Educational Technology

Processing the Product.

This morning I assisted a colleague with wireframing a website for his master’s portfolio. The website, part of a capstone project, brings together four seemingly disparate projects and demonstrates their connections to a set of standards associated with his field of study. While we engaged in the process of sketching out his site, I was struck by just how powerfully websites can showcase learning. As technology has evolved from paper and pencil to PowerPoint, Prezi, and beyond, our ability to display what has been learned has become more and more sophisticated. However, I found myself reflecting on how much better it would be if this “capstone” could showcase not only what had been learned but also how this learning had been achieved.

Historically, education has focused on the end product - it is what is handed in and evaluated. However, technology is now leading us to a place where we can record the process and not only consider the final result but the steps taken to arrive at that result.

The benefits of this advancement became evident to me several days later, when I was in a meeting in which our High School Principal articulated the benefits of GAFE (Google Apps For Education) to some concerned parents and highlighted the revision history feature in Google Docs. She focused on how this simple feature can be used to assist teachers in gaining a deeper understanding of the nature and nuances of student collaboration and participation while also helping to inform evaluation. Here, technology was functioning to both allow students to create a product and to capture the process along the way.

This got me thinking about my own life - specifically in relation to this blog - and how I sometimes struggle to move from concept to post. I wondered whether I could drill down and capture my learning process, and, if so, what insight could I gain? Here is what coming up with the first three paragraphs of this post looks like.

The video above was just over 15 minutes of composition as I started to develop the outline for this post. 

I observed that I edit. A lot. Once I have the ideas out of my head, the post very gradually starts to take shape. This helped me realize that I need to be comfortable with just getting ideas on paper, and I need to be comfortable with the fact that the finished post will take some time. I need to be patient with the process and realize that composition is just that - a process. If I were looking to be more efficient or consistent, observing this process would help me realize I need to set off a block of time to write and edit.

For teachers and students, observing the process could lead to helpful reflection on individual learning styles and how best to maximize learning and productivity.  

Disrupted.

My current post as the Director of Communication and Innovation at the American School of Kuwait has caused me to begin thinking more intentionally about the word 'innovation' and the place it holds in modern day education. I seem to encounter this word daily in my job search, RSS feeds, and in conversation with colleagues. It has become a ubiquitous word that can be thrown anywhere in hopes of reflecting relevance to current culture. But do we really understand its implications and what it means? And moreover, do we really want it?

Innovation is about leveraging thought and putting it into action. It is about viewing the positive and negative from a non-traditional lens and being willing to not only improve upon a rough draft, but upon what might once have been considered ready for submission. Someone who is innovative isn’t only someone who can offer a new solution to an existing problem but someone who can appreciate what is being done well and resist the urge to settle for the status quo. Innovators see opportunity where others see completion. They look for opportunities to help participate in the process. They disrupt. 

It is within this element of disruption where being an innovator can be most challenging. Good innovators not only observe, plan, and act, they reflect, engage, and adjust. They do not disrupt for innovation’s sake. They look to fix what is broken and improve upon what is already working. This desire for continued refinement and fine-tuning is what makes innovators so valuable in education and so necessary in a world where technology has made change a daily part of life.