CPD to staff this week about the real basics of the internet, and the capacity it has other than as a research tool. Teachers need lots of information, practice and modelling from teachers who have ‘emmersed’ themselves in these new technologies in order for it to become ‘commonplace’. I am hoping the CPD will release the creativity in the staff and mean we have recruited some more converts!!
    I would be interested in your views on the stuff i have put together. http://www.hodges.edublogs.org

  5. Doug.I think you have hit the nail on the head. However we are a long way away from that happening. I am delivering some CPD to staff this week about the real basics of the internet, and the capacity it has other than as a research tool. Teachers need lots of information, practice and modelling from teachers who have 'emmersed' themselves in these new technologies in order for it to become 'commonplace'. I am hoping the CPD will release the creativity in the staff and mean we have recruited some more converts!!I would be interested in your views on the stuff i have put together. <a href="http://www.hodges.edublogs.org” target=”_blank”>www.hodges.edublogs.org

  6. Doug.
    I think you are right. However i feel we are a long way away from this. I am delivering a staff CPD on the basics of the internet and web 2.0 this week. I am amazed at how few teachers have explored the possibilities of the internet other than as a research tool.
    I would be interested in what you think of what i have put together; http://www.hodges.edublogs.org

    • Mark, your blog looks like a good start on getting staff using educational technology – keep up the good work!

      Teacher Training institutions need to start integrating educational technology into their courses. The problem is time: they’ve only got 10 months, a substantial part of which is spent in schools. Perhaps PGCE courses, etc. should be longer?

  7. Doug, I think that anyone reading your blog would say Amen to that. Things do need to move on if education is to remain relevant. We all agree. Clay Shirky and other well-known keynote speakers have very good ideas which are delivered in a deliberately punchy way alongside clever PowerPoint presentations: it hits you and it makes you think. That's cool. It did that to you and it did that to me.I find, however, that often (not always) keynote speakers are less impressive when it comes to suggesting practical ways in which schools can change they way they educate their pupils. Often it's all big ideas and not so big on the substance.Daft people like me, at the chalk face, need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it and, most importantly, it needs to make sense to us on a number of levels. To most of us ideas like the one in your speech-bubble are bright and punchy for a moment and then they pop out of our consciousness, forever in most cases, and we get on with our exam marking with one half of our brains while the other half plans 3 lessons, orders new books, writes some reports and drafts a risk assessment.That, in my view, is how change really happens: make it make sense to the teachers. “do as I do” not “do as I say”. What do you think?

  8. You're absolutely right, José – we need people who 'walk the walk'. That's why, without naming names, I've quietly unsubscribed from a number of blogs of people who, for whatever reason, aren't in the classroom any more. I forget what it's like teaching over the summer holidays, so how people who *used* to teach can tell us what to do is beyong me… ;-)

  9. Tom, you're absolutely right to say "education at its best should always be firmly focussed on what is achievable rather then what is already achieved." I sincerely hope you're considerin entering the teaching profession when you've finished uni! :-)

  10. Doug.I think you are right. However i feel we are a long way away from this. I am delivering a staff CPD on the basics of the internet and web 2.0 this week. I am amazed at how few teachers have explored the possibilities of the internet other than as a research tool.I would be interested in what you think of what i have put together; http://www.hodges.edublogs.org

  11. Mark, your blog looks like a good start on getting staff using educational technology – keep up the good work!Teacher Training institutions need to start integrating educational technology into their courses. The problem is time: they've only got 10 months, a substantial part of which is spent in schools. Perhaps PGCE courses, etc. should be longer?