"Good technology that works"

Ed Begley Jr. is a star, or at least he plays one on TV. Seriously, Mr. Begley was very modest about his acting career. I was curious about his selection as the keynote speaker for FETC, but knowing that the theme of the conference is “Learning to do more with less,” it does make some sense.

Mr. Begley is certainly passionate about his work, his work to help preserve our global communities more so than his acting. The passion seemed to be a little overwhelming at times, though, considering his audience was primarily educators at a technology conference. His was a good presentation, but perhaps not for this audience, at least judging by the stillness of those around me about 15 minutes in. Still, he has been quite successful in his own work and had a couple of lessons to share with the audience, that which resonated most with me being his statement about “good technology that works.”

In an upswing of emotion, Mr. Begley said he is hopeful that we as a global society can address some of the problems he described at the beginning of his presentation. Problems that seemed unsurmountable. However, he shared some success stories with some due, in part, to what he identified as “good technologies that work,” at least in his story about the number of cars in Los Angeles quadrupling over the past 40 years while the amount of smog had decreased by half. Thanks to technology!

What I had hoped, however, was that Mr. Begley would have brought that point home a bit more to his audience of educators. “Come back round the mountain” to meet the needs of his audience, like teachers have to do with their students. You can forgive him, though. He’s energetic, sometimes funny, and certainly enthusiastic about his passions. So, I thought I would take some time to think about how we might take the idea of “good technologies that work” to the classroom or school level and round out his presentation to bring it back home.

Much of the opening session was focused on looking back at the past. FETC is 30 years old. Ed has been doing his conservation work for 40 years. Hindsight was a theme. Based on the changes in educational technology over the past 30 years, it would be impossible for me to guess what the field and capacity will be like in another 30, but by those 30 years, here are some technologies that, if they worked, would be really helpful. I know some of them exist today, but perhaps part of “working” is making sure every teacher and every school has access to these resources. I use the term technology loosely, because I’m not going to hazard a guess as to what actual wires and boxes will be available to make these happen.

Good Education Technologies That (Could) Work

  • Engaging, accurate content that is up-to-date, available 24/7, and presented in a variety of formats to meet the literacy needs and learning styles of every student. (Digital media being adopted by state curriculum adoption committees, as mentioned during the opening session, could be a positive step in that direction.)

  • Robust learning environments that support student inquiry and encourage creativity in all students and are available when students need them. (These may be at homes, schools, libraries, community centers, the mall…wherever kids need them. I’m sure I’ll see some good examples at the conference.)

  • Seamless and transparent data systems that unobtrusively, quickly, and easily capture, store, analyze, and report information to help every child’s support network (including teachers, family members, health care providers, school administrators, and others) know how that student is progressing towards their learning and life goals and what they need to reach them. (These include data collected at the classroom level and beyond and are transferred easily, securely, and instantly so that more time is available for learning.)

  • Energizing and invigorating ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers and other educators that help keep them excited about teaching, working with young people, and their content, and that encourages career-long growth in teaching as a respected and rewarded profession.

  • Learning systems that do more than audit student performance but that help students build lifelong learning plans and monitor their progress toward their own goals and provide flexibility in terms of timing, sequence, and opportunity for achieving those goals.

That’s probably enough. The list could be longer, and I’m sure you have some of your own you could add (please do). But as we were encouraged to look back on education 30 years ago and the environment 40 years ago, I don’t want us to look back in 30 years and not accomplish these things. I feel like they are within our grasp, certainly in 30 years. I’m looking forward to the sessions and vendor displays at FETC to see how far we have progressed on making some of these technologies a reality, because I know we’re on the path towards to success. I just don’t want any rivers to have to catch on fire for us to get there.

About the Author

John is a contributing blogger for T.H.E. Journal Online. You can read more about John and his blog at TeachLearnTech.com.