10 Key Edtech Concepts You Need to Know if You are An Educator
Of course, education has always depended on and be linked to technology: we first had print books 500 years ago; there was the blackboard with chalk for ages, and, of course, at some point, calculators were all the rage. But the concept of edtech today is more specific and encapsulates the notions of speed, digitalization and exponential changes we are going through in all aspects of life. Besides, in the words of futurist, author and keynote speaker Gerd Leonhard, all these trends are converging in the creation of a mindboggling reality, whose characteristics can best be summarized by the acronym VUCA: Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
Despite all this, many schools and teachers still think of education along the lines of the model put in practice in the XIX century: students come to a full class to be fed generic and mostly useless information through boring lectures followed by some mechanical practice in class or as homework. Obviously, the model is highly inadequate to cope with the challenges of today’s world. We cannot expect a radical divide between what kids do in the classroom and in the outside world. It sometimes feels like they are embarking on a time machine and traveling back to the past when they cross the school gates.
Fortunately, this is changing fast. As a matter of fact, so fast, that sometimes it’s difficult for the busy and average teacher to keep up with the changes or even familiarize themselves with the concepts of the new educational reality.
Thinking of this, I decided to post this humble contribution for teachers who are at the beginning stages of edtech. It’s a short glossary of some of the main ideas and applications being discussed in the field of edtech and the words and phrases used to express them. I hope this will get them started, prompting them to do more research about the following points:
Big Data: refers to massive amounts of information (facts, metrics, visuals) on any topic available on the Internet today. People are not able to handle this load of info unless they are equipped with the right devices and software to help them access, parse, analyze and interpret what they are seeing. Big data can be overwhelming and is only useful if it’s, somehow, turned into knowledge and acted upon.
Blended Learning: is a hybrid methodology that reflects what many teachers and schools are already doing today. Mixing traditional classes, which take place at brick and mortar school, with online instruction students can access from anywhere and at any time through their e-devices outside the school. Both systems of delivery should be combined and coordinated, so students get a superior learning experience: more personalized, more flexible and more compelling.
Learning Managing Systems (LMS): refer to a number of SAAS (Software as Service) - usually accessed through paid subscriptions and delivered over the Internet – which allows teachers to handle the part of the instruction which is taking place away from the school. Thorough these systems or labs, teachers can provide and direct students to specific pieces of content and activities, besides monitoring and giving feedback in a more customized way.
Adaptive Learning: is the part of the LMS which can personalize the instruction being delivered, controlling and fine-tuning the kind of content and activities the student will be offered, based on their learning history. For example: if a student of English as a foreign language is doing well in most verb tenses, except for the present perfect, the software will come up with harder exercises on the tenses she already mastered, but easier or different ones on the present perfect, serving her tailor-made activities to help make better and more effective use of her studying time.
Augmented Reality: it’s basically a computer-generated simulated copy or version of the real universe or sections of it. To convey the experience, audio, video, graphics, GPS technology and some level of interactivity are incorporated. Think of the world of possibilities this opens up to teaching and learning - from allowing the students to participate in historic events, to visit different places on earth without living your coach, to place yourself inside a living cell and observing firsthand how it operates.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses): this a more sophisticated form of distance learning, with content conveyed free of charge through all kinds of media, including reading materials and sets of exercises to countless learners with an Internet connection all over the world. An amazingly affordable and democratic way of disseminating knowledge and training content, unseen at any other moment in history before.
3-D Printing: it’s an additive kind of building technology (as opposed to subtractive, which is the most traditional way of building things). When you subtract to build you are acting like a sculptor, who’s is working on a slab of marble, cutting and scraping pieces away to come up with an art object. When you are dealing with 3-D printing, on the other hand, you have a CAD (computer-aided device) model on your computer or a specially scanned image of an object, with computer instructions for the printer to deposit thin layers of material on top of each other in order to progressively construct something. The prices of 3-D printing machines vary enormously, depending on what they are used for. However, cheaper machines are being built now for domestic use, and it won't be long before they are found everywhere, just like ink-jet or laser printers.
Flipped Classrooms: a good example would be the how some schools in the US have been using the famous KHAN academy (https://www.khanacademy.org). Students are exposed to the theory or a lecture at home (through the use of videos, graphics, or ebooks ) so they have time to digest and reflect on the learning point at their own pace. More mechanical activities could also be assigned as homework, while, in the classroom, most of the time is used for more sophisticated applications or discussion about the material previously learned. Arts students have always had a tradition of using this method in college, where they would do all the necessary reading at home, and, then, come to class for discussions. But the methodology was not as common in sciences and math. Now things are changing. The upside is teachers have a lot more time in class for direct interaction with learners, personalization of content, clarification of individual doubts, and hands-on activities.
One-to-one (1:1): is a methodology used in selected schools which consists in providing every student with a specific electronic device (laptops, tablets, clickers, etc) so they can perform assigned activities in the classroom. The devices belong to the school.
BYOD /BYOT (bring your own device/technology): this would be an alternative to the more expensive one-to one initiatives we discussed before. In this case, students bring their own devices to class to be able to do the exercises proposed by the teachers. The devices might all link to a specific Internet site or LMS, put together by the school, but the device is theirs. Naturally, some students will be able to bring more powerful and sophisticated devices, which potentially creates differences in the learning experience. But a good educator should be able to deal with this, personalizing aspects of the lesson so most students can keep up with content or activities offered. This would not be very different from the classic mixed-ability classes teachers have had to manage since the beginning of times.
I hope these points will encourage you to read further about them. If you have any suggestions you would like to add to this list, please use the comments section of this post below.