This blog post title likely makes no sense. I must have typed it in and backspaced it out eight times. Maybe nine.

And if I can pull together what feels like disparate strands of ideas, that too would be an accomplishment. More likely a good breeze will send it flittering.

Would you like more rambling pre-ambling?

Strand One: Who is “Ed Tech”?

One strand starts by pulling a thread from the academy of critical writing of Audrey Watters. That thread being the history of educational technology, aka. ed-tech is wrong, biased (or worse), a debacle, ignored by Silicon Valley eduprenuers, and most recently, a fabricated imaginary. Ed-tech is not without intent, never neutral, and itself infused with stories behind the glitz of apps:

How do the stories we tell about the history and the future of education (and education technology) shape our beliefs about teaching and learning — the beliefs of educators, as well as those of the general public?

http://hackeducation.com/2020/06/21/imaginary

If you are looking for a “but” here you won’t find it. Audrey’s work is legend. And like many of the connections I’ve had in this work, we’ve not just passed in tweets and blog posts. Audrey showed up in 2012 at a SXSW session I did on my Storybox. I’ve been fortunate that two photos of her taken at smaller meetings were for a while her portrait photos. And once she and Kin gave me a personal tour of their then location in Hermosa Beach.

A thing I appreciate about her writing and speaking is that her ideas are strongly expressed.

So a story I wonder about is– who is this “Ed Tech” (aka edtech, or is it ed-tech)? Is what I do “edtech”? I’ve never care for the labels, though I have had a job title of “instructional technologist” 1992-2006 at the Maricopa Community Colleges.

The definitions you find for edtech might appear to be neutral, but once past Wikipedia, most are found on the sites of edtech companies or the money-making side of things.

With no existence in literature before 1960, “educational technology” itself peaked in 1972.

Google Ngram Viewer for “educational technology and “edtech” 1950-2008)

Once might picture the bumps in “edtech” near 1970 with the era of mainframe computing and 1980 with the rise of microcomputers. But that inflection at 1990? Yep, the World Wide Web as it was known then, with a 1997 peak suggesting the Time When People First Saw The Web as a Way to Make a Buck.

That’s a story I am making.

Having established I’ve Never Been an EdTech Guy, I might just have to share a badge.

And a thing about stories I relish are the many small ones that might recede in memory, when somehow the re-emerge as like a forgotten seed you dropped in the garden. In writing here about that title I had at Maricopa, I was rummaging through my flickr photos searching on “instructional technology” and found this.

The Elegance of a Type Written Thank You Letter
The Elegance of a Type Written Thank You Letter flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This came after an online session I did with students in the NY6 Instructional Technology Apprenticeship Program (ITAP) newyork6.org/itap. One of the NY6 people who had invited me, Ted Fondak, typed a story-filled thank you letter on an old IBM Selectric I and mailed it to me.

That’s the kind of edtech I’m into. Fringe. Odd. Personal. Can’t/Won’t Make a Buck Off It.

Strand Two: If EdTech History Does Not Appear in a Published Book, Does it Make a Sound?

This strand involves someone else I’ve known for gobs of time, Martin Weller, who beyond the online interactions I’ve been fortunate to visit at his home, walked the dogs, saw his local castle and pub.

Martin has a 25 Year thing going. His series of blog posts on 25 Years of Edtech grew into a book. And yup, he’s doing the same with his current perspective on 25 Years at the Open University.

Heck there might be 23 more books up his sleeve.

I totally respect what he’s doing and how. He does not claim to be the All Seeing Oracle of Edtech history, what he’s sharing is his experience having been there. It’s history and story and history and story.

A few weeks ago I heard from Nate Angell in a Slack discussion that the OLCInnovate conference that happened last week included sessions with keynoters Maha Bali and Martin Weller where the activity as some semi-chronous Hypothes.is annotations of their writing.

I was just a wee bit curious, so followed a link that had setup to annotate the intro to 25 Years of Ed Tech. I was early, there was but one annotation Nate had done as a starter.

Those always seem like good opportunities to sneak in early. I am pretty sure I was the first outsider marking up the text.

This sentence triggered one of my responses:

Looking back 25 years starts in 1994, when the web was just about to garner mainstream attention.

Introduction, 25 Years of Ed Tech by Martin Weller

There’s nothing to argue with. And while I did not know Martin at the time, I was there. While at Maricopa, in 1993 I first set up a web server for the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (see it circa 1996). And in early 1994 I did my first web “thing” that got seen more outside than from within, an HTML tutorial called Writing HTML.

I agree it makes a sensible starting spot.

But the thing it started me on thinking about. What enabled me, hired at Maricopa in 1992 with rather minimal experience as a “programmer analyst/instructional systems” to be encouraged to investigate, develop, share new technology like that early web, was a system and culture in place there. For a long time.

Hence my annotation.

The history misses a big chunk that was present at the place I started by edtech career (1992), maybe because it was at a community college. I entered on the tailing end of a long, rarely mention systemic approach to technology, going back to mainframe systems for automation and synchronizing in the mid 1980s, to starting faculty computer literacy projects in the late 1980s.

An early project I did in that 1994 year was putting online a backward and forward looking collaborative report on the system’s efforts, “It’s a River, Not a Lake” – the original site gone but in the wayback and my own archives Description.

There’s a lot more history buried than in books.

This was among a ew itches that needed to be scratched as a blog post. It’s that no one person, or book, really houses all the history. I feel there’s more missing than known, and much it in the kind of lived experiences Martin draws upon.

And I know deeply there is a vast amount of edtech history at Maricopa that remains largely un-noticed. My part there was on the latter end of visionary leadership and a learning/teaching focused strategy. A future post (pending some nitpicky resurrecting of content from a set of wikis gone underground) will be about a desert plant metaphor.

Revisiting the past can be just nostalgia, but there’s more. It’s not to see things were better than or that some previous group had things all figured out.

It’s that “the stories we tell about the history and the future of education (and education technology) shape our beliefs about teaching and learning.”


Featured Image:

Let Me Tell You Kids a Few Stories....
Let Me Tell You Kids a Few Stories…. flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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