Transformation happens at the edges of communities and organizations. It is where teacher voice is realized. However, when it comes to technology and innovation, it seems to be one of the places where teacher voice is most needed. When innovations are brought into the center of an organization by leaders who have vision or who can see clearly the value of those who are willing to take risks and experiment, such as teacherpreneurs, then changes can recreate the taken for granted. It is also how those in the middle, those who are more averse to risk, begin to transform practice because it has been accepted by leaders who might impose some sort of penalty for adopting untested innovations. Innovations that are created on the edges but then centralized lead to substantive changes, otherwise they will continue to be tinkering.
I found this to be true in my own Head Start organization. I was using Microsoft excel to create document templates to manage my classroom. I used excel to analyze my students reading assessments and to group students to differentiate instruction. I was doing this in a cloud based format so that I could access my information at home and work. One of my supervisors realized the potential of cloud based documents and asked me to redesign our lesson plan format. After collaborating to do this I was asked to teach everyone how to use it. Now, 10 years later my template is still used by my program.
As William Gibson said “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” One place where this is especially true is at the edge of where pedagogy and technology overlap. As a recent EdSurge opinion article suggests tech innovations are lacking the expertise and voice of teachers in their development. However, technology is the most fertile ground where startup education companies and entrepreneurs seem to be investing. This could lead to yet another round of misguided educational practices supported by industry instead of pedagogy. The piece also suggests that accomplished teachers are marginalized in the process because when the edtech industry looks for consultants to guide development they turn to less experienced teachers.
Recent history has persistently shown that good intentions do not necessarily lead to useful innovation. A recent edutopia article describes 3 Myths of Edtech. Highlighting innovations such as QR Codes, Interactive Whiteboards, and One-to-One Laptops as failed innovations for student learning. In many cases technology can actually lead to unintended negative consequences such as complicated privacy concerns (See class Dojo), bullying, and obesity.
This is why teachers can and should be moving from the consuming of educational technology to the creating with educational technology. This could be realized at multiple levels from teachers dreaming up new apps, to teachers using technology to tell their stories, to teachers using technology to help students understand the world, and teachers collaborating to create a stronger educational system.
Technology is powerful but it has no moral compass. This is why, no matter how much or how little technology there is (from chalk to interactive whiteboards) there will need to be a teacher there to see that it is used for learning and that students are headed in a meaningful direction.
Image: J.M. Holland #MadewithPaper