But having been on both sides of the ed tech purchaser / vendor fence (I spent over a dozen years in higher ed online learning and currently work for Canvas by Instructure), and still having the desire to turn that fence into something more neighborly, I agree with a lot that Michael Feldstein has said about the challenges that hype-driven trends toward solutionism present to both parties. Some abridged quotes from Feldstein’s latest e-Literate post, emphasis added:
…We seem to go through endless hype cycles for technology-enabled education solutions, whether those solutions are general online learning programs, MOOCs, adaptive learning, competency-based education, et cetera and so on, ad nauseam. And the context in which these solutions are discussed is usually either a pitch by a vendor or some breathless bit of fluff utopianism in the tech media or the mainstream punditry. … Conversations tend to be collapsed into which thing we should buy rather than what’s the best way to solve the problem that we’re worried about or reaching the goal that we’re aspiring to achieve.
Given that situation, educators generally have three choices. First, they can trust most everything the vendors and media say… Second, they can distrust most everything the vendors and media say… Third, they can put together a review process which attempts to codify the differences amongst the solution candidates. Unfortunately, what often happens is a combination of the worst of all three of these options. Somebody will make a (labor-intensive) attempt to codify every feature of all the solution candidates and make the vendors respond to a massive RFP. … because the RFP is usually written to document differences among products rather than illuminate important features of the problem being solved that might recommend one solution over another, the results of the process often don’t change many minds. … So either the vendor that checks the most boxes wins or the vendor who had the most support going into the process wins. Obviously, this is not a good situation for educators, students, or schools…
But the biggest problem that solutionism causes is that it distracts us from focusing on the problems the solutions are supposed to solve. Who cares about adaptive learning, really? What we care about is student success.
It’s exciting to hear that e-Literate is targeting this challenge with their e-Literate TV project, and I’m anxious to see what insights they gather and share. For everyone else, I have no answer aside from the idea that repelling the temptations of simplistic solutionism may be as easy* as honest dialogue that is both goal-directed and widely inclusive, and open enough to run broad and deep.