“I manage our iPads. I’ve never used an iPad.”

I was fortunate enough to appear on Fraser Spiers’ and Bradley Chamber’s highly informative podcast Out of School a few weeks back, and we had a conversation that left a terrible mark. Over the course of our time together, Fraser told the story below:
“A visitor came to our school this week…I asked her, ‘Where did you study?’, and she named one of the teacher training colleges in Scotland.
[…]
I said, “So how much ed tech training did you get in your four year degree? And she said, “None. None at all.”
The kicker?
“She is in fact being put in charge of her school’s iPad deployment.”
How are we letting this happen?
During a class I took recently, the professor assumed his position at the front of the room, clicked through some slides (which will become ironic in a few sentences), and pontificated. He decided to deliver an ed tech hot take:

“There has literally never been a study that shows technology helps students learn.” People say this and thing like it to me all the time, like they’ve located the secret weakness in all my evil plans.

Let’s parse this.

Firstly, what is “technology”? I’ll ape every terrible essay I’ve ever read and throw out the dictionary definition: “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes.” So every application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes in the education realm has failed, according to this professor. Sounds like a solid premise. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he means Smart Boards, laptops, iPads, doc cameras, etc.
Does he not understand that Smart Boards don’t teach? That iPads can’t design pedagogy? Does he realize how poorly he is articulating his baseless, pointless assertion? How can someone without even a basic understanding of the research make such a claim? Here’s the best part: he’s the one training the next generation of superintendents, principals, etc. He’s also clicking through slides using a portable projector connected to a laptop (running Windows, but it counts) displaying slides designed (sometime in the 90s) in Power Point. So he’s using tools that have not proven to be effective, which seems like a suspicious choice for an education professor.
I wrote a book that covered 50+ studies, the vast majority of which pointed to positive learning outcomes or improved student achievement in 1:1 and 1:2 instructional tech programs. As the old saying goes, you’re entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts.
There are amazing teachers out there who will never pick up an iPad. There are students who will learn better when you lecture. This is proof of diversity, not an argument against technology. The dinosaurs training the next generation of education leaders need to understand this soon, because they are not helping students by preaching a me-me-me-centered theory of pedagogy development. And administrators need to stop thinking the Social Studies teacher who sets up people’s emails is equipped to become a technology director.
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FETC 2013: Driving, Flying, Speaking, Learning

FETC logo

I spoke here. And it was cool.

Pounding rain had already turned the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway into a treacherous, car-packed Slip-n-Slide by the time I got on the road at around 4:30am, and my broken windshield wipers made the drive a surreal, terrifying journey. Six hours later, I was sitting on a beach chair on the upper deck of the Orange County Convention Center’s Building 1 soaking in the sun, talking to like-minded educators, and wishing I could stay in Orlando until February break (at minimum). FETC is like the older, bigger cousin of most other conferences I’ve attended, and it takes place in a city that made Brooklyn in the winter seem that much more grim upon my return. While I was de-boarding, I sent my last tweet about the conference, and it made me realize something pretty remarkable as I pushed my way through LaGuardia Airport: FETC was the most “connected” conference I’ve ever attended. Despite its intimidating size and breadth, Florida’s biggest ed tech event kept its attendees wired and in touch at every turn.

ImageI was lucky enough to speak to a crowded room about a topic near and dear to me: 1:1 mobile device deployments. My particular line of work has led me to a number of really interesting places (coming soon to SXSW Edu 2013!), and I feel like I could easily fill four hours rather than forty minutes (though my audience might strenuously disagree). I discussed cloud classrooms and the role Edmodo has had in our iPad deployment, and I spent nearly an hour after my presentation meeting with members of the audience, answering questions and providing whatever information I could to school leaders interested in ubiquitous classroom computing. I tweeted during my spiel and openly solicited new members of my Edmodo group. “It infuriates my co-workers when I get some crazy new badge, and I’m assuming one is coming if I get enough group members,” I helpfully explained.

Exhibition Hall

“Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Wheeeeeere is my mind? In the water, see it swimming…”

I was able to check out several other presentations during my time there, and anything I missed I was able to catch up on via Twitter. The best quotes from each presentation were being shared by dozens of active tweeters, so I was able to keep up with the action happening around me even as I spoke at my own presentation. The #FETC hashtag was alive with hundreds of attendees sharing thoughts, offering critiques, and participating in backchannels on a whole host of education technology topics. As a presenter, I was also able to share my materials using Edmodo, and that made life easier when members of the audience asked me to email them slides or wanted to take a look at my sources.

Me

“What’s going on? Why is my face warm? What is this ‘breeze’ you speak of?”

The FETC experience was well worth the trip, and I eagerly anticipate attending with no speaking agenda next year. I walked away impressed with everything about the conference, but I think what impressed me most was how much technology has reshaped these events into collaborative, interactive experiences. We’re no longer limited to engaging with what’s in front of us; now, we can communicate with like-minded people without ever being in the same room, and we can share the best of what we experience with thousands of people with a few clicks. While I spoke, I could hear my iPhone alert me to Edmodo notifications, which told me that a few people followed through on my plaintive group joining request. I was connecting in the moment with the people in front me, and there are myriad ways we can and have stayed connected. And I’m willing to bet FETC is one of a coming tidal wave of conferences that will keep its participants engaged long after the last speech is delivered.

My EdmodoCon 2012 presentation

EdmodoCon 2012 presentation

Judging by the response via Twitter, email, and of course Edmodo, I feel like my presentation at EdmodoCon 2012 went over pretty well. I talked fast because I had a lot to say, but ultimately I think it was a good representation of where one-to-one deployments and cloud classrooms are going.

With that said, here it is for your perusal. If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments or via email, twitter, etc.

EdmodoCon 2012 presentation