Sometimes, your words wind up in others’ stories. And wind up telling the story better than you could have directly.
That’s been the case in the past week when I’ve seen thoughts I’ve shared on everything from science-fiction technology to education technology appear under the bylines of others. (And yes. It’s all the same Frank Catalano. I just haven’t made a big deal about my science-fiction writing to those who know me for education and other technology, as EdSurge perceptively observed.)
Edtech is at one end of the spectrum. Jennifer Chang, in Success Magazine, provided an overview of areas of entrepreneurial involvement currently under discussion and debate. I pointed out that there isn’t just one kind of education technology, but at least three: the digital curriculum materials and devices that students see, testing and assessment software teachers use, and the stuff students never see.
“The third bucket tends to be ignored a lot, but the third bucket is things like student information and data or portals for parents to look at grades,” explains longtime industry strategist and analyst Frank Catalano. “All three of those buckets are important, but when people think about technology in classrooms, they tend to think of stuff that generally faces the student, not the stuff that teachers use in lesson planning or that administrators use to run the school.”
There’s also the matter of people being really awful at predicting how unfamiliar tech can change lives, as was shown years ago when focus groups hated the idea of automated teller machines.
“ATMs transformed how we think about banking in ways that nobody could foresee at the time they were introduced. Technology could do the same thing for education with the right emphasis put in the right places,” Catalano explains.
And I come out in favor of making sure startups know enough about education — but not too much, so that knowledge can be used as the basis for true innovation.
“It’s important to talk to teachers and talk to students, but don’t let it completely constrict your thinking,” he warns. “If the music industry knew exactly what it [needed] and music consumers really knew exactly what they wanted, they would’ve been the ones who created iTunes. And they didn’t. It took somebody from the outside, who didn’t come from the industry but knew enough about it and was informed by the people in it and the customers to do something transformative. To me, that kind of plays against the concept that only teachers or education administrators can come up with good ideas. That’s not true. They have important input. But sometimes to do transformative thinking, you need somebody from the outside who can sort of internalize the issues from a new perspective.”
At the other end of the spectrum? USA Today, where Jon Swartz did a well-researched and fun piece, “Today’s technology lives in sci-fi films of yesteryear.” Think Google Glass, drones and all that. My take:
“The best predictive movies are based on well-thought-out books or short fiction by some of the best minds of speculative fiction,” says science-fiction writer Frank Catalano, pointing to Philip K. Dick (whose stories inspired Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall and The Adjustment Bureau) and Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
And Getting Smart, an edtech blog, cited a white paper I’d written and quoted me a bit more in discussing digital Open Badges and how these smart web images, with embedded data, might fit into the future of professional credentials in, “Mozilla Open Badges to Show Career Readiness.”
It was an unusually busy week. To be Frank.