How to realize ed tech’s game-changing potential

  • Digital content: There is a proliferation of much better, highly-produced digital content from massively open online courses, free educational videos, and video tutorials such as the Khan Academy.
  • Quantity and quality of data: “We’re at the front end of figuring out how to leverage this,” Cator said. Data-driven decision making has been a buzz word for some time, but in reality, educators have had very few data to stand on, and these data have not been connected to other data. Information on administration, assessment, and student engagement, when connected, can completely change instruction. “As students begin to use digital environments, we’ll have a plethora of new data,” Cator said.
  • Real-time feedback: Teachers can receive much better feedback more frequently. This will help them adjust instruction to ensure that students understand concepts.
  • College and career standards: Most of the nation’s states have signed on to the Common Core State Standards, and assessment consortia are currently working to develop assessments to go along with the standards. Cator said that fewer-but-deeper standards will combine with the power of the internet to make available an amazing resource bank that has been tagged and optimized for use.
  • Equity of ed-tech access and opportunity is critical, Cator noted, and can improve learning for so many more Americans.

    “[Equitable access] is probably the most important part of this entire conversation,” Cator said. “Make sure every student, regardless of socio-economic status, has access [to technology resources] at school. The second thing is to begin to work on home access. … Try to figure out how all of your students can get home access.”

    Take-home one-to-one computing initiatives, programs that provide free community broadband access, leveraging cellular data networks, and “bring your own device” initiatives are just some of the ways schools might be able to ensure that students have access to high-speed internet, she said.

    The Mooresville Graded School District near Charlotte, N.C., has used the NETP as a model to move toward a school environment that focuses on stakeholder buy-in and equal learning opportunities for everyone.

    Building a school culture that ensures students have access to personalized learning opportunities and project-based work, giving students 21st-century tools (students in grades 3-12 have in-school access to laptops, and those in grades 4-12 take their laptops from school to home), working to connect data to instructional practices and student needs, building school leaders’ and classroom teachers’ ed-tech capacity, and fostering a sense of complete commitment among all district employees and community members are the district’s key goals, said Superintendent Mark Edwards. a 2002 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media.

    Laura Ascione

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