A message from the Reverend

Jim Groom thinking back after some recent “edtech” announcements in the blogosphere

I think Alan Levine no doubt pre-dates me in “doing” edtech. I got started in May 1996 doing edtech support which (in spite of teh crazy webz and Internet Bubble) was targeting production of CD-ROMs, interactive multimedia. Hypercard and Macromedia Director and Authorware, etc. Heady days those were, and each and every software package allowed new functions, flexibility, media support and programming. I can go down a litany of software “authoring” environments but know this, each one was more expensive than the last. Authorware being the king of them all $2,000 – $5,000 roughly in 1996 dollars. But that bought you a giant box with manuals and CDs and clip-art and, and, and all the things. And if you were astute enough you could participate in their Usenet Newsgroups or dial-up bulletin boards. It’s been a long time since then, and the threshold is considerably lower (mind you costs now are “subscriptions” that are renewed yearly).

But the LMS came along because nobody had “time” or “skilz” necessary to develop even a static web page themselves. Note, the aftermarket of static web page software, again Macromedia and Adobe ruled the day and the cost of single seats (while lower than Authorware) was not free. But Dreamweaver was pretty cool, so we taught people how to use that, how to make links, organize files and folders and then navigate the file manager in Dreamweaver, let it track changes and upload just the things that changed. Then things got more confrontational, management wanted an LMS regardless of what I thought, so we adopted one, and that’s where things kind of started to cool down and ice age over. We retrenched, and eliminated our old web server (which was more a glorified file share ala Box/Dropbox for instructors to get PDFs to students). And the LMS became that glorified (e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e) file share. Nobody really took advantage of ALL the other functions granted by the licensing of the LMS. Journals? Blogs? Discussions? Submissions? Nope, it was here’s the PDFs, here’s the slides, we have 3 exams, best study up with a partner, and ask the TA questions, and attend office hours. Yeah that was the “future” circa 2003 and beyond.

But HERE I still am, ‘cuz’ we didn’t stop with the LMS. No. We just kept adopting and adopting and adopting add-ons for all the things the LMS didn’t do or do well. Like online meetings (now Zoom) or hosting videos (that’s Panopto) or scheduling recordings of in-class meetings (also Panopto via Remote Recorder), Polling (Poll Everywhere) the hits just keep on coming. But nobody once every talks about the outcomes, artifacts, proof of what changes occurred in the student A-F-T-E-R taking the class. It’s all the Price is Right with a showcase of things that get negotiated and adopted and handed off, and more often downwardly to support, on a daily basis. That’s the edtech where I live today, a far cry from that techno-futurism of CD-ROM development and authoring packages circa 1996. Now it’s all, “student submitted teh assignment but it’s not showing up in the grade center”, etc. ad infinitium, in extremis.

And while I know this is not the best metaphor, but I use it because I know it, if I was a character in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged,… when it comes to edtech or EdTech,…
I am not John Galt
nor Dagny Taggart,
nor even good ol’ Hank Reardon,… no.

I am Eddie Willers. Dagny’s assistant at Taggart and a hard worker dedicated to the preservation of the railroad. Through his friendship with the mysterious track worker in the cafeteria, Eddie unwittingly provides the destroyer with valuable information about Dagny and the railroad. I try heartily to keep the trains running in the face of adversity, in the face of “The Strike” as it were when everyone repairs off to the luxury/fantasy land of “Galt’s Gulch”. And I’m getting paid and all the other things too. And I’m okay with that version of edtech.






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