Five Types of Educational Technology Experts – An Autobiography

You have probably met each of the following people and you might even be one or more of them. I know that I am. In fact, I didn’t have to look beyond myself in order to create this list. Depending upon the moment, I am every one of these people. I hope you enjoy this as little more than a playful reflection on life in the digital world.

One Size Fits All – This is the person who gets attached to one or a few specific technologies and then becomes an unpaid sales person for these technologies. This person is most easily identified by the fact that he sees his favorite technologies as the solution to almost every problem. Common one-size-fits-all individuals include blogophiles, wikiheads, podcastigators, digital storytologists, voicethreaditicans, Google earthlings, moodlers, and edutweeters. It is amazingly entertaining to see the extremes that the one-size-fits-aller will go to frame his technology as the solution to everything from low math scores to classroom management problems.

Trendy Technologist – This is the person who is addicted to the current technology, current ed tech buzz word, or the latest educational technology celebrity. This is not to be confused with the gadget junkie or the person who just wants to experiment with the latest technologies. Instead, the trendy technologist seeks to be an advocate for the latest technologies as things that are inherently good for teaching and learning. Or, they constantly quote the latest educational technology buzz words or ed tech celebrity names. If you challenge them with a simple question like, “How does this improve student learning?”, you might just provoke them into repeatedly chanting “Cool Tools Rule!”, ranting about 21st century skills, or engaging in a rapid-fire quoting of a dozen ed tech celebrities. While knowledgeable, they have become more focused upon staying on the cutting edge of the field than being on the cutting edge of improved student learning.

Antique Technologist – In contrast to the trendy technologist, this is the person stuck in the 1980s or 1990s. They speak with passion about 10-20 year old technologies as if they just hit the shelves. They are the people who swear by the superiority of the overhead projector or critique current technologies based upon how they performed years ago. A common critique might be about how PowerPoint destroys the classroom, even though they are entirely unaware that PowerPoint has changed multiple times over the years, that it can be used in hundreds of different ways, or that it can be a tool for all sorts of non-linear learning experiences.

Technocrat – This is the person who is a computer programmer, network administrator, or all around technical whiz; and somehow thinks that this makes him a skilled educator. This is likely cultivated by the fact that he has seen endless teachers unable to deal with the simplest (in his view) of technological problems. As as result, the technocrat begins to think that he should make the call on what educational technologies should be adopted, who should have access to what, and how technology should or shouldn’t be used in the classroom. Interestingly enough, many school leaders submit to the technocrats. In some instances, these technocrats become more influential in curriculum and instruction decisions than curriculum specialists, instructional designers, or classroom teachers.

Expert by Recognition – This is the educational technologist who develops an inflated view of his or her expertise because of recognition. This sometimes comes from taking on the self-anointed title of blogger, getting invited to lead some in-services or workshops, having a big following on Twitter, or having a couple of YouTube videos that go viral. Unfortunately, they may have mistaken celebrity and expertise.