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Tired Edtech Trends That Teachers Wish Would Retire: From the Floor of ISTE 2017

By Mary Jo Madda     Jul 4, 2017

Tired Edtech Trends That Teachers Wish Would Retire: From the Floor of ISTE 2017

On the floor of the ISTE conference, it’s easy to meet educators and administrators from all over the country (and the world at large). You can discuss edtech implementation strategies, hear about favorite tools, and get to know those practices that teachers are excited to bring back to their students.

But while EdSurge paced the ISTE floor on June 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas, we decided to ask a slightly different question: What edtech trends, products, and buzzwords do you wish would retire—for good? From “blended learning” to digital worksheets, below are a collection of comments from ten educators about their biggest edtech pet peeves. Check it out on the EdSurge podcast, or scroll below to get right to the good stuff.

I Can’t Stand ‘Personalized Learning’ and ‘PD’

First up, Martin Cisneros (an academic technology specialist in Santa Clara), Jennie Magiera (ISTE keynote and former Chicago administrator), Blanca Herrera (Director of Instructional Technology at Saratoga Union School District), and Francisco Nieto (program manager at the Alameda County Office of Education and Technology) expressed frustrations over particular phrases or buzzwords—especially those that people hide behind.

EdSurge: So, what are you sick of?

Martin Cisneros: It's not necessarily a software, but it's a term of professional development. We need to leave the phrase “professional development” to the side and really start thinking what we want our students to do. We're always going to be lifelong learners, so let's leave the “development” behind because we developed enough—let's start learning.

Jennie Magiera: Blended learning. I feel like everyone talks about blended learning, and no one really knows what it means. I've seen the phrase “blended learning” really used for, in my opinion, evil—which is essentially teacher-proofing the classroom. Like, we're going to create this system where kids are going to sit in their little silos and go through their little teacher playlist and never see another human being all day. They come and look at their arrivals board of "What do I do next?" But, schools should really be teaching kids to be better human beings and to do that they need to interact with their role models, their teachers. I think technology should be humanizing our kids, not dehumanizing them.

I think that sometimes blended learning is used in a really beautiful way… but the phrase has become so muddied that I'd love to just get rid of it, really get rid of that pedagogy and really work towards pedagogies that celebrate teachers, celebrate human interaction and use technology as a vehicle—not a human robot replacement, Skynet type of thing.

Blanca Herrera: Here it is: personalized learning. First of all, I really feel that concept gets misused. I don't think most people understand what it means, and I think we need to focus more on helping students learn in general. Wherever they are, whatever their needs are, whatever their passions or interests—that's what we need to focus on.

I know of educators that are much interested in providing learning opportunities for students to learn about their passions, or about what they're interested in. Then, there are people that might just gravitate to it, to the phrase “personalized learning,” because it is a term that is being used just so much.

Francisco Nieto: I'm tired of hearing the term "lifelong learner". I think everybody is a lifelong learner, like from zero to when you die. I mean, you're learning math and you're learning how to tie your shoe or whatever, right? Maybe you're just learning a new thing at whatever job you happen to be doing, so I think it's just a stupid term to just lay on to people.

Just Because It’s Digital Doesn’t Mean It’s Better

A contingent of educators expressed frustration over a collection of edtech tools that merely turn something fairly problematic, like a worksheet or a constant streams of quizzes, into a digital format (same item, just on a computer). Here’s what Tara Linney (a tech coach over in Singapore with eight years of experience), Michael Cohen (the “tech rabbi”), Angela Estrella (an instructional coach at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford), and Stew Greenberg (director of EdTech at Hebrew Academy for Nassau County).

Tara Linney: The piece of tech is definitely different apps that exist for the sole purpose of replacing a quiz. For example, it's one thing if the app gives data and feedback to the student as well as the teacher, but if it's just a thing of, "Hey, go practice these math facts on this app," and if the app is so mean to the student where they're not getting feedback as to what they got wrong or suggesting different ways to approach the problem solving, then I think it's just a glorified digital spreadsheet—and it's not even really glorified.

Michael Cohen: I would have to say digital worksheets because you just made it digital. There's no engagement. And we don't need to continue with this—please stop. All it does is continue this linear process in which the answer is A, B, or C, and it just requires the quick memorization, which a student will forget in the next 20 minutes.

Angela Estrella: So, it's pretty cool to see how people are thinking about using virtual reality at ISTE, and so that's been really great, but definitely the one thing I’d want to retire is QR codes. I see that it’s fantastic for poster sessions, but people, get rid of the QR codes. If you only have a QR code and you don't have a link or other way to get to your resources, it’s not good.

Stew Greenberg: Definitely digital scantrons. So, we did away with the scantrons a long time ago, and now we're just taking pictures of them, or we're doing the same thing, filling in these little dots. Kids hate it, the teachers hate it. It's just inefficient as it ever was. The only thing that's missing is that $3,000 Scantron machine that keeps breaking. There are hundreds of sources for digital assessment online that uses the same technology that these digital scantron pictures are doing for them. So, there's no reason that you shouldn't be switching over to that now.

I’m So Sick of This Hardware

Hardware is often the most expensive budget item for directors of technology to buy, so what should educators quit spending all of that money on? Educators Nicholas Provenzano (high school English teacher and a director of technology in Michigan) and Adam Bellow (educational technologist and co-founder of BreakoutEDU) are looking forward to saying goodbye to two items, in particular.

Nicholas Provenzano: I'm tired of the dongle. It's just adding more wires, and whenever you can wire something in, that means you limit the freedom and space to move around. Technology needs to advance beyond the dongle.

I think Chromecast is amazing, and it is accessible and affordable, just to send that image up there to the entire class or have students quickly throw images up to the board for the entire class to see without the hassle of going up, plugging something in, getting the wires all done. That's lost instructional time, that's lost learning time. So, getting rid of those wires is a step towards increasing what goes on in the classroom.

Adam Bellow: There are a lot of buzzwords I'd love to leave in the past, but in terms of a product or an idea, I think that the specific clicker systems for student feedback would be a really great thing to leave behind. The reason being is, well, it's a single-use product. It implies no real, valid feedback, it doesn't give constructive ideas or feedback to students learning, and in reality, it doesn't influence much of what the teacher is doing in the front of the room. So, I'd love to see those get boxed up and thrown in the dumpster.

Mary Jo Madda—@MJMadda—is Manager of Audience Development (previously Senior Editor) at EdSurge, as well as a former STEM middle school teacher and administrator. In 2016, Mary Jo was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in education.

Community

Tired Edtech Trends That Teachers Wish Would Retire: From the Floor of ISTE 2017

By Mary Jo Madda     Jul 4, 2017

Tired Edtech Trends That Teachers Wish Would Retire: From the Floor of ISTE 2017

On the floor of the ISTE conference, it’s easy to meet educators and administrators from all over the country (and the world at large). You can discuss edtech implementation strategies, hear about favorite tools, and get to know those practices that teachers are excited to bring back to their students.

But while EdSurge paced the ISTE floor on June 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas, we decided to ask a slightly different question: What edtech trends, products, and buzzwords do you wish would retire—for good? From “blended learning” to digital worksheets, below are a collection of comments from ten educators about their biggest edtech pet peeves. Check it out on the EdSurge podcast, or scroll below to get right to the good stuff.

I Can’t Stand ‘Personalized Learning’ and ‘PD’

First up, Martin Cisneros (an academic technology specialist in Santa Clara), Jennie Magiera (ISTE keynote and former Chicago administrator), Blanca Herrera (Director of Instructional Technology at Saratoga Union School District), and Francisco Nieto (program manager at the Alameda County Office of Education and Technology) expressed frustrations over particular phrases or buzzwords—especially those that people hide behind.

EdSurge: So, what are you sick of?

Martin Cisneros: It's not necessarily a software, but it's a term of professional development. We need to leave the phrase “professional development” to the side and really start thinking what we want our students to do. We're always going to be lifelong learners, so let's leave the “development” behind because we developed enough—let's start learning.

Jennie Magiera: Blended learning. I feel like everyone talks about blended learning, and no one really knows what it means. I've seen the phrase “blended learning” really used for, in my opinion, evil—which is essentially teacher-proofing the classroom. Like, we're going to create this system where kids are going to sit in their little silos and go through their little teacher playlist and never see another human being all day. They come and look at their arrivals board of "What do I do next?" But, schools should really be teaching kids to be better human beings and to do that they need to interact with their role models, their teachers. I think technology should be humanizing our kids, not dehumanizing them.

I think that sometimes blended learning is used in a really beautiful way… but the phrase has become so muddied that I'd love to just get rid of it, really get rid of that pedagogy and really work towards pedagogies that celebrate teachers, celebrate human interaction and use technology as a vehicle—not a human robot replacement, Skynet type of thing.

Blanca Herrera: Here it is: personalized learning. First of all, I really feel that concept gets misused. I don't think most people understand what it means, and I think we need to focus more on helping students learn in general. Wherever they are, whatever their needs are, whatever their passions or interests—that's what we need to focus on.

I know of educators that are much interested in providing learning opportunities for students to learn about their passions, or about what they're interested in. Then, there are people that might just gravitate to it, to the phrase “personalized learning,” because it is a term that is being used just so much.

Francisco Nieto: I'm tired of hearing the term "lifelong learner". I think everybody is a lifelong learner, like from zero to when you die. I mean, you're learning math and you're learning how to tie your shoe or whatever, right? Maybe you're just learning a new thing at whatever job you happen to be doing, so I think it's just a stupid term to just lay on to people.

Just Because It’s Digital Doesn’t Mean It’s Better

A contingent of educators expressed frustration over a collection of edtech tools that merely turn something fairly problematic, like a worksheet or a constant streams of quizzes, into a digital format (same item, just on a computer). Here’s what Tara Linney (a tech coach over in Singapore with eight years of experience), Michael Cohen (the “tech rabbi”), Angela Estrella (an instructional coach at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford), and Stew Greenberg (director of EdTech at Hebrew Academy for Nassau County).

Tara Linney: The piece of tech is definitely different apps that exist for the sole purpose of replacing a quiz. For example, it's one thing if the app gives data and feedback to the student as well as the teacher, but if it's just a thing of, "Hey, go practice these math facts on this app," and if the app is so mean to the student where they're not getting feedback as to what they got wrong or suggesting different ways to approach the problem solving, then I think it's just a glorified digital spreadsheet—and it's not even really glorified.

Michael Cohen: I would have to say digital worksheets because you just made it digital. There's no engagement. And we don't need to continue with this—please stop. All it does is continue this linear process in which the answer is A, B, or C, and it just requires the quick memorization, which a student will forget in the next 20 minutes.

Angela Estrella: So, it's pretty cool to see how people are thinking about using virtual reality at ISTE, and so that's been really great, but definitely the one thing I’d want to retire is QR codes. I see that it’s fantastic for poster sessions, but people, get rid of the QR codes. If you only have a QR code and you don't have a link or other way to get to your resources, it’s not good.

Stew Greenberg: Definitely digital scantrons. So, we did away with the scantrons a long time ago, and now we're just taking pictures of them, or we're doing the same thing, filling in these little dots. Kids hate it, the teachers hate it. It's just inefficient as it ever was. The only thing that's missing is that $3,000 Scantron machine that keeps breaking. There are hundreds of sources for digital assessment online that uses the same technology that these digital scantron pictures are doing for them. So, there's no reason that you shouldn't be switching over to that now.

I’m So Sick of This Hardware

Hardware is often the most expensive budget item for directors of technology to buy, so what should educators quit spending all of that money on? Educators Nicholas Provenzano (high school English teacher and a director of technology in Michigan) and Adam Bellow (educational technologist and co-founder of BreakoutEDU) are looking forward to saying goodbye to two items, in particular.

Nicholas Provenzano: I'm tired of the dongle. It's just adding more wires, and whenever you can wire something in, that means you limit the freedom and space to move around. Technology needs to advance beyond the dongle.

I think Chromecast is amazing, and it is accessible and affordable, just to send that image up there to the entire class or have students quickly throw images up to the board for the entire class to see without the hassle of going up, plugging something in, getting the wires all done. That's lost instructional time, that's lost learning time. So, getting rid of those wires is a step towards increasing what goes on in the classroom.

Adam Bellow: There are a lot of buzzwords I'd love to leave in the past, but in terms of a product or an idea, I think that the specific clicker systems for student feedback would be a really great thing to leave behind. The reason being is, well, it's a single-use product. It implies no real, valid feedback, it doesn't give constructive ideas or feedback to students learning, and in reality, it doesn't influence much of what the teacher is doing in the front of the room. So, I'd love to see those get boxed up and thrown in the dumpster.

Mary Jo Madda—@MJMadda—is Manager of Audience Development (previously Senior Editor) at EdSurge, as well as a former STEM middle school teacher and administrator. In 2016, Mary Jo was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in education.

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