The Ed Tech Battle
by Richard White
There’s been a lot going on lately in the world of educational technology.
I mean, okay–there always is–but this past week or so, there have been some really interesting items that have caught my attention. The general theme is simply this:
What we’re trying to do is really difficult.
Getting the hardware / software / lessons / workflow right is surprisingly tricky, and some of our best and brightest are struggling (and often unsuccessfully) to get it right.
My take away is that if these people are having trouble, it’s okay if I’m finding it a little frustrating, too.
In the news:
Kevin Marks talks about trying to manage Amazon textbooks on This Week in Google episode 217, (September 25, 2013)
At 34:20, Kevin starts talking about the challenges of dealing with Amazon.com / Amazon.uk licensing differences for electronic textbooks, with corresponding separate Google accounts to manage those accounts. Even once he gets this solved, he’s still concerned that notes taken in the textbook for one country are stuck in one Amazon cloud, and inaccessible from another.
A math/computer science teacher outlines in gruesome detail his efforts to get a new “recording his class lessons” workflow going after the untimely death of his laptop. Sample entry:
I would love to drop the USB Mic too if I could figure out how to use the Droid’s Mic with this configuration. I would then be truly wireless! This new incarnation of the Kindle has an 8.9″ HD screen, dual WiFi, dual speakers, dual cores as well as a webcam and mic. I think there’s a version of Teamviewer, called Teamviewer for Meetings, that uses VOIP so I wouldn’t need a separate Mic. IDK if it’s free or cheap. I suppose I could go back to using a wireless lapel mic? Maybe I could use a BlueTooth Headset Mic? You see, my lapel mic disappeared after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Math Building at my High School….
I am also experimenting with other Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) apps such as SplashTop. I’m using Splashtop2 for Droid and SplashtopStreamer for Windows.
I’m focusing on Teamviewer and Splashtop as these Desktop streamers are available for both Windows and Linux and the client app is available for Droid. I usually have to use Windows whenever I’m on the road, say at a conference. However, I usually use Linux all day every day at the High School. Further, all my tablets are now Droids!
This article, referred to me by my friend Cindee, relates how one teacher, reflecting on frustrations encountered while teaching Python, eventually developed a technology-based workflow that allows him to give student better access to the materials covered in class. (More relevant to computer science classes than traditional subjects.)
It’s a kerfuffle all the way ’round, and everybody’s got something critical to say about the situation, from the large scale of the roll-out to the money involved, from the choice of device to the sloppy execution. Everybody except perhaps Audrey Watter’s, who says this is what we should be teaching kids to do anyway.
And for me: Google Saves the Day?
My own frustrations are perhaps minor compared with some of these, and I’d like to think they won’t cost 1 billion dollars to solve (the projected cost of LAUSD’s iPad program). One of my recent discoveries: Google Docs and Presentations, used by many teachers and students, don’t have a notifications option that will inform a document’s shared users when that file is edited. Google Spreadsheets offers this option, but Docs and Presentations don’t.
So my genius plan for conducting an ongoing conversation with colleagues via one of those documents hit a bit of a snag, and while there is a workaround–we wouldn’t be education technologists without our workarounds, would we?!–it shows again that trying to find a solution to some of these things is sometimes / often / usually harder than we’d like it to be.
The reality is that I’m grateful for Google’s shared documents, which are increasingly a cornerstone of many teachers’ workflows. It’s good enough that I almost don’t mind them mining my data so that they can more efficiently sell me ads.
Hang in there, people. We’ll get this figured out one of these days soon… :)