The video above advertises Google’s Read&Write, a set of (what seem to be) awesome tools offering “support for Google Docs/web to students with learning difficulties, dyslexia or ELL/ESL”.
I’ve never used it or seen it in action. It’s very possible that Read&Write is a wonderful tool that allows students to do things in their learning and studying they were unable to do before it’s existence. That’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about this word that we keep using in educational technology: easy.
Before ‘cloud’ and ‘iPad became more prevalent in #edtech speak than ‘software’ or ‘image’, I remember things weren’t so easy. I recall how it was always a trick of problem-solving to integrate technology into learning so that it was meaningful.
Wait a minute. Actually, it’s still often a complex process of trial, error, and OMG-I-figured-it-out. Since once-obscure technologies became commonplace in our homes, pockets, and schools, the prevailing message has been that everything has gotten easier. I’ve been wondering about all this ‘easy’ speak. Here are some questions I have about it.
What does ‘easy’ mean anyway?
Easy? To whom? In what situation? With what resources?
Does it conflict with a growth mindset?
I do my best in my home to discourage my children from using the word ‘easy’ to describe skills that were attained over time. I’ve found that it promotes a fixed mindset when younger children are told by older ones that something is easy. It sets up a situation where the only option becomes failure, and that’s certainly not what we want with anything in learning. So, when we call something like an Apple or Google product easy just because we have a certain affinity or passion for them, it may be akin to my eldest child telling her younger siblings that baking cakes is easy, forgetting that she’s been honing her skills since the age of three.
Does it have to be ‘easy’ to be great/scalable?
Most ‘easy’ tech does not allow us to do things such as music making, app design, or 3D modelling. So, does that mean ‘not-easy’ software and hardware are less important for learning than easy ones? I always say that teaching myself to use Adobe Photoshop (of which I am still light years away from expertise on) a decade ago was very foundational in my abilities to learn new digital technologies. What happens when our foundational tools are Facebook or email?
Does ‘easy’ reflect consumer discourse?
We often promote something as ‘easy’ if we feel compelled to persuade someone to use or do something they are reluctant to do. Spend some time watching the shopping channel (actually, don’t) and you’ll see ‘easy’ thrown around like snow in a schoolyard. Isn’t it better for education to be in the business of ‘hard’?
In the same way that we need to transcend mere algorithms and formulas to be mathematicians, I’m wondering if we need to disavow ourselves of the notion of ‘easy’ in educational technology. What do you think?