The Siren Call of the Shiny

In education we are consistently pulled by the “shiny.”  In addition I believe the public and educational administrators are even more strongly attracted to the siren call of the “shiny,”  and demand that educators do the same – putting even more pressure on educators to develop what feels like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- an inability to stay focused on any one “shiny” for an extended period of time.

What is the “Shiny”?

So what is the siren call of the “shiny”?  It is jumping on the latest bandwagon/craze/trend/technology/ideology without looking at, understanding, making a conscious decision to do so.  When we as educators or instructional designers let the “shiny” drive our design, the resulting education becomes flat, misaligned, and in need of constant updating.

In a presentation by Ruben Puentedura on the various models in education there is one point where he talks about the “oooo shiny model” that focuses on technology.  But anything that catches our eye  – a specific strategy, a textbook, a classroom set up, etc., could be considered the “shiny” in this context. (You only need to watch/listen for about 30 seconds. I really do like his SAMR model.  I would recommend listening to this entire presentation [both part 1 and part 2] or some of his other shorter presentations like his SPARK PDX 2014 talk.)


Best Practices

I was in the process of reviewing entries for an award for Best Practices, when these thoughts came crashing together.  I was looking at an amazing course, with real life impact, for a group of people I love and appreciate.  I could see how it would benefit not only the intended audience, but the educators and other people in the participant’s lives.  The research, however, was non-existent.

Actually what I should say is that the connection to research was non-existent.  I know there is research supporting many of the aspects of this course, but the author of the submission entry did not make those connections, in fact there was no reference list at all.

So what makes something a “Best Practice”?

Why?  Why did you think it would work?  What evidence do you have to back up your choices?

I believe one of the hallmarks of good teachers is the constant improvement of their instruction.  This does not mean that they respond to the siren call of the “shiny.”  Instead they stop and evaluate the new “shiny.”  They ask critical questions, and do a bit of reading, conversing with colleagues, and lots of thinking.

Some questions they may ask…

  • What is the purpose of this tool?
  • How does it work with my current curriculum?
  • How much of my time will this take?
  • How much time will it take for students?
  • Could this help with the current problem I have (in week 2, that one concept, etc.)
  • Does that purpose fit with the goals of my course/topic/unit?
  • Will this enable me or my students to do more/better/faster? (This is where SAMR comes in!)

So, as you see the new and emerging tools, ask lots of questions.  Stretch to find ways and tools to redefine teaching an learning.


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