Thursday, July 14, 2016

High on EdTech in the Mile High City: Guest Collumn by Mark Gura

For the 3rd year in a row... what a privilege to have edtechdigest publish my "Wrap Up" (State of the EdTech Field as it Revealed Itself at the Annual ISTE Conference) article! :)

High on EdTech in the Mile High City

ISTE 2016 reveals the edtech field to now be significantly maturing, employing sophisticated technologies to provide crowdsourced instructional, assessment, and professional development items for teachers by teachers; rich, easy-to-use content, and dedicated to developing and supporting student creativity. Yeah!

Okay, unpack bag? Check! Wash dirty socks? Check! Sort out all business cards and session handouts? Check! Write my annual piece on what got my heart and mind racing at ISTE? Here we go:
Yes, as its previous incarnations did, ISTE 2016 came through big time on its promise: to deliver more brilliant edtech to understanding-hungry educators packed into a single venue, more next-level thoughts whizzing around one’s head, more wonderful new tech items to ponder and covet, and more reasons and hunches to make an educator feel good about being a teacher at this particular moment in time than any other program or event I can imagine!

It’s not enough just to jump into the digital pool, [solution providers] must be clear about which resources support and establish practices that truly reflect advances in pedagogical concept and theory, and that further offer practical, effective ways to put them into to use with real kids in actual classrooms.

After returning from a previous incarnation of this conference in the not-too-distant past, I wrote about my having collided there with abundant evidence that the field of edtech had split into two realities, two distinct paradigms. One that fully supports the forward thinking, bleeding-edge of progressive teaching and learning as manifested in practices like Project-Based Learning, student online publishing, educational gaming, social media-based class exchanges, and the like. And the other, steeped in and misguidedly dedicated to preserving a 19th-century style, traditional, teacher-centered instruction. In my mind, this variety changes students’ school experience only superficially through the application of a veneer of digitization comprised of things like digital, but traditionally formatted digital textbooks; online summative assessments; and the same old, tired worksheets dressed up with a tad of digital animation.

I think this take on the state-of-the-field of just a year or two ago was pretty much on the money, considering that over the past few months the edtech literature has informed us that the industry dedicated to supporting schools in their digital transformation has reported a savvier customer base; school personnel who are now well aware that it’s not enough just to jump into the digital pool, that they must be clear about which resources support and establish practices that truly reflect advances in pedagogical concept and theory, and that further offer practical, effective ways to put them into to use with real kids in actual classrooms.

I wasn’t at the conference long this year before I began to realize that a still newer reality is now coalescing to redefine the field of Educational Technology, actually the entire field of Education. In the past, edtech was fully embraced primarily by that minority of teachers and schools who confidently understood the shifts in the goals of education that are reflected in progressive frameworks like the ISTE Standards and 21st Century Learning. These were forward thinkers, willing to take on the risks involved in leaving the comfort zone of the known, traditionally-run classrooms model.

At the other end of the spectrum, districts feeling pressure to “integrate technology” were willing to dabble in it, but only so far as they could keep a digitized version of teacher-centered control of traditional curriculum going, and adopting tech resources and practices that would help them accomplish that.

Hitting the Sweet Spot
This year, what I witnessed throughout the conference, is the emergence of a mature sweet spot, an area of informed and sophisticated technology-supported instruction, and importantly, a body of emerging resources to make being part of this phenomenon easy for so many educators out there who currently sense that they need to become part of this transformation. There seems to have evolved a wonderful middle ground comprised of resources and practices that bring the benefits of appropriate personalization, increased student engagement, and progressive pedagogy; things like constructivist-aligned social learning and authentic activities into a comfortably redefined classroom experience.

Read the full article at its source:


Wonderful to have been included in "Cultivating creativity" a powerful article in entrsekt magazine (July 2016)...
Veteran educator and ISTE member Mark Gura of Jupiter, Florida, says "through technology, every classroom can be a creative classroom." Students and teachers can say much more now that there are those wonderful tools to help them say it. It's the democratization of the media, he says - in other words, it's for everyone.

Gura grew up in New York City, where he taught for more than three decades. A prolific
writer, he recently completed his fifth ISTE book, Make, Learn, Succeed: Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School. He also teaches graduate teaching courses online, and as a former teacher of visual arts (among many other subjects) and as a technology director, he says he has been involved in promoting creativity he entire life.

He is convinced that the best place to inspire teachers to be creative is right at the beginning, in our teacher education programs. Classroom teachers need to make developing student creativity a goal.

In his own teaching, he sees the power of firsthand joy. 

"The great thing about this is that once a student has had a few experiences like this, the experience of education itself is transformed, as that old saying goes, 'Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire!' What I want people to know about student creativity is that engaging students in activities to develop their creativity is one predictable way to light that fire."

"I've spent a lifetime in pursuit of that, and I think that in the end, it is probably the very most important thing that we educators can do for our students. By using student creativity as a focus, we have  a very clear path to take toward that goal!"