The Only Metric That Matters in EdTech

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Reposted from Forbes:

There’s a lot of discussion about education technology these days. What’s often missing from the discourse is the most important goal of public education: outcomes. Whether one cares most about social mobility that drives economic competitiveness; serving special needs and gifted students; improving infrastructure; or closing the achievement gap, the only metric we should use to evaluate the role of technology in public education is the success of our students.

Of course, technology isn’t a silver bullet, but it has central role to play in improving outcomes—and identifying the right role for education technology isn’t the role of the private sector, alone. We need to put politics and perception aside, and encourage more teachers to lock arms with entrepreneurs to help ensure that educators’ voices are heard as entrepreneurs build tools to support great teaching and learning. Educators can help education companies better understand their needs, and craft solutions to address real-world challenges and opportunities. Technologists and investors can help educators see persistent problems differently, and work collaboratively toward solutions. We need patient investors that take the time to understand the market, and are willing to spend time—and money—on research that tests the efficacy of their products.

Schools of education can also play a critical role. They are preparing the next generation of educators—and have a responsibility that extends beyond the university and into the classroom. Leading education school deans are now collaborating to transform the way we prepare educators. Earlier this spring, we helped launch a unique ed tech accelerator with the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, in order to bring educators together with entrepreneurs, investors with academics to cultivate a more collaborative, outcome-focused discussion about education technology.

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That’s Why They Play the Game

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It’s all about the hype. The spin. The pundits. The experts. The talking heads. The facts. The data. The insight. The intangibles. The inside scoop. The interpretations. The trends. The analysis. The speculation. The predictions. The records. The historical contexts. The powers that be. The informed conclusions. Really?

No…not really.

Every year for two weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, experts fill hours of airtime making the case for who will win the big game…a one-shot-deal to claim the NFL championship. They look at conferences, rankings, previous performances, position-by-position match-ups, who plays better at home or on the road, injuries, benchings, weather, scandals, human interest stories…if there’s a way to make the case for why each team will win, it is made…and it is made convincingly.

And long after the hype and hyperbole have been exhausted, it’s time for kickoff. And all the posing and posturing about the outcome goes out the window. Some favorites win. Some underdogs surprise. And while some general statements can be made about historical trends, perennial contenders and the have and have-not franchises, there is only so much rhyme and reason as to the outcome once the game begins. All the talk means nothing. Any given team can beat any other team on any given day. That’s why they play the game.

What does this mean for education? Well, we have a lot of self-interested, self-proclaimed experts putting their spin on what is happening and what is going to happen in classrooms. They have a lot of money, power and influence on their side…access to media and entertainment and corporate resources…it can certainly appear and sound like they know what they’re talking about. But where does the rubber meet the road in public education? In the classroom. All the politicians and philanthropists and administrators and data analysts may have their say, but at the end of the day it is the teacher and student who make it happen.

What can we infer from this?

  • People love the anticipation of the unknown…the adrenaline rush and the hype, but ultimately events play themselves out in the present moment.
  • Posing and posturing get a lot of attention, but in the final analysis it’s all about performance.
  • Money, knowledge and power provide advantages, but they do not control outcomes.
  • People can manipulate perceptions, but in the end reality always bears itself out.
  • Teachers, more than anyone else, will determine the future of education.
  • You can prove all the “experts” wrong.

Make a difference in the moment. Right now. Nothing else matters. You have control over your performance…your accomplishments…your legacy. No one else.

And there’s a certain satisfaction with proving the soothsayers wrong. Truman defeating Dewey for the presidency. The Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III. Everyday citizens bringing down the Berlin Wall. It didn’t matter who had the perceived upper-hand or who predicted what…all that mattered was the outcome.

So stop listening to the pundits. Get your game on, get back out there and give it everything you’ve got. Don’t let the voices on the sidelines get in your head. Sure they can have their say. But in the end, it’s up to you. You own the endgame.

What the Growth Mindset Is, and What It Isn’t

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Reposted from the Disappointed Idealist:

Carol Dweck’s broad theory is that students tend to fall into two camps : those who attribute their outcomes to external/ unchangeable factors such as intelligence or ability, and those who attribute their outcomes to internal, changeable factors, such as effort and perseverance. The latter group, she argues, then do rather better than the former when they come across challenges. This is not quite the same as the version of Dweck which is gaining traction rather quickly in the English education system, which is closer to the quote I took from Dylan Wiliam’s blog above : that the only determinant of outcomes is effort and perseverance.  Dweck can’t be blamed for that, and I can see how her theory could, in the hands of those of us who don’t have to meticulously footnote our tweets and policy statements, gradually metamorphose into the idea expressed above and in many other places.

At some point in the past, the not-irrational idea that it might be useful to try using different methods in lessons to get the message home, became the concept of “learning styles” which had to be shown in each lesson. In the last two years, the perfectly sensible idea that occasionally students might benefit from a little more in-depth consideration of their own work, has become a mountain of compulsory double-marking, endless DIRT and colour coded dots. The growth mindset is in danger of heading that way; I see too much wholehearted adoption of an oversimplified, and thus inaccurate, stance towards student achievement, based within the profession on a well-meaning desire to promote a positive, inspirational message of hope, but outside the profession supported by those advocating a self-serving philosophy which justifies inaction and victim-blaming.

My objection is to the way in which Dweck’s conclusions are rapidly metamorphosing into something completely different, and thus reinforcing the set of existing bonkers principles which are largely shaping education policy. Dweck’s well-meaning and perfectly reasonable research may well end up producing toxic outcomes if we don’t nip it in the bud.

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