When we started talking about a 1:1 computing initiative, one of the biggest concerns we heard from administrators, community members, and parents was, how were we going to monitor students digitally?
After all, it’s one thing to know what students are doing when they’re sitting in a classroom, but giving them devices—and online access both in and out of school—presented a whole range of new challenges.
Related content: Student safety management is more important than ever
Once at home, for example, those devices become “personal devices,” and are used for everything from web browsing to writing notes (via Google Docs) to sharing photos with one another.
There are a number of old sayings about learning to understand another by walking in their shoes, moccasins, or sandals. Since those sayings cross quite a few cultures and were even turned into an Elvis Presley song—“Walk a Mile in My Shoes”—maybe edtech leaders need to consider the concept behind the saying. When IT leaders make decisions regarding changes to systems, it is essential to consider the perspectives of the end users in change management.
When I was an IT manager, the concept of change management was essential in determining when we would propagate upgrades or shifts to new systems. The migration from installed software to web-based applications like Google Apps and Word 365 have taken much of that control away from local IT leaders.
Related content: Why should schools change?
However, the concepts behind orderly and thoughtful change management are still important and need to be given due consideration by IT leadership.
All educators are lifelong learners, whether they’re figuring out how to incorporate the latest edtech device into their lessons or researching bios on NBA players to help a reluctant reader.
But while schools expect teachers to continue their education, most only get rewarded for getting an advanced degree like a master’s or a Ph.D. Now, organizations like Digital Promise have developed programs for educator micro-credentials, which recognize educators for acquiring new skills.
Related content: Take a peek at the research behind educator micro-credentials
During her presentation, “Measuring and Sustaining Professional Learning Through Micro-Credentials,” Odelia Younge, senior project director for educator micro-credentials at Digital Promise, explained the key elements of educator micro-credentials, how they work, and what differentiates them from other professional development.
Today’s supplemental solutions don’t allow district leaders or teachers much flexibility. Much like “one size fits all” training is no longer relevant to the world’s workforce, today’s static books and online programs seldom fit the needs of any particular school district or classroom.
District leaders and teachers struggle to tailor instruction, but options for building courses, modules, or lessons are very limited. Large publishers can reorder chapters or mush them together (and even that’s expensive) and leading online solutions offer limited and cumbersome options for customization, but these are by and large only partial solutions.
Related content: How we created a growth mindset in math
Importantly, the latest research confirms what we had been worried about all along. Without the teacher in the equation, and even though “credits” can be earned, learning suffers.
For the past decade of my career, I’ve worked to empower and inspire educators in their use of digital content and technology. From teaching educators in graduate level courses and delivering school level professional development to producing digital learning content and designing educational products and services, my career has had one common purpose: to learn how to best support educators’ use of digital content.
This work has been informed by hours interviewing, surveying, observing, and conversing with educators in all roles, grade-levels, and subject areas. Throughout this process, I have observed time and again that when we give educators practical strategies to use digital content, they are more effective at teaching with that content and engaging students in the learning process.
Following are five new strategies educators at any level can use to more effectively use digital content to jumpstart classroom learning.
Communication and collaboration are not the same thing. There are many tools that allow educators and administrators to talk to each other, but to take advantage of edtech’s promise, they should also be able to use collaboration tools to work together on the same projects.
In her presentation, “Collaboration Near and Far in Digital Professional Learning Communities,” Geri Gillespy, administrator of digital integration at West Ada School District in ID, talked about how to get the most out of online collaboration tools.
Related content: 7 collaboration tools for the modern classroom
First, school and district administrators should be clear on why they want to adopt collaboration tools. How will the tool enhance classroom learning and provide an advantage for teachers, students, and staff? For instance, at Gillespy’s school, they use the tool for new teacher and staff member orientation, providing them with training throughout their first year. New tech tools shouldn’t be a distraction or something that will take up more of a teacher’s precious time without actual benefits.
Coding and robotics programs in classrooms reflect how integral technology is in our lives.
Educators like Angie Kalthoff, a technology integrationist in St. Cloud, MN, and Ann Bartel, an instructional technology specialist in Chilton, WI, teach K-8 students about technology through coding and computer science programs that incorporate the 4Cs of learning: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.
Related content: 3 things to consider when introducing a K-12 coding or robotics program
In a recent edWebinar, Kalthoff and Bartel explain that they want to coach students and not just tell them what button to push or the correct sequences to move a robot across a mat. By being challenged to take ownership of their learning through design thinking, students grow to understand that it is okay not to get the right answer the first time and that failing is part of the learning process.
Several school district officials have told us they want to embrace our philosophy of empowering students and teachers through technology innovation, but lack the right infrastructure to support this vision. After our district completed a three-year, district-wide technology refresh cycle, we wanted to share our top takeaways to help our peers get more educational benefits from your network infrastructure.
Lesson #1: Organizational structure matters
Like many districts, in the past our IT department delivered products and services as a separate entity from our curriculum and instructional development staff. Now we’re all organized under the same leadership and our joint team is headed by a chief learning officer.
Related content: What’s the one tech tool you can’t give up?
This reorganization resulted in a strategic shift to giving our curriculum staff the voice that drives our services. In other words, they provide the curricular vision and then we meet their expectations by delivering the right technology. Having a strong and collaborative relationship is critical for determining the infrastructure our district needs for the personalized learning and user experiences that support our district’s mission: “Every student enters with a promise and exits with a purpose.”
In many districts, students still get their first introduction to computer science and coding in middle school or high school. That timing, argues John Pearce, is all wrong.
“If you start computer science in K-5, students don’t have set ideas about what they are or aren’t good at,” explains Pearce, director of Family Code Night and MV GATE, a Mill Valley, California, nonprofit that provides educational programs and field trips that engage students in coding, engineering and math.
Related content: Why we should teach coding in elementary school
And, at this age, “they are wonderfully able to grasp universal concepts in computer science.”
Take the universal coding concept of a “conditional,” for instance. It sounds technical, but as Pearce points out, kids know what a conditional is. If I’m hungry, I eat. If it’s raining, I take an umbrella.
School districts face urgent issues, from student safety to teacher evaluations, but perhaps the most critical problem involves mismanaged spending. Mismanaged spending can be a costly, potentially criminal, liability.
For example, an audit of 42 school districts in Pennsylvania found incorrect payments of more than $8.4 million in transportation expenses.
But the problem goes beyond just wasted funds. Mismanaged spending can also lead to:
• Squandered resources
• Overworked personnel
• Extra time needed to untangle invoices and missing paperwork
• Non-compliance with AP protocols or school guidelines
Download this free white paper and learn school districts that replace old systems with automated technology gain transparency into spending and boost morale.