….has nothing to do with “innovation.”
Scott Leslie was prompting a bit of discussion on Twitter yesterday:
edtechies, prove me wrong – what is your single most exciting/important development in the field in last 2 years? FedWiki, ReclaimHosting…
— Scott Leslie (@sleslie) August 14, 2015
I couldn’t resist jumping in because I think about this very thing a lot.
I’ve been pushing small, easy tools (what folks refer to as SPLOTs) like Timeline JS a lot these days because they use popular services like Google spreadsheets, are dead simple, and are collaborative. With Timeline JS an entire class could work together to create an dynamic, attractive timeline. That said, Timeline JS isn’t all that new either, it’s been around a couple of years as well. Nonetheless, I really like the possibilities of using small, focused and really simple tools for getting faculty and students excited about digital projects. I then soon followed up with my own fascination these days, namely higher ed finally digging into how virtual infrastructure, APIs, and even containerized applications might impact the field in the near future:
You see, I remain a believer. I think we’re always on the verge of realizing the next stage of augmenting human intellect. What else is there? Also, I refuse to let the perceived setbacks of the last few years throw me off the path to enlightenment. For all the turmoil, co-option, and hyperbolic virtual-ink spilt on MOOCs, I remain amazed by the fact that Siemens, Downes and Cormier were able to make such a colossal impact on higher ed as representatives of this rag-tag field of edtech. It remains a source of inspiration for me. But that by no means erases the constant struggle against the mindless MOOC-hype, nefarious narratives of labor efficiency, reification of Silicon Valley, corporatization of edtech, etc. Given how powerful some of the ideas born out of this ed-tech network have been, I can’t see the value of despair.
Higher Ed has been playing catch-up for the last ten years when it comes to social media, and I have no problem serving as an ambassador to new applications for infrastructure, integrations, etc. It’s the job, in my mind. If we were on the edge, they wouldn’t need me. Also, I’m not so sure most other industries are all that better off in the end, and a bit of distance may have some value.
@sleslie Not sure chasing latest innovation year after year is the goal. Still some awesome shot being done in something as archaic as wp…
— Jim Groom (@jimgroom) August 14, 2015
The other issue that came up over a slice of pizza with Tim Owens, was that chasing the latest innovation could be its own trap. Frankly, Domain of One’s Own is trailing edge technology, and you could argue some of the most interesting stuff being done is dependent on that washed-up application WordPress 🙂
But my responses reflect my own blinders in the field of edtech. Thinking more about my answers, the truly important shifts have been around assumptions surrounding gender, race, and class. Arguably the most important voice in edtech the last few years, Audrey Watters, has been on a tireless intellectual campaign to challenge many of the most nefarious narratives as well as interrogate both the future past of the field. I would argue the true shift in edtech we’ve been experiencing has less to do with any particularly innovative technology, and everything to do with the recognition, interrogation, and challenging of pre-defined identities and nodes of power. This has been both both a difficult and hopeful shift because we might begin to apply this critical discourse around identities across a range of disciplines to a rich field of cutting-edge praxis. So thinking more about Scott’s original call, I think the most important development in the field has also been the most difficult: coming to terms with some of the deep assumptions of privilege and power, and figuring out how we integrate that conversation into the field of edtech purposefully.