Finding a Place in the Curriculum

A way to adopt emerging tools in the K-12 settings and face the economic implications school districts face is to create innovative classes or spaces where students themselves can ‘create’. According to Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robinson (2018), these spaces can be called affinity spaces which make children feel empowered while bringing in economic benefits to the school itself. It seems startups can fail at any moment, creating problems for teachers that are already reliant on said programs. An example of this is Amazon suddenly shutting down their TenMarks math and writing program. According to Nazerian & Wang (2018) TenMarks was acquired by Amazon in a deal that was greeted by the edtech industry as a sign that major technology giants were serious about expanding into education.” They further inform that “while such pivots and product changes may be business as usual in the software world, such shifts can be highly disruptive to schools and teachers – especially when they have invested time in learning to use the platform.” But how can schools and their bureaucratic systems shift curriculums to use or make their own web 2.0 tools when they still have to cover basic academic courses to be “assessed” equally on a national level? How do you assess student progress in this new field? While these are questions that linger on my mind, the importance of including edtech in curriculums is still relevant. “Integrating social technologies into your teaching has potential to transform your pedagogy form linear transfer of knowledge to interconnected, participatory inquiry (Pacansky, 2012)."

Companies like Verizon are offering grants to “education non-profits, universities, startups and research organizations to come up with ways to use augmented or virtual reality in underserved middle schools (Zimmerman, 2018).” Why not open the $100,000 competition to schools themselves? Who is to say ‘underserved’ middle schools can’t come up with ideas for this creative competition?

Can One Exist without the Other?

Gupta (2014) informs there are three parties in the edtech space: “the entrepreneurs selling products, the schools that buy them, and the investors who support the startups in this space.” Up and coming startups in the edtech world shows innovation, but lack of funding can really affect the progress of their ideas. Startups can only reach so far, until they need an investment from power companies, such as Google or Apple. For example, “education nonprofit Institute of Play got a partnership with Nintendo Switch and will be bringing to 100 classrooms the gaming console with the DIY Labo kits (Garcia, 2018).” Would the nonprofit have been able to reach that far without the help of the gaming giant, Nintendo? This is an example of where the capital is and the control over the edtech devices and programs used in schools. “In 1975, Apple, Inc. began donating Apple 1 model desktop PC’s to schools (WebAnywhere, 2016)” creating a dependence on their company. Dependence means control of that market and profit. It seems like it’s a competition on whether the platform is built on Amazons Kindle, Apples Ipad or Google Chromebook. On top of the device, the software is taken into consideration as well. This is where companies like Microsoft face problems. “In the U.S., nearly 60 percent of all mobile personal computing devices that were shipped to K-12 schools were Chromebooks, while less than 26 percent used Windows (Novet, 2018).” Microsoft is still eager to enter the edtech field and has acquired Flipgrid, making it free of charge to K-12 schools.” Even Adobe has lowered the Creative Cloud price to $5 for K-12 schools, even allowing them access in student homes and made Spark free of charge (Grigonis, 2018). This is a smart move as a company because if students don’t get familiar with a program because it might not be economically accessible per se, how will it succeed in the long run? Innovation will not happen unless more users subscribe, hence more feedback is provided. And innovation lies in startups who dedicate time specifically for those ideas. I think of it like Youtube’s powerful platform. It would be nothing without the creativity of its users, which Youtube realizes they need more of. “Youtube announced it will be investing $20 million in education initiatives, launching their own learning channel with a percentage going as grants to creators to make learning based videos (O’brien, 2018).”

Balancing

Jenkins et al inform that a negative of ed tech in the classroom is that “screen time gets generalized" from educational apps to social media apps. Where is the balance of using screentime at K-12 schools? At what point is it not a distraction and still useful as a classroom tool? “Although Nintendo’s Labo kits get students to build things and use their imagination, a screen is still central to the process and studies show kids who are addicted to their smartphones (screens) tend to be less attentive, get less sleep and are more at risk of depression and suicide (Garcia, 2018).” Another potential downfall is that what if teaching edtech becomes static like teaching other subjects can be? To what point will students be able to have freedom with their time in the programs in school to explore and create? Or will this be another subject that is just structured in time and constraints? I think the example of Nintendo’s Labo kits show a great example of a balance of screentime but also hands on exploration tools. I am not that knowledgable about the Adobe Spark’s program, but for Adobe to extend their student licenses to be able to use their programs at home as well gives teacher less pressure on trying to fit all educational objectives in a short period of class time. Giving access to students to be able to have homework assignments to play around with such programs.

3 common functions of emerging tools:

enhance interaction between you and your students and or between students,
creating online content,
creating a learning activity that includes participatory learning.
(Pacansky-Brock, 2012)

Ferlazzo web tools

Almost all the web tools I uploaded onto our collaborative Google doc were ones I heard from the Davis podcast cited below. While the podcast was recoded back in 2015, it still had essential tools I had never heard of that were interesting to explore. For example, programs like Canva and Curricula add a benefit of time for both teachers and students. Another benefit web tools can add are engagement for different types of personalities. For example, WriteAbout lets students have a post be public to the class or private for just the teacher to read. This is important to note because students have different engagement styles that can affect how motivated they are in such classes. Even though one or two apps Ferlazzo spoke of were no longer updated or had their apps running, I found Ferlazzo's (Davis, 2015) criteria of choosing web tools interesting. Before choosing a web tool for the classroom he makes sure:

  • it is free
  • he can figure it out in less than a minute
  • he can teach his students in less than two minutes
  • has added benefit over pen and paper activities
WORKS CITED
Davis, V. (2015, Mar 17). The best of the best web-based tools for teaching and learning. [Audio podcast]. Every Classroom Matters: Episode 171.
Garcia, A. (2018, Oct 23). Nintendo Switch is heading to school. CNN Business. 
Grigonis, H. (2018, May 3). Adobe drops all-apps creative cloud price to $5 for K-12. Digital Trends.
Gupta, U. (2014, Sep 28). Education Technology: Could It Be Different This Time? EdSurge News.
Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. MIT Press.
Nazerian, T. & Wan, T. (2018, Mar 30).  Amazon will shut down TenMarks and its digital math and writing tools. EdSurge. 
Novet, J. (2018, Jun 18). Microsoft acquires education start-up Flipgrid in latest challenge to Google. CNBC. 
O’Brien, S. (2018, Oct 22). YouTube invests $20 million in educational videos. CNN Business. 
Pacansky-Brock, M. (2012). Best practices for teaching with emerging technologies. Rutledge.
Webanywhere. (2016). EdTech. 
Zimmerman, E. (2018, Sep 11). Verizon opens competition for creative 5G AR/VR and AI uses in K-12. EdTech. 

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