Pieces of the #EdTech (or #TechEd) puzzle


We recently signed up to be part of the ISTE community, and as part of our membership, we receive entrsekt, a journal about “Where learning, technology and community meet.”

In the January 2016 issue of entrsekt, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; the combination of article topics shows how leveraging the power of technology in education is truly a complex, multifaceted issue. I wanted to share some highlights from what I read.


The first article I flipped to was about play and creativity. Kevin Carroll is a creative consultant, and his article was truly inspiring. He notes that a lot of students’ creative energy happens outside of the classroom. How can educators tap into and build on this? (How can parents do the same?) Adults need to be asking a lot of questions and listening for those “I wish I could…” insights into a child’s dreams.

Carroll also talks about how administrators need to help foster creativity in their districts, so that teachers’ work can be an expression of their passions and talents. (My thought with this is that in a world where policy and procedure governs a lot of educational administration, there is great risk of losing creative energy. Respect for creativity has to start at the top.)

Carroll also shares thoughts on the classic tension between engaging technology and unplugging. For obvious reasons, he errs on the side of unplugging. He makes such a good point about how adults need to model using technology appropriately (which, I remind myself, is a lot different than nagging my kids about their technology use). For example, how many parents are guilty of the following?

“When a parent picks up a child after school and is on the phone when the child gets into the car rather than greeting and engaging in conversation with their child, the child knows that the call is deemed more important than asking about his or her day.

“We have to understand that technology shouldn’t trump humanity. Adults need to understand if they do some of the simple things like unplugging at specific moments in the day to engage in true, deep, authentic conversation, it can be life altering.”

Earlier in the article, he also says this, which is closely related:

“[T]he art and discipline of being present can inform [our] journeys and influence the ones [we are with]…. [O]ne seemingly innocent encounter can be the most profound when we reflect back. Choose to be present, take in and store content on your own hard drive — your heart, mind and soul.”


It’s easy for adults to think of games as being the enemy in the digital world, because admittedly, many kids do perhaps spend more time than they should with games, sometimes as an escape from real life.

But do we understand why games are so compelling? If we understand the positive elements of games, perhaps we can be more aware of the intrinsic needs the youth in our lives have.

Raphael Raphael (not a misprint) summarizes insights from gaming advocate Jane McGonigal, stating that “the main reason young people like games is because they provide an efficient delivery system of the things all humans want: hard work, which can lead to complete absorption in a task; clear, immediate feedback; meaningful collaboration in activities that encourage community; and epi meaning from a narrative that makes sense of one’s actions.”

Food for thought, no?

Social media as the “new learning tool in classrooms”

What would you say if I said there were kindergartners using Twitter? Perhaps your initial response would be like mine when I first started reading Gail Marshall’s article about social media in the classroom. Even with my passion for technology and my immersion in this world of using technology positively, I still feel the pull of the cultural battle going on around this issue. How much technology is too much? How can it be used at school in a way that enhances rather than distracts?

I think part of the reason there is still a battle is because we’re still early on in the collective process of discovery. There are pockets of expertise, but the passion and comfort with creative uses of technology is anything but universal.

At EPIK (sponsor of DigCitUtah), we believe one of the best ways we’ll collectively find insight about these questions is to share lots of stories, examples and experiences with one another. So I appreciate the opportunity to share how one kindergarten teacher is using Twitter in the classroom.

First of all, the kids themselves are not using Twitter. The teacher, Sharon Davidson, is the driver. But she is helping her students think and talk about how and why engaging others outside of their classroom could be beneficial.

“Just to talk about what we are doing and maybe what we could ask them,” the children replied. This input was the guide for the classroom rules of use: “Anything that we’re tweeting or we’re sharing with the world is always about things we’re learning or observing in our classroom.”

The students have used Twitter to communicate with their parents about what they are doing in class. They have used the tool to reach out to students who are home sick. Davidson also uses opportunities to help children understand contextually-appropriate use of technology. When a child wanted to send a personal message home, Davidson was able to help the child understand that messages to the world are different than messages you would personally give to someone.

Because she is becoming educated about social media herself, and using it with her students, she is able to be an effective mentor with this decision to guide students from a young age. “Here I am as a professional using Twitter to learn a variety of platforms and connect with other people [which is how she got the idea to use Twitter in the classroom]. I am also able to model this kind of etiquette in a safe and responsible way, so it is always about learning.”

Some may argue that kindergarten is too young to start modeling social media use. Surely this kind of topic will be an ever-continuing part of the collective conversation and discovery. But early-education approached like this are gaining momentum. Helen Knauf, Ph.D., a university professor who is training early childhood educators, flew all the way from Germany to observe. She went back to her students with an excitement about the possibilities.

And when you think about how much social media is part of older children’s lives these days, it really does beg the question as to how parents and teachers can help children really understand how to use social media appropriately.

The article by Gail Marshall transitions to talking about how critical social media mentoring is for older students. The message is similar to what we posted recently from Josh Ochs, so I’ll point you to his material and simply reiterate the importance of helping youth understand how their digital footprint can impact future college and job success. The image they create now online can make or break opportunities. This can be a negative, but it can also be a positive, something students can leverage deliberately for good. Timmy Sullivan — a student highlighted in this article — is a great example of a young person using technology to shape his future. You can read more about him on his website or his LinkedIn page.

These three topics are only parts of the puzzle, but I think they show how much we all need to work together to make sure that we’re finding all the good in technology while not letting the cart drive the horse. Humanity in our technology use will be key.

Thanks to ISTE and so many other organizations who are working to bring more ideas, conversations, and stories to light.

Would you like your ideas or stories to be featured here? Please send an email to michelle@epik.org with a draft or proposal. No marketing pieces, please. We are looking for idea-sharing, not product promotion. 

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