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EdTech Fast 5 - Steven Anderson on reflection as a learning process

March 6, 2019

Steven W. Anderson is a learner, blogger, speaker, Digital Learning and Relationship Evangelist, author and Dad.  As a former teacher and Director of Instructional Technology and best known as @web20classroom, he is highly sought after for his expertise in educational technology integration and using social media for learning and communicating. Steven presents at conferences worldwide and is also responsible for helping create #edchat, the most popular educational hashtag on Twitter. He is an ASCD Emerging Leader, Microsoft Hero of Education and one of the top educational influencers on Twitter. You can read more from Steven on his blog or website.

1. What’s the most overrated topic in education right now?

I believe the most overrated topic in education right now, especially in Edtech is AR/VR. It seems like I can’t go to a conference or scroll through posts on Twitter without seeing someone claim that AR/VR is the “next big thing” in education or learning in general. I think this is a fallacy. Augmented and Virtual Reality are definitely interesting and attention grabbers for anyone who has had the chance to see them in action. But whenever I see a startup or blogger talk about them I am always left myself asking why? Why is AR/VR getting so much attention in the education space when it is unproven and still very expensive technology that at most is simply used to motivate students? Being able to travel to a far off land or dissect a cadaver is interesting, but what learning objectives does it promote? Not to mention the huge investment that it takes to start an AR/VA program. Sure Google Cardboard is free but what about the devices that go in them? Many schools still haven’t seen the benefits of allowing students to use their own mobile phones in the classroom. Maybe we should pump the brakes on AR/VR and ask ourselves how does the technology that students have access to today benefit them, rather than introducing something new.

2. Does technology motivate creativity? Does technology motivate creativity?

No. Does it enhance creativity? Yes. Creativity is something we all naturally have, whether we realize it or not. What we might want to be creative in may be different from what we are actually creative in. Technology does little more than enhance our ability to be creative. If I like to draw I can do as we been doing for 1000s of years and put paint to canvas. But through technology I can use an app that might allow me to paint in a different way, even offering me unlimited canvas’. But its still painting. It’s still creative. The technology just enhances my ability.

3. What app can’t you live without?

There are several apps I can’t live without. The first is OneNote. I have it on every device I own. I do a lot of writing and I need to keep it all organized. OneNote allows me to do that, even allowing me to use my stylus and draw or make quick notes without typing. I can attach files or voice and video recording to notes too. Another is Pocket. It’s a Chrome browser extension and app that allows me to quickly save links I come across to access later. So if I see something shared on Twitter I can save it to Pocket first then decide if I want to curate it for later. When reading, Pocket strips away all the junk on pages leaving just the text so I can focus on the reading. The great thing about both of these is that they are free!

4. What events from your own experience as a learner have informed your approach to your work in education?

I’ve known from a very young age that I wanted to be an educator. For a time it was a Kindergarten teacher and eventually landed on a middle years teacher. When I was teaching I spent a great deal of time reflecting. My first year (as many would agree) was my most challenging. Trying to figure out what kind of teacher I was and what were the best ways to teach baffled me at times. At one point I thought I had made the wrong choice. But I wrote a lot and thought a lot about my place in the classroom and how I could improve. I tried different things. I read a lot of blog posts about what others were doing. I failed. But I didn’t let that stop me. Over the years I got better and better and better to the point where I didn’t just want to work with kids but adults too. It was those periods of reflection that truly helped me improve. That is something I still do today and try to instil in others. Reflection is a natural part of the learning process and all of us (kids and adults) need to do it more often and with each other.

5. Which actor would play you in the movie about your life?

Gosh this is a tough one! Paul Rudd. Smart, funny and a lot of wit. No nonsense like me. And many of the characters that he plays reminds me of myself a lot of times.