Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Mike Crowley’s post “Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech” is a particularly juicy piece of clickbait, and it’s a backwards take on everything it lists in its title. It’s particularly juicy because it appeals to both ends of the “Teacher Twitterverse” spectrum. People who dislike edtech companies infiltrating classrooms to create future coders or to buy into to their ecosystem at a young age get to point to this article. The other end, however, is people who make money speaking at keynotes and conferences about Google and edtech; they get to share this article in a “see, I’m not like other girls”-sort of way that allows them to be performatively critical, without really biting the hand that feeds.

Because of this duality, it has proliferated my Twitter feed from people I can’t stand, and people whom I deeply admire, alike.

At the end of the article, it lists a shocking hashtag: #EdTechisDead. It’s punchy and it got the views and clicks and likes, but it lacks any of the nuance around what new technology in the classroom can actually provide our students. Mr. Crowley took one feature that Google announced, generalized and straw-man’d the other hundreds of booths at ISTE, and declared that (aside from a few nameless tools that he finds useful), EdTech is dead! Viva la resistance!

You know what else Google announced at ISTE? Tour Creator for both teachers and students to create their own virtual reality 360 tours that can even incorporate ambient audio, or narration. Students can create their own Google Cardboard expeditions anywhere! Changes to Google Classroom so that teachers can group work and assignments to give students the freedom of choice on their learning paths. They have also fully committed to bringing touch tablets to their line of Chromebooks for ease of student creation and the Jamboard app for collaboration. These are not the old ways of doing things. Even the things we can do with G Suite in terms of connection and collaboration are unheard of even 15 years ago.

But let’s not talk Google; let’s talk about the other booths at ISTE. Yes, I’ll admit, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a booth about block based coding or robotics, but that wasn’t the majority. MyShakespeare (booth 1490) is a completely free resource for teachers that includes audio transcription, video performances of key scenes, and contemporary translations directly under more esoteric words. In short, students can interact with Shakespeare in a way that is more equitable and engaging than before. Quizizz (booth 591) is a formative assessment tool that allows students to practice lower order material over and over again until they have mastered it, in a fun, meme-ified, and “process over product“ focused way. FightSong! (booth 1644) is a start-up app that gives students the ability to report bullying in a way previously impossible, and paves the way for teachers and administrators to focus on what their school climate and culture needs to improve. I could go on about Apple’s “Everyone Can Create” curriculum, or Microsoft’s push into project based and mixed-reality offerings, but I won’t.

Simply put, Mr. Crowley painted with too broad a brush. Sure, pithy titles lead to more exposure, but to claim that everyone in the expo hall was attempting to “make tradition more efficient” (another catchy soundbite) is to almost willingly ignore a lot of the great stuff that happened at ISTE. It wasn’t all perfect, but EdTech is far from dead. Yes, some of the companies and their tools were, as he states, “obsessed with standardization, control, automation and delivery efficiencies.” But to pretend like that isn’t happening in every sector of the economy is cherry-picking at best. Some of the tools were bad, but many were game-changers.

In closing, a short anecdote. Students in my classroom use Google as a security blanket; they’d rather cheat than possibly get it wrong. By the time they get to me in 8th grade, they’ve learned that it’s about points and right answers and product, not process. It’s a hard habit to break from. My school had a subscription to GoGuardian, which allowed me to lock Chromebooks in a similar fashion. The one time I used it was as a community building tool. The message I incorporated for that day was “You know this material, you’ve worked on this material, you don’t need to look it up.” It was a great day and my students walked out with their heads held high, ready for the more project-based and higher-order thinking we were getting to in subsequent days. I pose the thought that there could be legitimate reasons to lock a Google Form. It’s up to teachers to navigate the EdTech world and use the wrong tools for the right reasons, and in the right ways. So yes, #LearnersFirst, absolutely, but let’s not remove teacher efficacy for the sake of a hashtag and a “hot take.”