We Need a Language to Talk About Ed Tech

“Communication is about what they hear, not what you say.”
Dave Fleet


As our understanding of learning and educational theory has grown how we teach and design educational tools have also developed.  Additionally, changes in society and our daily lives have affected how schools’ function.  We are currently in the middle of vast technological changes in society and our daily lives.  Technology has changed or is poised to change most of the aspects of our lives, communication, travel, entertainment, and shopping to name a few.

It is natural that these technological changes will affect education.  Some of the technologies will affect education because they improve the educational experience, other technologies will change education because they are the way we do things. Guessing how technology will influence education is as Arthur C. Clarke said, “Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation.”

With my interest in educational technology, I am often involved in educational technology projects, especially concerning the STEM disciplines.  Quite frequently I read an article or hear a talk about a new piece of technology at a school, described many times, as cutting-edge technology.

I often find myself thinking about the term cutting-edge technology, what does it mean?  According to Techopedia cutting-edge technology means:

“Cutting-edge technology refers to technological devices, techniques or achievements that employ the most current and high-level IT developments; in other words, technology at the frontiers of knowledge. Leading and innovative IT industry organizations are often referred to as “cutting edge.””

One of the things I still constantly hear about is cutting-edge mobile phones and apps. I can hear some of you now “Still?” what do you mean by that?  What I mean is that smartphones are not cutting-edge technology. The first smartphone was IBM’s Simon in 1994; the phone came with many features (what we call apps today). Nokia and then Blackberry followed Simon. Finally, we got the iPhone and Android phones. If smartphones and apps have been in existence for about a quarter century are they cutting-edge?

Often, I think what people mean when they say cutting-edge is something new to their school or classroom. I wonder if I’m correct in this thought? If we are going to deal with educational reform and development it deserves clear and critical thinking; for that, we need to be clear in our language.

For a long time, we’ve known that clear communication in education is essential — the publication of a Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain in 1956 simplified communication in educational research. In time this book would come to be called Bloom’s Taxonomy. Over the last 62 years, this book has influenced education especially in the area of assessment.  What some people no longer remember was that Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed to help educators communicate with greater precision.

“You are reading about an attempt to build a taxonomy of educational objectives. It is intended to provide for the classification of the goals of our educational system. It is expected to be of general help to all teachers, administrators, professional specialists, and research workers who deal with curricular and evaluation problems. It is especially intended to help them discuss these problems with greater precision.” Bloom, B. H. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: David Mackay Co. pg. 1.

With the creation of a uniform taxonomy educational professionals could communicate clearly and precisely with each other.  Using the taxonomy, everyone knew what the word analysis meant.

Today we need a language to talk about technology in education.  A terminology about educational technology would not only assist in the clarity of communication, but with the types of technology, we use.

As an example, the emerging area of wearable technologies like the new generation of augmented reality (AR) glasses, Microsoft HoloLens, Garmin Varia Vision, or Google Glass Enterprise Edition is on the cutting-edge of technology.  The future of this technology along with Virtual Reality (VR) is so open as to be almost indescribable.  The biggest problem with AR and VR technology as well as most cutting-edge technology is the cost.

Should education invest large amounts of resources into cutting-edge technologies or should we wait until these technologies mature?  To discuss whether we should be working with technologies, we need to be able to agree on the type of technologies we are discussing.

In the case of education, we should not use terms like cutting edge, brand new, or emerging when we mean a technology that is new to teaching or worse new to just my school or program.  A new educational innovation could mean a technology that is in use in business or society but has little or no use in education.  A newly adopted technology could mean something that is used elsewhere in education but is new in a specific school or program.

Even if my suggested terminology is not the best (let’s be honest it’s doubtful it would be), I think we are in desperate need of an agreed upon language for the incorporation of technology in education.  As our world becomes more and more technological, we need to have the ability to discuss not only what technology to integrate into teaching but why we are incorporating it. What do you think, have you gotten confused when talking about technologies in education?  Do we need a language for technology? Would a language for educational technology lead to better and more critical discussion of educational technology?  So, when can we get A Taxonomy of educational terms: Technology.


Thanks for Listing to My Musings

The Teaching Cyborg

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