“It’s important that educators learn more about the business and tech of ed-tech; and that similarly, entrepreneurs and engineers learn more about the theories and practices of education. There are so many smart people working in these fields, but too often we don’t communicate with one another.” – Audrey Watters, USA
We talk a lot about innovation here at Daily Edventures. The definition of “innovative” can mean many things, depending on whom you talk with. With all of the educational technology products and services in the marketplace, it can be a real challenge to distinguish just what is innovative, and what, well, isn’t. That’s where Audrey Watters comes in. She is an education technology writer, “with one foot firmly in the world of Internet technologies and one firmly in the world of education.”
“In my work as an education technology journalist, I feel it’s important to cut through a lot of the hype and spin about ed-tech,” says Watters. “I do believe that personal computers and the Internet have the power to reshape how we think about teaching and learning —
and not just in the classroom and not just from K to 12. But I think we still need to be vigilant about the ed-tech we adopt, and the ways in which we use it in the classroom. While there’s so much shiny newness in tech, we shouldn’t confuse it for a silver bullet.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Perhaps that is one reason why I find Watters’ perspective so refreshing…but it could also be her sharp-witted and entertaining writing. Her blog Hack Education is a must-read. “Way back in junior high, I took an aptitude test that gave me a single career option: freelance writer,” she says. “I remember feeling rather panicky at the time, wondering how the hell I’d manage to pull it off. But now I do.”
Her stories have also appeared on NPR/KQED’s education technology blog MindShift, in the data section of O’Reilly Radar, on Inside Higher Ed, in The School Library Journal, on ReadWriteWeb, The Huffington Post and Edutopia‘s blog.
I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
Gosh, I’m not sure that I’ve really done that. I’m an education technology writer, and I feel as though it’s my job to be critical about the things that companies often tout as “innovative” or “disruptive” but that aren’t necessarily so.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
I’m not sure that much has.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
I do think that it’s important that educators learn more about the business and tech of ed-tech; and that similarly, entrepreneurs and engineers learn more about the theories and practices of education. There are so many smart people working in these fields, but too
often we don’t communicate with one another.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I write on my blog (almost) daily. I’m an avid user of Twitter (more so than other social media sites).
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I think maintaining the open Web — to free, openly licensed and openly accessible educational materials will be crucial.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Know your history. Read Seymour Papert.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
I think standardized testing is getting in the way of learning. I think we are so fixated on test scores that we are making the school system worse, not better. We focus on filling out bubble sheets at the expense of critical thinking, project-based learning, inquiry,
and creativity, and we are devoting time in the classroom to testing at the expense of other important subjects.
I think that the ubiquity of mobile devices and Internet access is certainly helping students. I think they’re able to explore on their own time the things they want to discover and learn about. Some of this might look quite unfamiliar to the subjects taught in the classroom — gaming, for example. But I think we see in these informal settings that all children have a love of learning and exploration. Too often, school destroys that love.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Access to the World Wide Web.
About Audrey Watters
- Birthplace: Casper, Wyoming
- Current residence: Hermosa Beach, California
- Education: International Baccalaureate from St. Clares, Oxford; BS in Social Sciences from University of Wyoming; MA in Folklore from University of Oregon; PhD Candidate in Comp Lit from University of Oregon
- Website I check every day: Twitter
- Favorite book:Frankenstein
- Your favorite quote or motto: “I want freedom, the right to self-expression,
everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” — Emma Goldman
For more information on Audrey Watters’ writing: http://www.audreywatters.com/edtech.html