How the technology can lead to the learning in ed-tech.

I’m currently sitting at a roundtable discussion with no participants.

The conference organizers asked me to lead a discussion around the topic of “Developing Student Community with Digital Tools” — but nobody showed up.

The other discussion in my room, however, is packed and stealing the chairs at my table.

Their topic? “iPads in the Classroom.”

You can imagine the logical places this post could go, right? I mean, in addition to some snarky, self-deprecating comments about how I’m at the prom without a date. SLA teachers could go blue in the face trying to convince people that it’s not about the tools, it’s about the learning. Put the education first.

But another interesting moment happened earlier in the day. One that helped broaden my thinking about this.

I was sitting in a session titled “Evolving Models of One-to-one.” Unlike SLA, these were all established schools who transitioned into using devices. After the panelists shared their different situations, a question came up about using machines for testing purposes.

The first panelists briefly mentioned all of the restrictive software they use on their laptops to make testing “secure” for students. But the second panelist replied with something to the effect of: “To be honest, having the tools has pushed us towards more authentic, project-based learning. We don’t test as much as we used to.”

Do I want people to do all that, even if they don’t have the tools? Of course. But if it takes the jolt of having the tools land in their lap — and maybe a little guidance from PD or a mentor — then I really don’t care. That iPad discussion had some basic “tips and tricks” comments. But it also teachers talking passionately about how their classrooms were being transformed.

So if people are thinking about the technology first, but that leads to thinking about the education — then we’re actually all sitting at the same table.

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