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When using edtech tools to bridge the divide between educators and developers, sometimes less is more

Do teachers have too many edtech tools?


When using edtech tools to bridge the divide between educators and developers, sometimes less is more

Educators already face insurmountable challenges, and distance learning has compounded those obstacles. From maintaining student engagement and personalizing learning with edtech tools, to managing student interactions in an attempt to keep some kind of normalcy for young scholars, teachers are now being required to add tech support to their already long list of daily responsibilities.

While there is no doubt that engineers and developers have created phenomenal solutions for modern challenges, there is a disconnect between edtech developers and educators that is making an already challenging situation worse.

Related content: How are teachers faring during the pandemic?

Even outside of the extenuating circumstances brought on by the global pandemic, it is common for tech individuals and organizations, who don’t have educational backgrounds, to try to apply their product to the educational space. For example, we all watched as large enterprises and small classrooms alike migrated to Zoom or other video conferencing platforms to maintain face-to-face interactions.

While these solutions were successful for two-way video conferencing, there are challenges unique to classrooms that Zoom and others don’t quite address–like teacher oversight when students are working on small group activities. It’s like trying to put a square peg into a round hole—it just doesn’t fit! When edtech tools are brought into the classroom and do not appropriately align with that classroom’s needs, it can negatively impact the intention to solve true classroom pain points. Developers’ lack of classroom experience and knowledge can lead to the development of technologies that appear to be forward-thinking but are not the right fit for educational use. Instead, developers should approach educators with a more collaborative focus to ensure proposed edtech tools best meet educators’ needs.

So, let’s apply some engineering skills, sand the edges, and smooth the corners of that square peg to fit snugly into the round hole. When implementing new edtech tools into the classroom, there are numerous considerations to keep in mind.

Here are my top three:

1. Resources

When school districts had to rush to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they latched onto various technologies and free trials to aid their educators’ and students’ transition into a virtual classroom. This was remarkable in that it connected great programs to students globally to help in a time of uncertainty, but the problem with this was that once the trial period concluded, schools had to make a decision if they were going to continue with a paid subscription despite strained resources across the board.

In scenarios when classrooms were leveraging a combination of free and paid applications to see what helped their students the most in a time of significant uncertainty, many were asking themselves how to determine which technologies and edtech tools were most worth the investment. Administrators need to look inward and determine which applications are most frequently used and look for solutions that are able to consolidate multiple offerings into one program.

Additionally, it’s important for developers to realize that the education space has always been restricted by budgets. So when designing new tools, they need to consider what technologies are already used in the classroom and how they can make their product an affordable option.

2. Implementation

I have seen some amazing edtech tools and solutions that were hindered by overly complex implementations. The best insight I can provide is that most teachers are not engineers or programmers, and schools do not have the bandwidth to allocate a full day to professional development on one specific tool. To make adoption simple and effective, developers need to understand that educators do not have extra time to deploy and learn new software and interfaces and provide true out-of-the-box solutions.

Related content: Is it a good time to become a teacher?

3. Alignment

While there is some space for non-standardized “fun” lessons on occasion, educators must build their classroom activities and lessons around specific learning objectives set by their district, state, and federal governments. It is crucial for developers to ensure alignment with these varying standards as they build their classroom technologies. Doing this will require collaboration with the specific administrators and teachers who intend to implement their edtech tools and solutions, along with an understanding that there will not always be a one-size-fits-all option.

The changing landscape of the education space has school districts implementing various new technologies into classrooms, and it’s likely this is only going to increase over the next few years. Because of limited time and resources, these programs must be simple to use and easy to implement through brief, yet comprehensive, training. If a solution is too complex, it will not be the right fit for educational use.

Additionally, solutions must be affordable. Budgets are already strained, and it’s going to be difficult for many schools and districts to reallocate funds to implement unproven technology. Once these technologies are implemented, they must be analyzed to make sure they are achieving positive student outcomes. An educational consultant who facilitates collaboration between developers and teachers can help with this. They typically have experience in both classroom settings and school administration which makes them best positioned to be able to determine what works and is not working in regard to education technology.

The best way to empower students during this time of distance learning, and also prepare them for a world that relies on technology more and more, is to cultivate the developer-educator relationship by increasing collaborative efforts to identify and meet students’ specific critical needs.

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