Educators are always willing to lend a helping hand--here are tips, strategies, and goals from classroom teachers, educators, and IT experts

7 best practices from educators and IT leaders

Educators are always willing to lend a helping hand--here are tips, strategies, and goals from classroom teachers, educators, and IT experts

Educators frequently turn to their colleagues and peers for best practices, inspiration, and new approaches to stubborn problems. After all, who better to offer insight than others who have experienced the same challenges?

Be it making tricky IT decisions, trying to engage underrepresented students in STEM learning, or how to perfect grading policies and practices, all educators can use some help from their colleagues.

Here are some tips, lessons learned, and inspiring wisdom from educators across the nation.

1. Three guiding principles can serve as the driving force and framework behind every IT decision: equity, efficiency, and excellence. In my role as Chief Technology Officer at one of the nation’s largest school districts, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS), being accountable and ensuring we are making prudent financial decisions is a top priority for my team. Striking a balance between innovation and sustainability is a challenge most school districts are facing. At HCPS, we have adopted three guiding principles that serve as the driving force and framework behind every IT decision—equity, efficiency, and excellence.

2. What the F? Grading strategies for early career teachers that reflect more equitable practices will hopefully continue to evolve as stakeholders understand more about student needs. Setting up a grading system requires more than a calculator. A philosophical foundation is important to how a teacher grades. Having a philosophical basis for grading helps instructors explain grades, their meaning, and their value to students, who may then see the grade as less arbitrary. Two common approaches to further mitigate this arbitrary nature include normative-based grading and criterion- or standards-based grading. To build a strong, meaningful grading policy, instructors must choose the approach that best fits the course design and student learning outcomes.

3. Building better pathways to STEM careers starts with teachers, counselors and parents–and a few basic math concepts. There’s a common perception that young people don’t pursue STEM degrees or careers because math and other STEM subjects are too hard. That’s nonsense. To point students toward STEM careers that require mastery only of basic math, teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade must share the joy of learning math and show all students that math is a crucial skill.

4. Implementing a proactive cybersecurity posture is a difficult and time-consuming, yet necessary, process. In a 2022 survey, 72 percent of the participating school administrators responded that cybersecurity was either a priority or high priority for their district leadership and local school boards. However, only 14 percent of the respondents said their district was very prepared for a cyberattack event. This alarming disparity between prioritization and preparedness is indicative of the challenges school districts are facing pertaining to cybersecurity. As the Director of Technology at Maconaquah School Corporation located in north-central Indiana, I know firsthand that implementing a proactive cybersecurity posture is a difficult and time-consuming–yet necessary–process. School districts are prime targets for hackers; therefore, we must be prepared.

5. It can be challenging to find digital learning tools that specifically support lab science, but these resources fit the bill. As a former molecular biologist turned college and 7-12 educator, I have taught laboratory science classes for the past 3 decades. I’ve seen a lot of changes in science education (especially digital content) over the last 30 years, but one challenge has remained the same: students have to learn laboratory skills. While digital science content is abundantly available, digital science content that supports and focuses on lab skills is more difficult to come by. Here are my 3 favorite digital resources that can help support ALL science teachers teaching science lab skills.

6. Here are 5 ways to get results from your virtual tutoring program to help students increase their growth and confidence in reading. Thanks to a data-driven approach to tutoring, our district has been able to help its students increase their growth and confidence in reading. In fact, in the fall of 2022, our students who participated in tutoring showed greater growth on the Renaissance Star Reading assessment than students who did not participate.

7. Despite the importance of professional learning, there are many challenges to preparing teachers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, and it is drastically different from the previous three, with the hallmark of this period being the momentous evolution of digital technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is defined as “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” Rapid advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, and biotechnology characterize this revolution.

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Laura Ascione
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