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Edtech Irony

Our daughter was accepted recently into the private school we were hoping for. I don’t get excited about good news much because I’m an insufferable skeptic, but knowing where she will be going to school afforded us both a big sigh of relief.

The irony in this situation is that the institution where we placed her is a classical Christian school that has demonstrated little interest in education technology (Edtech). As such, there exists little chance that any of her classes will utilize Subtext, the Edtech product I have spent countless hours developing, improving, and promoting over the past year and expect to continue working on indefinitely.

Of course Cora is well acquainted with computers of all kinds and will have no trouble understanding how to utilize them for her gain. Realistically it would be impossible for any child of mine to avoid immersion since to be around me is to be around high technology. In truth, I think the idea that we have to “train” students in school to use technology is demonstrably wrong – I was not trained on computers in grade school, nor were any of my fellow software engineer friends, nor was my wife who works regularly with computers as an R.N. Yet we all adapted easily because we see them for what they are.

Devices which are born out of technology are simply tools. Tools are neither good nor evil, necessary nor useless, right nor wrong. They exist because someone created them and they are useful only when applied by people in useful ways. As someone who has dedicated a huge chunk of my life to creating useful tools (in the form of software), I understand all too well that they offer no value in themselves, their value lies entirely with those who put them to use.

So do I care that Cora may never have an opportunity to use my product in her classes where it might add value? Yes, but only as a matter of pride, which I do not take pleasure in recognizing. I know that her early education is about laying a foundation for a lifetime of learning, and that goal can be accomplished with or without any specific tool. If her teachers or the headmaster at her school do not see this particular tool as something which offers enough value to justify the energy and cost associated with applying, whether or not I agree with their conclusion I understand that no tool should materially alter the success of an education.

I am excited about all of the teachers we hear from who are enthusiastic fans of our product. Again, partly out of pride. But partly also out of relief that something I helped to create is providing value for these individuals whose jobs are made easier and more enjoyable because of it. Like chalk, a tool that I am certain at one point was believed by most teachers to be absolutely essential for any classroom and has since been nearly entirely eliminated from American schools, Subtext is ultimately just a tool. One that I hope will find a home in millions of classrooms around the globe and provide tremendous value when utilized appropriately by educators, but still just a tool.

We are looking forward to this new chapter in Cora’s life. I am particularly curious to see how this school’s methodology and practice will sit with my rather unsettled positions on teaching and education. Nevertheless, we are confident that God has directed us toward this school, at this time, for reasons only he can fully appreciate.

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