Technology in the classroom is nothing new; most of today’s educators have embraced the ability to draw upon an increasingly diverse array of digital tools and programs to enrich their lessons.
With the advent of more device-agnostic digital classrooms, many tech-savvy teachers and schools are taking a step back and reevaluating how best to use technology to support their goals. In the new device-agnostic classroom, educators are taking the opportunity to ensure they are focused on purposeful applications first, with a secondary emphasis on the device itself.
So how can schools ensure that they are creating effective, purposeful learning environments in a device-agnostic classroom? Ultimately, it helps to begin by asking three questions:
- Why am I exploring a digital learning ecosystem for my students?
- How can I ensure my digital learning ecosystem will support my students?
- What platforms and applications need to be in place to accomplish our goals?
For many successful districts, questions like these have become guiding principles, helping to frame the conversation around the “why” when architecting, choosing and implementing digital platforms and the devices that support them.
“Why am I exploring a digital learning ecosystem for my students?”
As with any complex undertaking, it helps to first take a step back, evaluate motivations from stakeholders and set flexible goals, which will continue to evolve over time. It’s important to identify your goals by asking: What, ultimately, are you hoping to achieve? Increased student engagement? A more seamless classroom flow and better time management for teachers? Easier access to performance data across multiple learning solutions? The ability to facilitate differentiation? Increased student agency and achievement?
Once these questions have been asked and high-level goals are identified and established, it’s easier to work toward them and identify the right digital platforms and applications that can help you meet those goals.
When considering these questions, it’s also critical to think about interoperability and how different digital systems can be fully integrated and work together, even if they are built by different companies.
When school districts build interoperable, device-agnostic learning ecosystems, they offer students access to a wider range of digital learning tools and curricula, as well as provide more effective ways for schools to manage their digital programs. Ultimately, these systems help students take ownership of their own learning, inside the classroom and out.
No matter what their device or internet speed, students can readily engage with their lessons, review their progress in real-time and draw upon a wide variety of supportive materials to help keep them on track. Teachers, meanwhile, can track student progress in a meaningful way and introduce any outside learning materials that they deem relevant, from supplemental readings and activities to wikis, OER (Open Educational Resources) and videos.
Still, the ability to deliver all of these capabilities depends on the specifics of the implementation – which brings us to “how.”
(Next page: The ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the device-agnostic classroom)
“How can I ensure my digital learning ecosystem will support my students?”
Once the “why” goals have been established, you can move to the “how” and begin evaluating potential digital resources in a more meaningful way. At this stage, it’s important to ask: How do our resources align with the learning objectives? Rather than solely focusing on operating systems and browser support, it’s important to determine “how” the platforms and applications will facilitate teaching and learning.
For some districts, this step can be intimidating, but thankfully there are a variety of organizations that provide support. Future Ready Schools® and the IMS Global Learning Consortium provide excellent best practices and frameworks for digital device implementation. Future Ready Schools helps district leaders evaluate and plan how to implement personalized, research-based learning environments, and IMS Global, which is quickly becoming the industry standard for ed-tech interoperability, can help districts map out the infrastructure of these digital systems.
In addition to providing and planning for the successful implementation of new technologies and operating systems, it is also critical for education leaders to provide ongoing, sustainable professional learning and development for teachers and IT professionals. At the same time, district administrators and school leaders should carefully choose external partners who can work closely with them on an ongoing basis and evolve as the district does.
“What platforms and applications need to be in place to accomplish our goals?”
And that brings us to the third critical stage and questions: What platforms, applications and devices will help meet the established goals?
When considering digital content, platforms and devices, it’s vital for technology and curriculum teams to come together and make decisions collaboratively and collectively – and from the lens of various stakeholders.
For example, IT is concerned with security, student data privacy, operating systems, bandwidth, interoperability and if the technology will work on all the devices. Teachers and students want to seamlessly access content that is purposeful, differentiated and supports their learning goals – and it must be accessible whenever and wherever they are. Administrators want to see stronger results in student achievement and effective implementation of the technologies, devices and platforms, while being mindful of costs and sustainability.
All of these audiences and their needs have to be considered when creating a truly effective and meaningful device-agnostic learning environment. Establishing a highly impactful digital learning ecosystem (either from scratch or by repurposing elements of an existing platform) is rarely simple.
But as many school districts have already demonstrated, starting with the reasons why a digital learning ecosystem needs to be in place, how it supports teaching and learning, and what platforms and applications support the goals, can lead to success.
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