When Digital Tools Disappear

technology-3323683_1920We are entering a period of turbulence in the educational technology world. Of course, perhaps this environment has always been turbulent, but events past couple weeks have caught my attention more completely. Two services that I have used to support learning and professional development are disappearing this summer. TodaysMeet, a tool for backchannel conversations, is closing mid-June, and Wikispaces, a site for content creation in the wiki format, will start its staggered shut down at the end of that month.

Why are services like these shutting down? There are a whole host of reasons but also some common threads. First, there is a greater concern about privacy and anonymity than there has been in the past. In digital media there is an increasing use of these tools to hide behind offensive beliefs and opinions, to bully others, and to degrade decent discourse with little accountability. That has created a toxic environment for using certain tools for learning. That was certainly the case with TodaysMeet, as its founder shared in a recent blog post. Another reason for the shuttering of services is when a technology infrastructure becomes outdated and too costly to update, as in the case of Wikispaces, In some ways it is remarkable that more closures have not taken place, but it would not surprise me if many other digital services are teetering on the precipice of viability.

While I don’t use these services every day, there will be a void without their presence. But in reflecting upon this reality, I concluded that this void is not necessarily a bad thing. Here’s why:

  1. The closing of digital tools forces us to reflect upon what is important for student learning. So often, as human creatures of habit, we fall into the pattern of doing the same thing the same way. If a service disappears, it is a distinct reminder to re-evaluate what we are doing to meet student needs, who we were using this tool, and what would be best for our student moving forward, perhaps even prompting us to find a similar tool if we conclude that what we were doing still had value.
  2. When a service is shuttered it reminds us of the transient nature of life, technology, and culture. Change may seem dizzying at times but it is also an invitation to reflect on life and faith, with lasting stability being found only in Christ and His redemptive work on our behalf.
  3. A tool that has disappeared may also be a prompt to explore something new that will better serve individual or collective students. Building a simple search using terms such as “new edtech tools 2018” will yield many articles, such as this look at 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018.

When a digital tool disappears, don’t despair! Embrace the opportunity for personal and professional growth that awaits.


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