MinimalistEdTech

As time passes, more tech. Sometimes it feels like edtech is inevitable. I strongly suspect that major players in edtech think this way. I'm not so sure.

And I think there's something we can do about it.

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Recently I had the chance to see one of Class for Zoom's demos of their new product. The platform delivers what they promise, an education-focused version of Zoom for both remote and hybrid teaching. They are in the sales phase and it was a polished pitch. One thing left me particularly uneasy...

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As it is nearly midterm season, a student asked the other day whether we were going to have a midterm. This tends to be a question from a corner of the Zoom that is a bit... er, clueless. It was in my pitch for the course at the beginning of the term: no midterms, no final. I get applause for that. They do the wave. They profess affection and my immortal glory. (The trade-off is they have to do a fair amount of writing and speaking.)

So, maybe a question that makes me wonder whether anything I've said is being heard out there, but good to reaffirm the plan anyway. No midterm.

I went on to say that I didn't have any high stakes assessments because I didn't think they could be done well remotely. Or, rather, there were more effective uses of our time. And, I added, I also didn't think it was ethical to ask students to install spyware on their computer simply to monitor whether they are taking a test without cheating.

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How much of what we feed into an LMS consists of just text and links?

If you're at all like me, you've tried a lot of different ways to deliver content to students online: all the major LMS-es, shared text files (google docs, overleaf, draftin, etc.), github repositories, shared folders, my own server, static sites with hugo and jekyll. The list goes on. But right now I'm really growing fond of write.as. It's clean, quick, and offers a lot of advantages for teachers, particularly in higher ed.

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It is an important criticism of minimalism in general to point out that abundance is a prerequisite. That is, one can't choose to minimize “stuff” without in fact having continuing access to stuff. There's privilege in that and it is right too to point to the classicism inherent in minimalism.

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