by Al Kingsley
Al Kingsley’s My Secret EdTech Diary (John Cott Educational 2021) is a big-goaled, meandering overview of edtech (educational technology) available and pertinent to teachers and students. It is almost stream of consciousness told in a friendly, affable voice, where the author starts with a specific topic and then addresses that and many tangential ideas, showing how they are related and interconnect. It reminded me somewhat of a mindmap where major ideas and populated with an abundance of ideas. Chapters are collections of the author’s thoughts offered as you might in, say, a diary, topics like:
- Lessons learned with EdTech (i.e., keep everyone safe, promoting wellbeing and SEMH)
- EdTech from a vendor’s perspective (i.e., Co-production, Digitral disruption)
- Planning ahead with your digital strategy (i.e., Stop, look and listen, Wellbeing, and Asking the right questions)
- Voices aligned
Excellent topics that couldn’t possibly be thorough covered in one book so a diary approach seems like a good option, ideas offered through a wide lens. Which is good. The book would be too long for most readers if offered as a deep dive. As it is, the book covers more information than I thought possible which makes it an excellent introduction for new teachers and overview for veterans. The author is humble but knowledgeable, never talking over the head of new teachers or down to established ones. In fact, as I read the introduction, the author went to great lengths to be sure I understood his opinions were one of what could be many. He makes his case with thorough facts and examples and leaves it to the reader to make their own decisions.
A couple of tips on reading this book:
- Don’t skip the Forward. Some Forwards are more fluff than meat. Not this one. There is a lot of material you’ll enjoy reading.
- The book is written from a Brit’s perspective. That is great for me. I’m American and know a lot about US education pedagogy but not enough about other nations. I had constant opportunities to compare the Brit approach to ours, not to find better or worse, just to evaluate.
- The author includes glossaries and lists of resources on various topics. One I particularly liked was the list of edtech terms, found early in the book. These aren’t necessarily those used in the book, rather terms readers will come across as they teach.
- Another favorite list: tips for parents on making remote teaching work. This list I thought was among the most important in the book.
- The author includes webtools, edtech resources, and online sites, many of which I wasn’t familiar with despite thirty some years in teaching.
- Unlike any book I’ve read on edtech, this one discusses edtech from a vendor’s perspective–what they want, working with them, post-COVID, and more.
Some of my favorite lines:
“…the true potential of technology to extend and enhance learning and engage and empower learners…”
“…the future of teaching and learning is blended…”
“Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.” (George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset, 2015)
Overall, a fascinating book you’ll feel was worth your time when you turn the last page.
Author bio: Al Kingsley has spent the last 30 years in the EdTech space and 20 of those as a school trustee and governor. He is currently group CEO of NetSupport, an internationally acclaimed EdTech vendor, and has lived and worked in both the UK and US. He is Chair of two multi academy trusts and an alternative provision academy, all in the East of England.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.