The issue I find is really how to keep up with it all. To discover and make sense of new trends and products I have been reading Victor Rivero’s blog EdTechDigest.com. This is a great site which has interviews with many of the people on the cutting edge of education technology. Since Victor has been able to meet so many of these people I thought it would be a good idea to get his thoughts on the hottest trends out there.
What interests you about education technology companies?
Tremendous growth, great people, and important work. There’s a group started by Kimberly Hulbert on Linkedin called Ed Tech Start Ups that’s now over 3,000 members and it got there pretty fast. Greg Limperis has a site called Technology Integration in Education and his numbers are double that and rising. Companies that offer technology to transform education can’t help but have a social mission. Most everyone in and around education and technology are passionate, purpose-driven people — and that makes for great stories.
Tell us a bit about what brought you to this field and why you started your blog?
I’ve been involved in education and technology for more than a decade now, primarily as a writer, columnist, editor or contributing editor for, among others: Converge magazine, American School Board Journal, THE Journal, EDTECH Focus on K-12, Edutopia, Internet@Schools magazine, and of course EdTech Digest. So I’ve always had a strong purpose to tell the stories of people who are improving education with technology. Touring the country as a writer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a few years back, I saw a lot of schools from all over the quality spectrum and met a lot of interesting people doing great things with, in many cases, very limited resources. Starting an online publication focusing on what’s being done to improve education, to transform it using technology, is a way to celebrate what’s right with education.
What are some of the most promising education technologies you’ve seen so far?
There are tons of them. Tablets, mobile technologies and learning platforms are hot, but there are also clickers, electronic white boards, projection systems, and enterprise data solutions for entire school districts — the entire edtech industry is very alive, exciting and steadily if not rapidly expanding. There’s so much innovation right now, but it’s not like the late 1990s when the Internet itself was first beginning to boom with activity and there was a giddy feeling that quickly burst with the dot-com bubble. This time around, it’s more stable, forces have converged to offer up robust and much more matured technologies and options, and people have simply given it more thought and understand what’s truly helpful. We aren’t doing “Net Days” much — stringing cable through a district for the very first time to connect classrooms to the Internet, there’s a lot more wireless, a lot faster speeds and more bandwidth in most places. Today’s digital natives never dialed on dime-operated pay phones or meandered through microfiche. Today, it’s about being enabled, engaged and empowered, especially if you listen to what the future is saying at a site I recommend, tomorrow.org.
Who are some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs you’ve interviewed and why?
I interviewed you [NB you can find that interview here]. That’s one! Alan Kay was interesting. He is perhaps one of the living fore-fathers of technology innovation and has had a hand (and a mind) in some of the most important innovations that ripple through our culture today. My full interview with him is still unpublished, but one thing that stays with me is his thought in response to a question I had about the possibility of a Golden Age in our future. He argued that we are in one right now. He got me thinking. With all the dismal press and negativity that one can sometimes see, disgruntled populations and jaded voters, and complaints about how wrong things are — it might be a startling revelation. It may be news. It may feel like that, in a 1950s candy-colored, Catch Me If You Can world where kids wanted to grow up to be an airplane pilot — we’ve already reached some sort of zenith. Perhaps we did. But on another level, if you look around us and take the cynicism and the distrust that vested interests can stir up and acknowledge it exists but then turn it in your favor, wind it into wisdom — and then, take the maturing technologies around us and the positive people in your life — and you do something to contribute to making this world a better place — then you just may see a lot more clearly that the best is yet to come.
What are your thoughts on the state of education? and what can be done to make it better?
Alan Kay famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Well, let me give thanks to Alan Kay for that brilliant and inspiring piece of advice, and offer up this variation: The best way to improve education is to focus on what’s right about it. At least, that’s a line of thought behind some of my own efforts, and I notice that in life, a similar sort of outlook can sometimes be useful.
How do you think technology will impact the way students learn?
It already has. At edtechdigest.com you can get a glimpse of how it continues to do so. Just want to say – thanks for some great questions, Sal, and best of luck with all of your efforts!
Thanks Victor! Keep up the great work at Edtechdigest.com. I’m sure your readership will only continue to grow!
So what are your thoughts on the growing number of educational ‘apps’ out there? Is this good or just overwhelming?