Decisive Educator App List Introduction: The Educator Obligation
As designers of effective learning experiences, I’d like to argue that there exists an imperative that is being largely ignored today. We have a responsibility to not only be aware of, but constantly explore and actively engage with, the latest cutting-edge web tools. To ignore these tools is to undermine the potential for student success. This seems straightforward enough, and I think most educators and Instructional Designers would assume they’re fulfilling this obligation, but based on numerous and very intentional conversations (often with very capable and knowledgeable professionals), I’d say we’re decidedly falling short.
|For a subjective, and less than comprehensive self-check, take a look at the logos in the header image above. How many of those tools are familiar to you, and beyond familiar, how many could you explain to a colleague? So how did you do? Don’t worry… unfamiliarity just means you have some fun new tools to learn.|
Now that you're sufficiently ashamed (or satisfied), let’s make a very important distinction between “popular and pervasive” and “innovative and insurgent”. Facebook and Twitter, although still perfectly relevant in 2016, could quickly become digital dinosaurs within a decade. The current popularity of a tool says nothing about its future potential. Peek over the shoulder of any Millennial on their smartphone and there’s a good chance they’ll be thumbing through something other than Facebook or Twitter (more likely Snapchat or Instagram). Conduct the same snoopy experiment with anyone born in the last 20 years (Gen Z), and your odds get even better, and tools less familiar. While fondness fatigue may be one explanation, at least in part, I think there’s also a deeper biological reason for the shift. As humans, we aren’t just evolving alongside technology, we’re evolving with and because of it, and the start-ups looking to fill the residual gap are well aware of the implications and moving at stupid speeds to understand and benefit from them. As educators, should we not try to keep up?
Embrace The Transhumanist
Angel investors pumping millions of dollars into new applications, and the developers bringing them to life, are looking for nothing more than interest and engagement in nearly all cases (and for all ages). Don’t get me wrong, notoriety, fortune, and fame also factor into the equation, but savvy entrepreneurs know that those things are just shiny byproducts of engagement. So how do you cultivate cultural engagement? You intentionally infringe upon (and literally evolve) the biological mechanisms we’re all prisoners to (for better or worse). Touch here, gesture there, swipe right, look at this, selfie that. We are no longer separate from technology, but instead a sort of complicated bio-techno-mind-meld. Whether that represents our demise or an opportunity is up to you.
As an Instructional Designer, I’ve been relentless in my pursuit to understand the latest tools that bring a buzz to the market, and I find a momentum building with tools that embrace the transhumanist movement and allow us to quickly and efficiently function in a society dominated by technology. Very few of these new tools are designed specifically with education in mind, but that’s beside the point. They’re creating a cultural stamp. There are companies and applications leveraging, and quite literally creating, our cultural biology and neurophysiology. The institution of education will always be years behind the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, so it’s our responsibility as educators to keep pace with the techno-revolution and leverage its tools in ways that benefit those we teach. If we don’t, there’s a good chance we will march forward blindly into a future we don’t understand, led by those we had a chance to affect but didn’t.
Decisive Educator App List: The New DEAL
Below are a few of the latest innovative applications with the potential to both define us culturally and change us biologically. I’ll also be actively updating this list on my website at The Bearded Skeptic New DEAL (Decisive Educator App List), so bookmark and check back often. As modern educators, ignoring the latest innovative tools is as irresponsible as the early humans who disregarded the spark and flame.