Removing Barriers and Educational Technology

I was recently asked to share my thoughts on the current state of educational technology and the connection it has to education in British Columbia (for a BC website).  Here are some of the questions that came my way with my responses below.

    • What are you currently obsessed with at work right now? 

One of my big focus areas is on how we give both teachers and students a voice in their learning. We live in a world where we all have the opportunity to share our thoughts instantly with the entire world, but schools have traditionally kept that learning within the confines of the building and have only shared during “special events”. If we give our students an authentic audience, we give them the opportunity to make a difference in their own lives, as well as the lives of others.

Tying into that notion is the idea of “entrepreneurship”. Students are creating some pretty amazing things in schools, whether it is in an art class, technology course, or english. How do we give them an opportunity to share their ideas to actually learn how to make a living doing something that they love? One of the things that I looked back upon during my time in the faculty of education was that we spent a lot of time learning how to “teach”, but no time learning how to actually get a job teaching. I believe that students should not only have great opportunities for learning in school, but we need to teach them how to create opportunities for themselves.

    • How is technology changing the face and pace of K-12 education? 

Information is abundant and as Daniel Pink discusses in his latest book, it is not about accessing information, but about curating it. When you have access to all of the information in the world, there is obviously some great stuff, and some stuff that is of a poor quality. How are students critical of what they see, and how do they reflect and share? Too many schools are worried about students “googling” answers on test because that would make them “cheaters”, yet as adults, we would be considered resourceful if we did the same thing. What we do with the information is much more important now than simply finding it. We need to look at how students are not only consumers of information, but creators of content as well. That is where the real learning happens and technology gives us the opportunity to be able to share easily with the entire world.

    • What are some of the smartest teachers doing in this space? 

Many teachers are looking outside of their schools and classrooms for new ideas to inspire and engage their students. Nothing in our world seems as stagnant as the “curriculum”, and many educators are learning to continuously embrace change and bring it into their classroom. They are looking at what successful organizations outside of education are doing and bringing those experiences to their students. They are not only making learning relevant, but real. There are teachers in pockets that are doing this, but many of them struggle with the politics of school and administrators that sometimes encourage risk, yet do not model it. As Chris Kennedy states, administrators need to be “elbows deep in the learning” with their students and faculty. In the area of British Columbia, Surrey School District (SD36) has been making some tremendous strides in becoming a “culture of innovation”, but I am guessing that even in their situation, they never feel like they are “there” and are striving to continuously get better.  Learning constantly changes and grows and the best organizations continuously grow and adapt so that they can always excel.

    • What opportunities are there for collaboration and transition between K-12 and higher ed given current technologies?

With learning having the ability to be so visible in our time, K-12 and higher education need to spend a lot more time working together to improve education for our students. You often hear K-12 complaining that universities are out of date and are forcing schools to go to an old model (grading practices are a prime example of this), and many universities are saying that students are not coming into their schools with the skills that they deem valuable. Instead of talking about each other, they need to spend more time working with each other and figuring how to do best for the students, and not take the easy way out. Within our school division, we are looking at working with our university to work with teachers to give them an idea of the skills that we expect them to have and be able to teach their students. We are hoping that we can build a partnership to learn from each other and really have education take the next step.

    • What are some of the challenges? (BC’s Privacy Legislation any others?)

The privacy laws in BC are outdated and holding schools back significantly. They often talk about data being stored in the cloud as being “unsafe” but it seems that it is more about controlling it from an outsider perspective. These policies were created in a totally different world and are now holding schools back to help students understand and thrive in the world that we live in currently. This is similar to the outdated election laws in 2011 and how many became subversive because of those policies.

If provinces were really about “moving education forward”, they would look at removing barriers, not putting them in the way.



  1. Such great answers…Love the line that they should stop talking about each other and start taking to each other…
    A visionary post, GC!

  2. Great post! I love the piece about helping students learn to create opportunities for themselves. Our question should no longer be whether that’s our goal, but HOW will we achieve that goal. I’ve also thought for some time that K-12 needs to be talking to universities… How else will anyone ever create change? Too often, we create excuses to keep assessment practices the same. Thanks for being truthful about some of the real issues!

    • but universities are sometimes or often out of touch with the real world … and it seems that many universities are changing and struggling to keep up with businesses and the workplace.

      • Alex, I don’t think that this is any more true than the inverse. K12 schools are just as guilty as being out of touch with the “real world”, making concerted change difficult. Are universities charged with preparing new teachers for the K12 culture as it currently exists, or do they prepare teachers for the K12 culture that we want to create? Many administrators that hire teachers are still looking for the former, I think – perhaps even more so in a testing and standards intensive climate here in the USA. That being said, I strongly believe that it IS possible to do both much better than is currently happening. A big problem in this is that higher education faculty are often just as behind when it comes to innovative learning facilitated by new technologies as are teachers. TPACK in teacher education programs is strong in pedagogical and content knowledge, yet remains fairly weak in technological knowledge and how that informs the other two.

  3. Interesting questions to reflect on. Your point about giving students and teachers an authentic audience rather than only the ‘special event assemblies’ is one that I connect with. So many times ‘real learning’ happens but it is not something that can be shared at an assembly- it can however be shared by setting up systems whereby students can share what is meaningful to them in a manner that suits them through their own voice. The shift for me is in going (and getting students/educators) from ‘have to share’ to ‘want to share’ because they have a confident, reflective, and collaborative mindset.

  4. Great post¡¡ short & accurate. It points out some of the BIG questions about today education and learning: what are the students skills for the future, what about entrepreneurship, how to curate the over information, how to become critical, how we give both teachers & students a voice in their learning? what and how should be the relationships between K-12 and Higher Ed?

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