In fact, I’m always thinking about edtech in some fashion, but these days I’m thinking about the term itself. There are more than a few reasons for this, not least of which Reclaim Hosting was essentially born as an edtech company, even if trailing edge. And over the last 6-8 months we’ve finally gotten to a point in our history where we can double-down on those roots in order to build a group that can work more closely with edtechs at various institutions, organizations, and beyond.
But one of the things about the term edtech, much like open, is that its meaning is elusive. More recently when folks talk about edtech it’s often associated with venture capital buy-outs, start-ups, and the broader LMS market. So much of the discussion around edtech is akin to a market-driven spectator sport. While that financial logic around the field has accelerated over the last decade, it’s always been there to some degree. Blackboard was the evil empire when I entered the field in the early 2000s, and while they seem almost quaint now, their financial reports were not the focus of the work of edtech, as I understood that term. They were very much outside that term altogether, they weren’t edtech they were the LMS. Edtech, on the other hand, was a brave new distributed community of bloggers that were narrating and sharing their practices for others to benefit from freely. The work was a demonstration of faith and hope in not only education, but the power of the web to augment that process. I understand that the results were uneven at best, at the same time that sense of possibility and hope is how I still understand the term edtech because that is the garden from which I was cultivated. What’s more, I would hate to suggest to a whole new generation of edtechs coming up that possibility and hope were a thing of the past. That very logic is why I hate the children of the 60s so much, they suggested their revolution was all that ever mattered. I guess Generation X emo dies hard.
In recent years I’ve become less enamored of the term open, which was an adjective/positionality many edtechs embraced for the past 20 years. But the term has become muddied, and the constant handwringing about licensing was a warning sign for me that it was, ironically, more about control and branding than anything resembling the liberating rhetoric of a movement it often championed. To see the avant garde of that movement so willingly consign themselves to venture capital and the inevitable professional perdition that follows is a shame, but it’s also a choice. There are a lot of edtechs, in the true sense of that word for me, that have willingly resisted the lure of exchanging cachet for cash. Folks who continue to good work, edtechs that I deeply respect who reside far from the maddening crowd of the financials of firms that have little to no interest in the transformative power of augmenting teaching and learning—despite the claims they make. Edtech as an approach that is exploratory, experimental, and creative, not to mention generous and unbolted to the logic of licensing and litigation. That’s my edtech, and I like it.