The 5 Most Overhyped Trends in Education

4 Nov

For your perusal, a completely subjective list of five things happening right now in education that are getting lots of notice, energy and resources but don’t deserve it, and why I think we need to reconsider our collective love affair with them:


1. Flipping The Class:

What is it? “…a form of blended Learning which encompasses any use of Internet technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, and reverse teaching”

What’s The Problem?

The problems with flipping are well explained in “The Flip: End of a Love Affair“.

The short form is:

  • It entrenches homework
  • It depends on lecturing, a one way transfer of information to the student from the teacher, rather than allowing the student to construct their own understandings and meaning by interacting with the information.
  • It doesn’t account for students that don’t have the resources to learn at home (e.g. technology, family support, etc.)

2. BYOD:

What is it? “…stands for “bring your own device”, and refers to students bringing their own technology like smartphones, tablets, and laptops to school for educational use.  This has been traditionally done by college students, but has now spread into K-12 education.”

What’s the problem?

I’ve written before about the problems with BYOD. I also recommend Gary Stager’s “BYOD-Worst Idea of the 21st Century

The short form is:

  • It’s inequitable. It relies on families, who don’t have equal resources, to provide devices.
  • The learning possible is restricted by capabilities of the devices brought.  If one class or student has the latest devices while other students/classes have lesser devices their is a difference in what can be taught and how.
  • Continues the transfer of responsibility for funding education from public to private.

3. EdTech:

What is it? “…an array of tools that might prove helpful in advancing student learning…” What I am specifically referring to here is the onslaught of electronic devices being brought into education.

What’s the problem?

The consistent message at ECOO12, from top thinkers and all corners, is that when considering using devices in education, pedagogy must come first. Too often we’re putting devices into classrooms and teachers have no idea what they are doing with them or how best to use them. We need to first ask the question “what are we trying to accomplish?”. Then select the tools that will help us and properly train teachers how to effectively use them in education. At a time when resources are precious let’s not waste them on poorly designed EdTech projects just because we feel we need to keep up with Jones Public School.

4) 1 to 1:

What is it? In “1 to 1” classrooms each student has their own machine or device to work on. Devices are not shared between students.

What’s the problem?

The “Maine Learning Technology Initiative” has raised the stakes considerably. In this program the whole state has gone 1 to 1. There are small individual pockets of 1 to 1 outside Maine but the general impression is that 1 to 1 is the current common practice and if you’re not 1 to 1 you’re falling behind. Due to declining education budgets 1 to 1 in the classroom will take a long time to become a fixture. Maine is a small and isolated example and no one has been able to come up with an effective scalable model that will allow 1 to 1 to be a reality in most classrooms. It’s the future, but it’s still a ways off.

5) Parent Engagement:

What is it? “…Study after study has shown us that student achievement improves when parents play an active role in their children’s education, and that good schools become even better schools when parents are involved. It is recognized that parent engagement is a key factor in the enhancement of student achievement and well-being.”

What’s the Problem?

It’s important, in a general sense, that parents be as involved in education as possible, but things have swung too far. If you want to get money for something in education simply justify it as something that will increase parent engagement and the world will beat a path to your door. As a result parent engagement has become very poorly defined. What is “Parent Engagement”? In some cases it’s just helping your child to do their homework. Do we really need workshops and parent groups for that? Not all parents have the resources or opportunity to become fully ‘engaged’ in their child’s education and lots of students excel in spite of low or no parent engagement. We must be careful that in pushing the doctrine of engagement we don’t end up excluding large groups of parents.

30 Responses to “The 5 Most Overhyped Trends in Education”

  1. thomaszook November 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    There is a refinement process with all new ideas. The flipped class, and the BYOD model are both relatively new. Of course there is going to be over-hyping. One person claims their test scores go up with a new technique and everyone wants to join in. Simply pointing out flaws doesn’t help the problem. The first automobiles were seen as novel and amazing, but I’m sure some naysayers said, “Yeah, but they don’t go that fast, and need fuel, and people are crashing them…” But those that adopted the new mode refined it, tested it, and over time made it work.
    I’d like to see the format of this post be 1) the model in question, 2) what it is, 3) the problem with it, and 4) lets try this to make it better.

    • Lisa November 8, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      The level of negative response to this article just shows how weak these ideas like flipping and BYOD are for education. The early adopters are way too far out on these ideas that are not pedagogically sound. This just makes them look like poor teachers struggling for a magic bullet with technology. Take the criticism, most teachers feel this way about the overhyped technology as new and innovative for our students.

  2. Jeff Carpenter November 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Most of the educators I follow who are flipping are not over-hyping it. The over-hyping often comes from beyond education circles, where people are enamored of apparently
    simple solutions to complex education problems (plus the tech factor makes it sexy!). Many educators are thoughtfully and pragmatically experimenting with and refining flipped approaches, and most are doing it alone in their schools. I doubt they see this over-hyping and deluge of resources.

    Three rebuttals to the three critiques:

    1. “It entrenches homework.”
    To quote my neighbors here in NC, homework “done been” entrenched already, so laying this charge at the feet of flipping is pointless. Because of its potential for differentiation and personalization, flipping also might allow for less painful homework. An alternative way of thinking about flipping would be to called it an extended or expanded classroom space.

    2. “It depends on lecturing, a one way transfer of information to the student from the teacher rather than allowing the student to construct their own understandings and meanings by interacting with the information.”

    Flipping depends no more on lecture than any traditional model, and it offers a bridge for teachers accustomed to lecturing to make class sessions more interactive and participatory. Also, some teachers follow an “explore, flip, apply” model which allows for the students to first interact with the information and construct their own understandings. Flipping is a general strategy that can be adapted in many ways to facilitate different kinds of teaching and learning.

    3. “It doesn’t account for students that don’t have the resources to learn at home (e.g. technology, family support, etc.)”

    The tech issues are remediable, and will gradually dissipate as costs go down. The family support issue is there regardless of the pedagogical model. (Also, interesting that family support is brought up here as an issue, but then seeking parental engagement is later described as over-hyped?)

    Despite some hype, flipping is worth the investment of resources because of it’s potential to:
    1. Increase the interactive nature of face-to-face class time
    2. Personalize and differentiate teaching and learning
    3. Develop student responsibility for and ownership of learning

    • Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) November 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      This was a very good reply to the blog post. Flipping the classromm is all about differentiation and personalization teaching, higher quality homework and better use of classroom time.

    • ballacheybears November 5, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

      So your argument is that it’s no worse than what we currently have and in time it will get better? I increase face to face time in my class, I personalize and differentiate and I develop student responsibility and ownership without flipping. I do all this because my students don’t have the resources at home to successfully use flipping. I don’t dispute that flipping works in some situations but proponents have to acknowledge that it has significant limitations. It isn’t something that’s suitable for general application and is making things worse for lower SES students.

  3. Callahaan November 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    I sounds like you’re complaining because you cant keep up. Do you still use a pager? Get with it. Kids are more curious and more impatient than before and it’s going to take some serious change on the part of the adult world to facilitate the new way of things. Sites like are getting millions upon millions of hits every month from kids around the world. Kids! On there own! Deciding to learn because it’s on their terms. After started other sites like started. Others too. And now even more will come into existence. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    • Yong Ra (@mintyherbs) November 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      The thing is, students who go out and actively pursue those online and technological alternatives to education are the students who will already succeed no matter what. You’re talking about, maybe the top 20% of all students, the ones with good study habits, work ethics, and motivation/curiosity to learn.

      We’ve got to look at the big picture when it comes to this. I teach at a low-mid income region, where my students have a tough time coming to school with working phones, let alone have their own computer at home. Most of my students have 1 computer that they share with the rest of the family. Others yet just don’t care about online education. I can give them all the videos and online websites I want, but they’re not motivated to go on and study for themselves. They’d much rather go find a job and work on a farm than sit at a computer and watch educational videos.

      Yes, KhanAcademy works, but it only works for those it’s suited for, and it doesn’t work like a blanket that covers every and all students.

      • ballacheybears November 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

        I work at a similar school with similar experiences. I don’t see BYOD or Flipping as useful in my school and I worry that the more accepted they become, the less incentive their will be to properly fund Ed Tech programs for ALL students.

      • Callahaan November 6, 2012 at 12:17 am #

        Wow, incredible how wrong you can be. WRONG. Never said it should be all-or-nothing (blanket) approach. Let’s go over my comment again since you didnt get it at all the first time. Pretty simple, try to keep up:

        OPINION: It sounds like you’re complaining because you cant keep up. Do you still use a pager? Get with it.

        FACT: Kids are more curious and more impatient than before and it’s going to take some serious change on the part of the adult world to facilitate the new way of things.

        FACT: Sites like are getting millions upon millions of hits every month from kids around the world. Kids! On there own! Deciding to learn because it’s on their terms.

        FACT: After started other sites like started. Others too. And now even more will come into existence.

        OPINION: This is a good thing, not a bad thing.

        If it is true that 20% of kids will succeed NO MATTER WHAT then you picked the right profession because it’s rare to have any guarantees in this world, especially in a career where there are so many variables that are out of your control.

        Your statement illustrates how some teachers (YOU) walk into a classroom already having decided who will succeed and who will not.

        Let me address one thing real real quick. For everything you say does not work there is somebody that says it does, and vice versa. YOUR PARTICULAR SITUATION IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL SYSTEM (AKA IT DOESNT WORK LIKE A BLANKET). You should mention what DOES work for you and maybe somebody else will be able to build on that. OMG, so revolutionary.

        YOU: I can give them all the videos and online websites I want, but they’re not motivated to go on and study for themselves.



  4. Dave. November 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I teach a program which is very similar to BYOD. Students who cannot afford their own tech are provided some from the board. This eliminates the need to provide computers for every student. Other students may bring their own devices to use ranging from Ipads to laptops. Currently in my class I have 33 students and we provide 14 devices for students to use – so less than half. There is some disparity, as the author mentions, between a macbook and a netbook obviously but with much of the web 2.0 tech currently available this usually isn’t a big deal with the exception of video editing. The prices of these devices has come down considerably making this a realistic purchase for many but not all students.

    This model does work in our school and can work in many places…is it for every school maybe not but I wouldn’t say that it is “getting lots of notice, energy and resources but doesn’t deserve it”.

    Has the author ever tried any of these approaches and so have first hand information? Some first hand evidence might lend some credibility to this post.

    • ballacheybears November 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

      Yes, I have and it doesn’t work for me because my students don’t have any devices to bring to school.

  5. SStewart November 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for starting a conversation on these 5 areas. Seeing some response on the tech topics, I will add regarding #5 🙂

    Good questions and points about “Parent Engagement”. Echos some of my questions and concerns too. I often worry that the structures set up to promote parent engagement in Ontario may be distancing, if not alienating, some parents. As you know, I have been following the history (and twists and turns) of parent engagement initiatives and policies in Ontario for some time. I have posted some questions about definitions and the “research” rationale as well in this post:

    There is also a lot shared about using technology to “engage” parents as well. Sometimes I am not sure what is creating the most excitement – the technology part or the parent engagement part. But I think it is similiar to what you said in the EdTech section of your post: We need to first ask the question, “What are we trying to accomplish?”.

    I hope to elaborate more on this again soon. Thanks for your reflections.

    • With Equal Step November 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      Thank you for a most thought-provoking article. I, too, will comment on #5 since the topic seems to take up a lot of my time!

      I have worked in parent engagement since 1989 – as a parent, volunteer on decision-making bodies and, most recently, as a parent engagement advocate. Many times in all those years I have asked myself ‘Why?’ Why bother when some parents don’t seem to care about it? Why bother when staff seem to wish you gone? Why bother when no-one listens?

      But then I read, or listen to, Karen Mapp, Joyce Epstein, Debbie Pushor and other researchers and I realize how important, and varied parent engagement is. And, therefore, how important.

      I disagree with your assertion that ‘lots of students excel in spite of low or no parent engagement.’ Since engagement can take many forms, you have no idea what is happening in the home…or extended family. Some families do little but not ‘many’. Too many teachers assume that parents are not interested in their children’s education. The truth is that all parents want their child to be successful. But many do not know how to help. They would look to the teachers for guidance if they believed it was available. So, yes, we need workshops and parent groups for ‘homework help’, and more. Why is that unreasonable?

      I might agree that ‘parent engagement’ has not been properly defined, tho the researchers I’ve mentioned have made a darn good start. Perhaps it is better to suggest that in many provinces parent engagement has not been properly “implemented”. Why? Well, THAT is a question far to big to answer here. And I might sound a bit of a conspiracy theorist! I’ll just finish by saying that I believe pushing a doctrine of parent engagement can only INCLUDE large numbers of parents.

      • ballacheybears November 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

        Are you suggesting that there are no students who excel without parent engagement? Come on out to my school. You’ll see lots of kids whose parents are not able to support them in any meaningful way, and yet they succeed academically. I’m not saying it’s not better or easier if parents are involved, just that it isn’t as essential as some advocates want to suggest.

      • With Equal Step November 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

        Parent engagement is not essential for student success. It’s just preferable. What are you doing to help your parents engage in ways you see as beneficial? All parents are “ABLE to support in meaningful ways”; some need to be shown how. But, again, it depends on your definition of engagement and beneficial.

        I’ve taught kids whose schools have written off them and their parents. Why? Didn’t bother to understand the situation or history. I am suggesting that had someone, somewhere taken the time for meaningful communication, the student might have reached their potential sooner.

        For example, Debbie Pushor talks of “parent knowledge”. THAT is parent engagement. But many educators don’t value it…or use it. Making sure Johnny handed in his homework isn’t the only valuable contribution parents can make to education.

  6. @tk1ng November 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Don’t know that I disagree with many of the observations here.

    I’m a tech head and I have issues with people pushing BYOD without supporting it pedagogically ( So to the complaint that this is being spoken by someone not walking the walk, I’m neck deep in technology, and I have real concerns about using it in education not recognizing that students DON’T have magical technological knowledge based on their birthdate. Expecting technically bankrupt teachers to swallow BYOD/1:1 is a disaster in the making. We need a digital skills continuum, and we all need to recognize our place on it.

    I suspect that ‘Flipping the class’ is another symptom of the digital native myth – students directing learning doesn’t lead to an intensification of learning (though it might lead to short term engagement that makes this appear so). Flipping classrooms and student led learning strike me as lazy and backward… the Luddite boomer throwing their hands up in the air and saying, ‘sure, do whatever you want, you’re all just so much smarter than I am.’

    A teacher is (or should be) a master/life long learner. This doesn’t mean students lead, but a teacher doesn’t always have to be preaching either. Making them believe that they are directing the learning or being a master learner amongst beginners all have value. Teachers who relinquish the direction of their class’s learning because they think students have a magical inbuilt (superior) ability to learn should find another vocation.

    • CRGeissler November 7, 2012 at 3:08 am #

      Every time I hear educators talk about students’ seemingly magical abilities with technology … I have to sigh. When I bought my first cellular phone my family members were in awe. My grade school nieces couldn’t figure out what the big deal was because they saw their parents talking on cordless phones everyday. It’s not magic, they just weren’t constrained by certain ways of thinking about the world.

      So some parts of technology kids just get because they haven’t known a world without it so it doesn’t seem like magic to them. Of course if all you have ever known about is digitally shot video (no film; no tapes) on a device with a screen you will expect that video can be immediately replayed/reviewed (no processing; no rewinding). That seems like magic to some adults …

      But that they have grown up with these expectations doesn’t mean they have some in-born facility with all technology.

      There is an article looking at “Digital Natives” ten-years later which has in its conclusion:

      “Instead of having education professionals focus on the technology aspect of the debate and in certain digital native behaviors, which “common sense” has told us, are immutable, we ought to be focusing on proper pedagogy and exposing our students to information retrieval and critical information analysis skills that are in both the digital and the analog realms. We out [ought] (sic) to teach our students to actually change their approaches to learning when what they are trying out is not working for them, instead of assuming that they possess this “Nintendo over logic” which enables them to modify their learning plans when things aren’t working out.”

  7. Callahaan November 6, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    After reading some of the replies here I have noticed a clear correlation between ‘Teaching vs New Teaching Methods’ and ‘Fossil Fuels vs Non-Fossil Fuels’. There seems to be this idea that all new ideas need to be PERFECT before they SWITCH-OUT the old ideas, and even then it has to a be a super fast switch–so super fast that all we feel is this gust of wind and nobody ever had to be put out for even a second. That’s not going to happen. EVER. There will always be collateral damage but it’s up to the educators to keep on saying what DOES work and be SPECIFIC. Is anybody here aware of the contribution of scientific studies to the internet. Scientists wanted a way to share their information and thought that if they could SHARE it with each other that they could improve upon their own research and the research of their colleagues. Instead of using words like FLIPPING and BYOD as if they were unearthed from some deep recess of earth, why dont you take what you like from it and JUST USE IT. After than you can tell others. Some teachers teach in the classroom with books and whiteboards and some teachers teach on the baseball field without a single notebook in sight. If THIS was possible in 1920 THEN IT CERTAINLY IS POSSIBLE NOW WITH EVEN MORE RESOURCES.

    • CRGeissler November 7, 2012 at 2:54 am #

      To make an analogy I am potentially going to add some fuel and setting a fire, but please bear with me. You wrote “why dont you take what you like from it and JUST USE IT” — there is a problem with this is that what we might think is working because it aligns with our beliefs doesn’t mean it actually works.

      The analogy in education that I will use is something I hear educators talk about every day, “learning styles”. The research is pretty definitive — tailoring instruction to account for different learning styles does not improve learning outcomes. Spending any amount of time or effort on designing for learning styles is a waste. Yet educators still purchase books, attend workshops and think about how to appeal to various learning styles because they believe it does make a difference.

      So, taking what you ‘like’ and using it is not equivalent to adopting techniques that are valid and using them.

      What I find most interesting in many discussions I have heard both personally and in the media (e.g. TED Talks, Research, Blogs, Education news, etc.) is how those who are employing new technologies in learning are finding where learning is improved it not the hardware, the software or the strategy, but that the instructor/teacher has to be purposeful and thorough in terms of what it is they are trying to achieve and how they are going about creating any supporting materials — basically they are being good instructional designers.

      I believe that comparative experimental educational research that shows significant effects for one technology (hardware, software, process, system, etc). can often be reduced to that one side of the equation just had better instructional design. And one thing that technology can do is when we really want it to work — it forces us to rethink our pedagogy and just do better design.

  8. Young Principal November 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Brilliant! You nailed it … Professionally!

  9. Kim Stichnote November 10, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    I have a teacher who is using the text in a flipped form. He is having the kids read and take notes at home, and then he is supplementing the text with mini-lectures based on questions the students have or concepts the text does not cover. Very low-tech. This allows him to only address issues students have and not stuff they know. I think flipping is all about getting the kids to use other resources and not just the teacher. The whole teach a man to fish thing.

  10. Rachael D. November 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I agree with these disadvantages listed. For the flipped classroom, though I’ve never used it, it seems to be heavy on homework and not necessarily on hands-on learning. For a student who is not an auditory learner, this type of lecture at home would not work well for them. You also have to consider what type of life your students have when they go home. Some might care for other siblings, not have support to do homework, or have a device to watch a lesson on.
    I also agree with the fact that BYOD singles out kids and families who do not have the means to pay for a device for kids. If you are going to use technology in your classroom, the school should be providing the device or the teacher should make sure everyone already has one that can be used. Parents should not be forced to go out and buy something new for this reason.


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