“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.


A screenshot from Final Cut Pro X

I’m workin’ on it!

I’ve been working on a promotional video for my school’s Open House. I know we’re not alone in the importance we place upon Open House days; there’s simply no better tool for getting students and parents interested in your school. So I decided I wanted to really learn Final Cut Pro X, a deceptively complex movie editing program, to more effectively produce these little pieces.

After about two weeks, I would say i’m adequate at using the program. Not great by any stretch, but good enough to string together clips put to music. And it was a tremendous amount of work to get to that point. I was reminded of being sixteen, poring over guitar tablature or a snippet of The Stranger, trying to understand things that eluded me on virtually every level. I remembered writing my thesis, and tethering my iPad to the Smart Board for the first time. In short, it reminded me that I need to remain a learner, above anything else.

The further i get from my own education, the less effective I am in the classroom. Somewhere in the process of “mastering” FCPX, I started empathizing more emphatically with my students struggling with iMovie and even iPhoto. I took note of the video tutorials that worked and lamented the lack of clear written instructions. At times, I felt helpless just as my students do when I rush through something, or assign something for homework without adequate explanation. It happens from time to time, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to make every lesson reach every student. But I can say that the more time I spend acquiring new skills, the more adept I become at helping others do the same.