eltjam @ IATEFL 2014 on what EdTech means for ELT

We think it it’s decision time for the ELT industry:
ELT is going to become part of EdTech whether we like it or not, and it’s up to us to decide what we do about it.
Are we going to resist EdTech?
Are we going to surrender to it?
Or are we going to engage with it?

In our talk at IATEFL  we looked at why ELT and EdTech aren’t getting along very well, and what we might be able to do about it.

20 thoughts on “eltjam @ IATEFL 2014 on what EdTech means for ELT”

  1. Dear Laurie,

    Wow!

    Actually, I think your tenses need a change. EDtech is and has been a part of ELT for years. Perhaps since the tape, certainly since MP3s, and definitely since CD-roms.

    I can’t view your video here in China (apologies in advance) so, alas, I can’t watch you make your point. But I don’t think Edtech is new, except as a “popular” term.

    But what is relatively new is the application of “distant computer cycles” to the learning process perhaps with the advent of spaced repetition in vocabulary study or perhaps speech recognition technologies.

    To my way of thinking we are in the late early age of Ed-tech when major businesses shift and teachers must adapt. The first wave of dewy-eyed early adopters has come and gone and now we are left with large companies who are going to harness the new(est) technology in earnest while walking away from old modes of co-production.

    This change is not about technology. It is about how old modes of production (and relationships) are shifting in favor of new ones because of economic reasons. And yes, I know this does make me sound like a Marxist. But in truth, this is the only thing publishers can do to avoid extinction by copyleft. They must move into a newly commanding position as their current position is in peril.

    This is not a technology problem; it is an economic one.

    Reply
    • Hi Michael. Of course, you’re right that EdTech is not new in ELT (although the widespread use of the word itself certainly is). One of the distinctions we made in the talk is between EdTech as simply the use of technology in education and EdTech as a ‘movement’ connected with big money and the desire to tear down the ‘factory model’ of education.

      It’s a shame you can’t see the video, especially since we quoted you in the talk! Are there any video sites that are accessible from China?

      Reply
      • I think the idea of EdTech as a movement is a very useful one. Movements are characterised by discourses, and the eltjam database should be very interesting. More anecdotally, I am struck by how many blog posts, conference abstracts and news items relating to EdTech contain a huge number of positive attitude adjectives.

        Reply
  2. Dear Laurie,

    Wow!

    Actually, I think your tenses need a change. EDtech is and has been a part of ELT for years. Perhaps since the tape, certainly since MP3s, and definitely since CD-roms.

    I can’t view your video here in China (apologies in advance) so, alas, I can’t watch you make your point. But I don’t think Edtech is new, except as a “popular” term.

    But what is relatively new is the application of “distant computer cycles” to the learning process perhaps with the advent of spaced repetition in vocabulary study or perhaps speech recognition technologies.

    To my way of thinking we are in the late early age of Ed-tech when major businesses shift and teachers must adapt. The first wave of dewy-eyed early adopters has come and gone and now we are left with large companies who are going to harness the new(est) technology in earnest while walking away from old modes of co-production.

    This change is not about technology. It is about how old modes of production (and relationships) are shifting in favor of new ones because of economic reasons. And yes, I know this does make me sound like a Marxist. But in truth, this is the only thing publishers can do to avoid extinction by copyleft. They must move into a newly commanding position as their current position is in peril.

    This is not a technology problem; it is an economic one.

    Reply
    • Baidu would be your best bet within China. I can probably view it on YOUTUBE with a VPN when I get over to my friend’s house.

      Reply
  3. Hey all,

    Did Scott Thornbury really say that edtech is “devaluing, deskilling and depowering education and should be resisted at all costs” ?

    As a fellow Kiwi – from the land of ‘number 8 wire innovation’ I find that comment rather dee-sturbing.

    I think edtech will democratize education. Online learning for languages is accessing a new market that didn’t previously exist – and now do. How on earth are educators going to support demand for language learning without the internet and all that it encompasses. It is not possible.

    As far as global publishing and all the new apps are concerned – they don’t replace teachers. Students are people, not machines and will always crave human contact. Edtech may accentuate the experience by providing better connectivity, and access to more information, data and analytics but it will not replace teachers.

    @Michael I agree – demand is driven by social change and economics. And edtech is a reaction to growing demand.

    Edtech doesn´t decide the future, it reacts to demand. By lowering the cost of education and making it accessible to everyone, we create more opportunity for more people, and with it a greater empathy and understanding.

    Education is not the exclusive domain of global publishers, academics, or the education ‘hierarchy’ who have dominated the space for over a century. Democratization of education will include new ways of thinking, teaching and learning that satisfies market demand at a much lower cost – in areas like ‘startup school’, or ‘codeschool’ or ‘animation school’ – new methodologies, reacting to the changing job market delivered to students right around the globe.

    Today, learning is for life. It’s a habit which has to be convenient, inexpensive and easy to use. It’s global. It’s multilingual. And job-skills need to be upgraded constantly. Ask the employers.

    That’s how I see it panning out.

    One of my students is a leading researcher and she tells me the job market is changing rapidly, so education will have to follow pace. In her words ‘ many companies will go out of business’ if they do not adapt to change. And, in some ways I think this can be applied to education and the way we teach and learn.

    Looking forward the discussion, and other comments,

    Best,
    Robert

    Reply
    • @ Robert,
      Overall Robert I really like what you have to say. But I do disagree with one thing:

      “Edtech doesn´t decide the future, it reacts to demand.”

      I believe that with each artifact we create we are making one path to the future easier than other paths as we make it much easier to people to follow in our footsteps.

      The creation of technology is in fact the creation of the future. And technology that is created by businesses mostly embody the values of self-interest and profit. Think about how Big Pharma tackles health issues that are related to the capacity to pay and leaves behind problems that people do not have the means to pay for (even through there may be a large demand).

      Is this fair? Is it humane? Is it wise? No, it is simply the logic of the market but by favoring some (with the ability to pay) over others it helps create our future.

      I believe our values largely determine our future. In the absence of other guiding values, we default to the ideas embedded in Capitalism. Moreover, especially in the absence of values other than Capitalism, those that have the money (and power) to produce certain technologies are indeed the architects of the future.

      I prefer to understand (and completely accept) Scott’s Dees within this light.

      Reply
    • Robert asks ‘Did Scott Thornbury really say that edtech is “devaluing, deskilling and depowering education and should be resisted at all costs” ?’

      No, Robert: I said that the *commodification* of language (that some edtech tools seem to be predicated on) is what is devaluing, deskilling etc etc.

      For a fairer and more nuanced take on what my expectations of edtech might be, see this blog post:

      http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/e-is-for-ecoursebook/

      Reply
    • Robert, you referred to a process that’s under way of “lowering the cost of education and making it accessible to everyone.” I would suggest that, while the second part of that is definitely desirable, the first part – ‘lowering the cost’ – has an ideological basis that we should be wary of.

      One of the prominent themes in the discourse of edtech-as-a-movement is the inevitability of reducing expenditure on education globally. It comes up again and again, often accompanied with references to the global financial crisis. If something like that is repeated often enough, the result is what Freeden calls an “impenetrable and non-transparent shield of self-evidence” (quoted by Neil Selwyn, in Distrusting Educational Technology). That shield could also be called ideology and there is a strong ideological, neoliberalist imperative for reducing public expenditure on education and allowing private enterprise to take over.

      But I don’t see it as inevitable that nations should be reducing expenditure on education. I see it as just one possible government response to changing demographic and economic circumstances but, again, that ideological shield of self-evidence masks this. In the case of Australia, where I’m from, our government could reduce funding for education to help address our budget deficit. Or it could raise the GST to generate additional funds for education – if it feels that widening access to high quality education is a high enough priority for the nation. Or it could increase the tax burden on coal-fired electricity generators. And so on and so on.

      To link this discussion to another heated discussion that’s arisen out of the IATEFL conference, the inevitability of reduced expenditure on education was also a theme of Sugata Mitra’s talk. If you assume that, globally, the ability of governments to fund public education is decreasing, then Mitra’s work might seem like a very pragmatic and innovative response. To me, even if I accept that assumption, there’s a sour note of fatalism in what Mitra is saying: we can’t afford to invest in good teachers, so let’s try to get by without them. Shouldn’t we be calling for a change of economic priorities and INCREASED public funding of education?

      This criticism of Mitra and edtech more broadly does not imply that education in its current form cannot be improved. I think the key point, which is easily missed in discussions of edtech, is that we should really be asking what education could be globally if we TRULY made it a priority and funded it properly, as opposed to surrendering it to private enterprise in the midst of neoliberal post-GFC rhetoric. If we really want a more equitable world, where everyone has access to high quality education and the economic opportunities that provides, should our governments and we as citizens not take more responsibility?

      Reply
  4. Fantastic talk, utterly compelling. I watched it here on your blog, not at IATEFL. Thank you for sharing it.

    Nick, and/or Laurie/Tim – please can we Skype (again) sometime? I’m hoping I’m a little mammal.

    David

    Reply
    • Not at all, Nick – the extract you cite from the blog is quoted fairly, and refers to ‘commodification’ specifically, not edtech generally. (I wish I could find it but I can’t remember where it came up).

      Reply
  5. E-Learning is obviously going to help the entire education technology ecosystem. At the end of the day it is helping in increasing productivity where all can do more with less.

    Reply

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