The BETT (British Educational Training and Technology) 2017 conference is running this weekend and reminded me of my experience there in 2016.
It featured a massive show floor of edtech products and a full schedule of talks and demonstrations which must make for an overwhelming experience for teachers and principals investigating current trends and looking to invest. My professional background in educational publishing has meant that I have seen tumultuous changes in the way that educational content is designed and delivered over the last decade. A flood of edtech products has crashed against the shores of traditional classrooms leaving mixed results.
Professional contacts, and interviews with educational technologists as part of my studies, have highlighted the gulf between what technology can do and what over-worked and under-resourced teachers can manage inside the strict confines of state curricula and examinations. There is quite a lot of skepticism from teachers at the coal face trying to understand and implement new technologies when the benefits are not always clearly demonstrated.
It was surprising then, in this atmosphere of digital advocacy, to listen to a talk from educational technologists, entitled The Great Disruption Debate criticising edtech for failing to innovate and merely reinforcing existing classroom dynamics. I’d highly recommend watching the below video for a pleasantly combative and practical discussion of the pitfalls of just moving past ‘substitution’ to ‘augmentation’ along the scale of Dr Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.
The disruptive learning structures discussed were fascinating to listen to, even if it often felt like ‘blue sky’ thinking compared to current anecdotal Irish teaching experiences. It appears as though edtech will need to help facilitate the complete remodeling of current teaching methods before achieving its full potential. It’s difficult to imagine how such individualised learning and agency can fit inside an educational system that still terminates in a rigid and highly competitive state exam. I will have to pore over the 2017 schedule to see how the debate has progressed!