How Edtech Tools Evolve…Ch. 3

With EdSurge’s third installment of State of Edtech: How Edtech Tools Evolve, they share:

  1. The history, research and ongoing debates around how best to teach and assess math and reading. We look at how these conversations have shaped the creation of edtech tools;

  2. A framework for understanding how technology can impact teaching and learning, along with the pros and cons behind using the framework;

  3. A dozen stories of educators across the country who have witnessed changes in technology, and have adopted tools to refine and redefine their instructional practices.

In the next chapter of our yearlong research on the state of education technology, EdSurge, with the support of AT&T Aspire, has explored how popular instructional tools have changed over time, and how this evolution has influenced teaching and learning. Underlying our story is a cautious optimism that education technology will finally deliver on its potential. Bold visions about how technology can transform classrooms are by no means a recent phenomenon. Both Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs asserted, a century apart, that physical books will be obsolete in schools—a prediction that has proven wishful. Part of the problem was that technology was difficult to use and often did not work as intended. Today, after decades of fits and starts, education technology has matured. Better bandwidth, cloud computing power, data collection and distribution channels such as app stores, among other infrastructural improvements, have helped developers make devices and software more accessible, affordable and, most importantly, easier for students and teachers to use. In order to get powerful results, the tools must be aligned with practice in purposeful ways. Often times, the most widely used tools are ones that are flexible, content­ agnostic and can be adapted for a wide range of teaching needs. In our analysis on the evolution and use of edtech tools, we dive into: ● the history, research and ongoing debates around how best to teach and assess math and reading, and how these conversations have shaped the creation of edtech tools. ● the pros and cons of a popular framework that helps us understand how technology can impact teaching and learning ● a dozen stories of educators across the country who have adopted tools to refine and redefine their instructional practices Used intentionally, technology can help teachers realize ideas put forth decades ago by education researchers. For example, data can give teachers better insights into what each learner needs and help them adjust classroom strategies. Games and online collaborative projects offer students more engaging ways to appreciate and learn abstract subjects. Not every practice needs to be reinvented. Just like paper­ and ­pencil, many traditional habits around teaching, discussion and homework continue to work well for many teachers. But whatever their comfort or experience, educators increasingly have access to a powerful set of new technologies to help them refine—or redefine—the way that they teach students.

Read more here:­reports/state­of­edtech­2016/builders

In our analysis of education technology products, we explore the history, research and debates behind how to best teach and assess math and reading knowledge. This chapter explores: ● apps and games that represent numbers, arithmetic and other mathematical ideas in visual ways, allowing students to “see” math beyond a collection of numbers and symbols; ● algorithms that attempt to quantify text complexity to help students find the “right” difficulty of reading materials; ● alternative methods of testing students in more fun, engaging and low­ stakes ways, and using this data to help teacher hone their craft. Yet no matter what features are built into a product, the technology is unlikely to impact learning if it’s misapplied. To understand how today’s tools can be used, we borrow the SAMR framework, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, to understand the different ways that technology can support changes in instructional practices and learning outcomes. To bring the framework to life, we also profiled a dozen educators from across the country on how they have used technology to support instructional needs and transform teaching practices. What these stories reveal is that changing ingrained habits and codified practices requires patience. Some teachers use technology to do the same tasks as before, albeit more efficiently. Others are creating entirely new sets of activities that transform learning from a solo to social experience. Whatever their comfort or experience, teachers increasingly have access to a powerful set of new technologies to help them refine—or redefine—the way that they run the classroom.

Read more here:­reports/state­of­edtech­2016

What are today’s tools capable of? Are these new features and capabilities impacting teaching and learning? How are these tools used by teachers to resolve some of the classroom’s gnarliest problems?



John Oliver on Brexit Vote: ‘There Are No F—— Do Overs’


A warning for Americans thinking of voting for Trump.

A week after dedicating the bulk of an episode of HBO’sLast Week Tonight to laying out the potential pitfalls of a U.K. decision to leave the European Union, British comedian John Oliver returned on Sunday night with a condemnation of the Brexit referendum results.

Discussing the seismic aftereffects of the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU, the British-born Oliver kicked off Sunday’s show by joking that after the events of the past week the name, the United Kingdom “is beginning to sound a bit sarcastic.” He went on: “Because the U.K. this week voted to leave the European Union, a decision that has shaken the world. And not in a, ‘Muhammad Ali beating Sonny Liston’ kind of way. More in a, ‘Those IKEA meatballs you love contain horse kind of way.’ And, the fallout in Britain has been swift and significant.”

In addition to the global financial fallout in the wake of the U.K.’s historic decision, Oliver noted the announcement that British Prime Minister David Cameron will resign as a result of the vote, due to the fact that Cameron had supported the “Remain” camp in the vote. And he talked about the upheaval that will ensue from the Brexit vote.

“It seems like whoever the next U.K. prime minister is going to be, whether it’s Boris Johnson or a racist tea kettle, they are going to be in for a rough few years,” he said.

Even though he said he’d normally take pleasure in Cameron leaving his post, he couldn’t now because he knew how horrible the Brexit fallout will be for the U.K. “David Cameron announced he would be stepping down in the wake of the vote, which should make me happy, but in this situation, it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s like catching an ice cream cone out of the air because a child was hit by a car. I mean, I’ll eat it, I’ll eat it — but it’s tainted somehow.”

Warning to America

Oliver also discussed Donald Trump’s reaction to the Brexit results after the presumptive GOP nominee compared the “Leave” supporters in the U.K. to his own supporters in the U.S. Oliver’s response? “You might think, ‘Well that is not going to happen to us in America. We’re not going to listen to some ridiculously haired buffoon, peddling lies and nativism in the hopes of riding a protest vote into power.’ Well let Britain tell you, it can happen, and when it does, there are no f—ing do-overs,” the comedian said.


‘Inspiration porn’

The show then turned its attention to the 2016 Olympic Games, which kick off in Rio de Janeiro later this summer and which Oliver jokingly described as “your biannual reminder that NBC exists.” After quickly skewering the often treacly video segments featuring athletes’ backstories that typically run during networks’ Olympics coverage—Oliver called them “inspiration porn”—the comedian turned his attention to recent concerns over doping and drug-testing at this year’s games.

Oliver quoted a report estimating that 29% of athletes at the 2011 world championships admitted anonymously to doping within the previous year. He also noted that the incentive for athletes to cheat is immense, considering how much money is on the line for them as well as for the networks broadcasting the event and the organizations hosting. “There is a massive financial ecosystem dependent on spectacular athletic achievement in scandal-free games,” he said.

For instance, NBC has already sold more than $1 billion worth of advertising around this year’s Olympics and the network, in turn, is paying billions of dollars to the International Olympic Committee for the rights to televise the next several Olympic games. And, that’s not to mention the wide range of sponsor companies that strike deals with Olympic medal-winners to endorse their products. (“No professional swimmer wants a sandwich in the pool,” Oliver said with mock incredulity in reference to U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’ commercials for sandwich chain Subway.)

In trying to explain how, despite strict testing, some athletes still get away with doping. Oliver displayed a graphic showing the convoluted process of how athletes are tested by various anti-doping agencies that receive oversight and funding from governments as well as the IOC itself. Oliver called the system “a sprawling mess” while pointing out how easy it is for corruption to spread throughout the system.


“This is all actually making FIFA look good . . . and, they’re basically just a mafia with slightly better branding,” Oliver said of soccer’s international governing body. It was an apt and scathing comparison from Oliver, considering the scale of scandals and corruption that have embroiled FIFA over the years.

To finish the show, Oliver introduced a video parodying the types of inspirational segments he’d mocked earlier in the show, except Last Week Tonight‘s version showed a fake athlete who trains for the Olympics by downing massive amounts of pills while practicing his preposterous excuses for how illegal substances could wind up in his bloodstream.

This story has been updated to include the video from John Oliver’s show.