Deeper Learning Demands Deeper Justification from EdTech Tools (Ep 7)

June 11, 2019 / By

There is a tendency, by both edtech vendors and users, to excitedly describe technology tools in terms of product features and benefits, faddish jargon and technical fireworks. When the conversation turns to the educational value of edtech tools, questions raised tend to be answered by positing a connection between the edtech tool to specific curriculum requirements or standards.

For school and district administrators responsible for ensuring that money being spent can be demonstrated to impact educational goals, this response is likely too imprecise for comfortable decision-making. What is needed are clear guideposts and frameworks that move the conversation beyond rhetoric to demonstrable correlations between edtech tools and stated education goals.

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Transcript

Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. I am Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad, and this is episode number seven. In this episode, I want to share with you how deeper learning demands deeper justification from EdTech tools. All right, let’s get started.

In the world of EdTech, there is a tendency to excitedly describe technology tools in terms of product features and benefits, faddish jargon, and technical fireworks. When the conversation turns to the educational value that tech tools, questions raised tend to be answered by posting a connection between the EdTech tool to specific curriculum requirements or standards. For school and district administrators responsible for ensuring that money being spent can be demonstrated to impact educational goals, this response is likely too imprecise for comfortable decision-making. What is needed are clear guidepost and frameworks that move the conversation beyond rhetoric to measurable correlations between EdTech tools and stated educational goals.

Consider the following example of a content standard that is typically of the sort to which an EdTech tool might claim a link. This is from the common core English Language Arts Literacy W.7.7 conducted short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related focus questions for further research and investigation. It is one thing for an EdTech vendor to claim that this standard is covered by their tool, as in, “Yes, students can use our product in completing this sort of project.” Of course, the same could be said of pencil and paper.

The educational value of the tool must go beyond a tangential connection to content standards. Additionally, the platform or tool must go beyond a substitution of ineffective practices, passive consumption of information. An effective tool is one that supports students in deeper learning and facilitates their application of concepts at a higher level of learning. We would also expect such a tool to be intrinsically motivating and exciting to students in a way that previous techniques cannot fulfill. What decision makers need, therefore, are proven calibrated yardsticks for measuring the real utility and effectiveness of a given tool as a means of empowering students to demonstrate deeper learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is among the most well-known of cognitive research theories about learning. Bloom proposed that learning can be categorized by six levels of cognition. Each level reflects more complex engagement than the last. The bottom of the pyramid represents remembering, which is basic recall, while the top of the pyramid represents creation, which is actively using knowledge and concepts in the creation of new work. Another framework is the rigor relevance framework that builds upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. In this framework, the vertical axis represents the six levels proposed by Bloom’s Taxonomy. The horizontal axis is the application model, which demonstrates in specific detail methods by which knowledge can be put into use, in meaningful ways, of course. Quadrant D represents the highest degree of effectiveness, where knowledge and skills are used to create something new to solve complex, real-world problems that students care about.

I’m going to provide an example of how the use of video creation within the context of a specific curriculum objective can be evaluated for meaningful impact as a learning experience through the use of the rigor relevance framework. In this example, students have been asked to research the issue of poaching of elephants in Africa. The chart that I’m going to describe contains a variety of approaches one might consider using to have students demonstrate learning, from simple written summaries to more complex multi-dimensional and collaborative solutions.

Let’s start with the first quadrant A, which is acquisition. In this quadrant, students simply recall and possess a basic understanding of knowledge. So in this example, students could look up multiple sources of research about African elephant poaching. Students would then write a summary of the research. If we were to go to the next quadrant, quadrant B, which is application, students use acquired knowledge to solve problems, design solutions and complete work. So within the context of this project, students could work in collaborative groups to discuss solutions to solve the African elephant poaching problem. Using multiple sources of research, students will write a paper describing their solution.

What if we moved up to the next quadrant, quadrant C, which is assimilation. In this quadrant, students extend and refine acquired knowledge to automatically and routinely analyze information, solve problems, and create unique solutions. Within the context of this project, students research the impact of African elephant poaching on local communities, the international ivory trade ban, and the history of ivory and its uses. Students propose solutions to prevent poaching. Students use Google Meet to chat with other students in Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. Students create a PowerPoint or a Google slides presentation of their findings and potential solutions.

In the highest quadrant, quadrant D, is adaptation. And in this quadrant, students think with complexity and apply knowledge and skills to unpredictable situations. So in the context of this project, students could extend on quadrant C. In this scenario, they will work with the World Wildlife Fund and they are creating a documentary video using WeVideo based on their research and conversations with students in African countries. The video will contain clips taken by students locally and in the communities that are impacted by elephant poaching. To raise awareness, they include cinematic elements and post to YouTube. As you see, in quadrant D, the students are challenged to think with complexity as they evaluate solutions to the problem. They must analyze multiple sources of data from research and from locals. They then create a deliverable using an iterative process. In this case, video creation that involves multiple steps each with their own demands.

The video creation process, story boarding, editing, finding, and creating content, narration, revising and sharing their videos for assessment and or peer review reflects the sophistication represented by quadrant D. While video creation requires a use of technology skills, the approach puts the focus squarely on the meaningful work of the students, the learning acquired through the relevant tasks, and the collaborative and creative process. When used in this way, the tool becomes a means of effective teaching and learning.