Friday, February 10, 2012

Swimming in the EdTech Shareflow Stream, End Games Needed

By Mark T. Burke

Staying connected means each day I receive tons of suggestions on new #edtech. Each morning before I really wake up, I spend about an hour swimming through the blue waters of the "shareflow."  Today was different though. While floating along, I hit something.  I was knocked off course and sent to shore.  I scrambled to my feet and turned back to the stream.  I started to shiver out of the water. The streamflow of edtech suggestions, app shout-outs, software recommendations, and gadget promos started moving faster and faster.  As I looked down the stream, I could clearly see it continued on and on and on. While the flow was high, the direction, the destination of the shareflow wasn't clear. In fact, the shareflow seemed to wind endlessly and aimlessly about seeking an unknown destination. If swimming in the shareflow were an Olympic sport, we would never have a gold metalist because the END isn't known. 

My point?  Educational technology and innovation should always be driven by educational outcomes and goals. Every piece of technology we integrate into our classrooms must be integrated with purpose.  What you can DO with a piece of technology is not a justification to integrate it into your classroom.  Real value only comes when we have an End Game in mind, a REAL benefit to students.  End Games in education center around improving specific skills and demonstrate how those skills will help students become valued society members.  Sounds lofty...and it is...and should be.  Trivial goals and integration plans are just that, trivial.  Choosing technology with no End Game is a waste of educational time, energy and money.

The shareflow is a beautiful thing.  It certainly isn't the problem....but it is the viral representation of the challenge we have as connected educators. It is tempting to jump in and swim in the warm waters endlessly, much better than standing on the shoreline shivering. But we must get out once in awhile and bring items from the shareflow into our classrooms, in fact, that is our job. To do so, we must know where we're heading before we actually jump out. When we do, we won't just stand around getting cold.  We'll jump out and head in a direction with confidence.  And hopefully, we've planned to have a dry towel along the way. :-)

The search for all valuable edtech should begin with a few important questions.

Where are my students lacking?  Where do they struggle? What should they be able to do that they can't?
Next, ask WHY and be honest with yourself.  As educators, we often don't like what we come up with when we ask WHY.  One of the most important skills an educator, innovator, entrepreneur, business owner, CEO, parent or anyone can develop is the ability to investigate and answer WHY.  Too often we think, "If I knew, I would know, so then I wouldn't have to ask WHY."  Wrong....not true. Once you've determined WHY students are lacking, why they struggle, why they can't do what they should be able to...then, and only then, plug in a solution.  Until that point, you are guessing, swimming around seeking a solution with no End Game in sight.

How do you state your reasons behind choosing any edtech solution?  How do you remove yourself from the shareflow of information and ideas and develop sustainable, valued plans for integration?  What is your End Game for edtech in your classroom?  

 



 

 

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