ZDnet’s uneven 2011 predictions

Christopher Dawson and Adam Garry each offer 5 predictions to make up the ZDNet Top 10 EdTech predictions for 2011. Dawson is the ZDNet education blogger and vice-president of marketing for WizIQ, an online learning platform, while Garry is manager of global professional learning for Dell. While Dawson interviewed Garry for his predictions, Dawson remains the article’s sole author.

I noted a significant gulf between their lists of predictions: Garry’s set was largely concerned with shifts and challenges in educational practices, with Dawson pays attention to those technologies that could be used for education. With the exception of the fifth predication – e-textbooks – his list isn’t so much about EdTech trends, but about broader *tech* trends that could have educational applications.


 Garry – education focused Dawson – technology focused
1:1 as learning initiative – *not* tech initiative  Tablets
Personalized Learning Thin Computing (lower cost, easy to set up and maintain)
 Product-Based Assessments  Cloud-based Files
 Increased focus on conceptual learning Death of Kindle
 Shifting 1:1 – students providing devices, freeing up institution to focus on platform and learning  More E-textbooks


It is this divide which that might limit the article’s audience to learning technologists rather than a broader community of educators. Indeed, one might say that given one set of prediction’s education focus, and the other set’s technology focus, that this article reproduces – unhelpfully – a division between educators and learning technologists. Readers are left to wonder whether Dawson’s technologies genuinely match or respond to Garry’s concerns – certainly Garry’s concerns are not broached in Dawson’s discussions of these technologies. Concomitantly, Garry seldom identifies the kinds of technologies that could be used to meet the challenges he outlines.  There are some apparently possibilities – certainly ‘thin computing’ with a lower barrier of entry for students might well seem to support Garry’s #5 prediction – a change in 1:1 learning where students do more to provide devices – but the authors don’t make these links explicit.

There is some unevenness in details between these two lists as well which I think represents Dawson’s overall gadget-bias: Dawson’s list is rich with invocations of various technologies, and there is much detail provided on the objects themselves. However, there is little information provided on the educational examples, with the notable exception of the 2012 PISA (OECD Programme for International Student Assessment). Under the heading “increased focus on conceptual learning,” there is mention of “the new common core standards” – but with no details of said standards; a link would be easy to include and most helpful.

As an educator and budding learning technologist, I would appreciate a greater focus on on-the-ground educational practices. For instance, Dawson enthuses over tablets, but are they really “Internet portals for a lot of students” this year? I suppose i’m skeptical because in 2011, I only saw one student using a tablet at the large public university I taught at – one with a fairly affluent student body. For my courses – as for others in the liberal arts – tablets are used lightweight, attention-getting readers and word-processors. If they are more creatively used in other learning environments, I’d very much love to read about it.

From this report – Dawson seems to be more in sync with developments in technology than developments in education, which I expect appeals to some readers, but not particularly to this one. If I do follow his predictions in future, it will be with the knowledge that I’ll have to do a lot of legwork to see their applicability to educational practice. Adam Garry’s work here seems more in tune with my belief that technological advancements should buttress pedagogical objectives, and I’m more likely to follow his writing in future.

Posted in: Uncategorized, Week 02: The Edtech Marketplace