Are We Already in a Tech Dystopia?

Featured image creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Wonderlane

I apologize for the click-baity title, but I think it helps get to the root of some emerging issues in the tech and education landscapes. I’ve got four problems briefly outlined with proposed solutions beneath. As always, comments are welcome.

Problem 1 – Closed Content

Schools nationwide are filtering content beyond a reasonable amount. I understand COPPA and FERPA and that they are extremely important. What I don’t understand is how wide a net schools are casting in their use policies with students while citing FERPA and COPPA across the board. This is not a time for blanket statements and policies. Yes, it takes more work to manage a wider range of software and web filtering, but the benefits a more open web brings students are enormous.

What you can do – Keep track of which websites and services you want to use, but can’t. Explain why they’re important in the learning process for your students and justify why they should be opened. Look for positive examples and emulate their methods in order to build a substantial case for change. Finally, volunteer to help review those requests to build a sustainable system.

Problem 2 – Isolated Devices

Hours and hours are spent choosing the perfect device to use with students. Unfortunately, it’s a lost cause – there is no single device which will make you happy at all levels. Doubly unfortunate is the fact that work done on an iPad will probably be locked into being viewed on an iPad (unless you’re publishing to the web, but even that is degrading. Also, see Problem 1.) because it is in the best interest of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the other guy to lock you in.

Choosing a device for students should be based on what you want them to do, but understand there are compromises.

What you can do – Don’t worry so much about what students are using to create and spend more time on what they’re doing. Device purchases aside, avoid dictating specifics and you’ll see students be far more creative and open with their work that they normally would.

Problem 3 – Fanboyism

iOS or Android; Mac, PC, or Chrome – walk into an education conference and pick a fight with anyone there about which is best for students and watch sparks fly. All of this is really based on opinion fueled by “what we’ve always done.” It’s fun to poke fun at the other guy, but I’m worried that it alienates people who feel like they’re in the minority.

What you can do – It’s hard, but avoid making snide remarks about platforms that are better or worse than others. Really, you can do equitable work on any platform now, so it doesn’t matter at all which one you actually go with. Know what your goals are and make a decision that fits those goals.

Problem 4 – Identity Loss

I’ve written about this before, and I’ve brought it up on more than one occasion in conversation, but if the product is free to use, there is some hidden catch that we need to be aware of. “Going Google” has implications for us and our students that need to be weighed. Remember, you are an asset as a user of a free service – not necessarily a “valued customer.”

What can you do – Know what the costs of creating an account are. I know it’s really difficult to imagine life without Google (I still have a Google account…it’s okay…) but know what you’re putting out there. This is especially true when you ask students to create accounts online – please read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy before pressing “I Agree.”

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