Bringing the Biggest Big-Picture Into Focus


What’s Edtech’s Next More? That depends on understanding where it’s at right now!


Summing up and taking stock of where we’re at, at the end of one year and readying ourselves to take on the coming one; it’s a ritual, a strategy, a gathering of energy in preparation for taking new next steps.

After all, it’s a rapidly changing landscape that we educators now tread and we understand that those steps need to be well planted and wisely chosen—and they depend on having observed and interpreted well what’s now in the rearview mirror.

One pitfall for today’s watchers and strategists to be wary of is a condition that might best be described as “20/20 Education Myopia” or, seeing clearly what’s happening in schools, but only that less-than-total portion of it that the viewer’s narrow range of vision easily takes in. It’s a common condition because one can only see what’s in front of one’s eyes.

But what if that there’s more out there beyond that slice of the map whose boundaries are defined by one’s own experiences and orbit?

In the Universe of Education

Apparent or not, the universe of education is so vast that we all live and work in a silo of some sort. Teachers whose classrooms feature one to one access to tablets may be aware of a very different set of practices and possibilities than those whose engagement of students is centered on a single interactive whiteboard.

Fueling instruction with traditional texts supplemented with episodic tech use may have a very different understanding of edtech than those who’ve substituted fully interactive cloud-based content series; and those who have students creating their own content, a far different understanding of what’s possible and important as well.

Growth, though, often depends on seeing beyond what one experiences at the moment, on envisioning other, next-level possibilities. 

Needing a Map

The down side to this is that there are things going on, lessons being learned, discoveries being made and integrated into the lives of people with similar needs and goals that we are unaware of and that might be of great benefit.

Robotics integrated into math class, Virtual Reality simulations used to bring the physics of sub atomic particles to life, students creating code for original games to share with peers; no school is aware of it all and what it all means, although the very things that might support it best may be in full implementation in a neighboring town.

Even those whose job is to explore on the behalf of those fully busy with students need a map to decide on where to look—and why.

Separate Realities, Connected Ecosystem

Importantly, those silo-like slices of reality that we inhabit are actually connected, even if the connections are unseen and unknown; in the aggregate our separate realities form a vast ecosystem in which things influence one another.

It may be debatable whether or not the flapping of the proverbial butterfly’s wings causes a hurricane in a place far away and at later time.

However, over the years we have seen simple, but brilliant breakthrough ideas of practice deeply impact the entire field.

A few that come to mind are the Web Quest, Project Based Learning, the Flipped Classroom, Universal Design for Learning, the Chrome Book (and its long line of low cost, one laptop per child progenitors), the Classroom Blog—these were all small scale efforts with potential that eventually were broadly adopted.

One can see them as a list of individual, worthwhile items that may contribute to making the classroom experience a little better or one can see them as interrelated, all contributing to an improved instructional reality that offers the potential for a fully transformed variety of learning.

Knowing the pieces, seeing how they relate to one another and fit together, and above all, see the significance of each and of the whole, that real understanding of 21st Century Education.

A Meteor-Shower of New Ideas

On the other hand, it is also true that we are living and teaching and learning in an absolute meteor shower of new ideas, resources and practices.

And so many of them, while traveling at high velocity burn brightly, if only for a short while, screaming for our attention; bright blips on a radar screen over full with bright blips.

Developing a filter for what’s important and what history will prove only looked briefly to be important—that’s also crucial.

The reflections shared above were running strongly in the background as I worked on the 2019 edition of EdTech Digest’s annual State of EdTech Report.

Everything is about to come into focus very soon: CLICK HERE to pre-order your copy of our brand-new State of EdTech 2019 report.

Mark Gura is a contributing editor for EdTech Digest and author of Getting Started With LEGO Robotics (ISTE). He is a co-author of State of EdTech 2018: The Minds Behind What’s Now and What’s Next. He taught at New York City public schools in East Harlem for two decades. He spent five years as a curriculum developer for the central office and was eventually tapped to be the New York City Department of Education’s director of the Office of Instructional Technology, assisting over 1,700 schools serving 1.1 million students in America’s largest school system.


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