Technology in education isn’t new, despite what it might feel like. The Internet is older than most beginning teachers and depending on how you define “technology,” you have to admit that it’s always been an iterative change process.
However, it does seem as though we’re finally at a breaking point where our old systems have stretched to their absolute capacity for the influx of new technologies. In layman’s terms: we’re maxed out and something has to change. Here are 9 problems that #edtech needs to fix, in 3 categories: #1-3 are about Communication, #4-6 are about Visibility, and #7-9 are about Pedagogy.
Parents. No, not the parents themselves, but rather our communication channels with them. We need better methodologies in place to have open, honest, transparent conversations with the parents of the students we teach. Involving parents in the educational process is the single greatest contributor to an increase in student achievement.
Students. I’m sure education would be much easier if we just had robots for kids, right? But that would be boring and that’s not our world. Nobody signed up to be a teacher because it was easy and that would be a waste of our talent. Instead, we need an edtech solution to how we can keep communication channels open with our students about their learning. Much like we need more dialogue with parents, we need students as active participants in their own learning as well. Students need to have voice and choice when it comes to their learning and so far, edtech has provided a lot of choice, not so much voice. Tools like Remind101 and Edmodo are changing the paradigm around the conversation of student learning and I encourage others to follow suit.
Universal IEPs. This is a problem you probably didn’t know we had. Here’s the scenario: students identified as qualifying for special education services have a meeting once a year where their teachers look at the instructional practices that work or don’t work for that specific student. They set goals for the year and identify any new strategies that could be tried. They talk about the future of this specific child’s education and, as a team, commit to working together for their benefit. Oh, and did I mention that the student is part of this process as well? They are in the room while this is taking place, interacting with these educators, administrators, diagnosticians, and their parents. They are actually a co-creator of their learning. Why don’t all students get this? Time and money. This represents the single biggest opportunity of edtech, in my humble opinion. Show me a tool that provides easy pathways to have a conversation about a specific student with all of their stakeholders with identifiable outcomes and recommended practices for the upcoming school year and I will show you a billion-dollar idea and one that will completely change the face of education.
Data. Teacher-accessible data that is clear and easy to understand just doesn’t exist. Data analysis is right up there with ‘root canal’ in most teachers’ prep times. And let’s not even start down what data visibility looks like for students and parents (it’s nonexistent). Companies like Eduvant and Metryx are looking to change this, but the edu-pool is big enough for all to play in. Let’s stop talking about data-driven decision-making and actually do it.
Soft Skills. Remember, back in the day, when we had character education? For some, it was even a class! We’re pretty focused on cognitive skills (reading, writing, arithmetic) but we’ve passed the buck on our non-cognitive skills like empathy, respect, and leadership. Yes, we could point fingers at why we think these skills have fallen by the wayside, but the past doesn’t have to determine the future: we can choose to value these again and edtech can help. We need tools to help us track and identify the impact of these skills. We need to be able to demonstrate them and show employers how valuable our skills are: cognitive and non-cognitive.
Lesson Planning. Somewhat surprisingly, we still need edtech to step in when it comes to lesson planning. We need embedded state standards. We need collaboration. We need idea discovery mechanisms. We need sharability. We need transparency. There is so much opportunity here and I am excited to watch companies like Trinket, Planboard, and Common Curriculum as they seek to innovate this space.
New tools. This one might seem a little ‘meta’ at first, but hang with me. Teachers need to know what to use in their classroom and how to use it. It needs to be easy and it needs to be fast. Please don’t tell a teacher to go to a conference or “search the Internet” or “join a Twitter chat” to find the latest tools. Yes, these will work, but they are horribly inefficient. Keep an eye on great tools like EduClipper and what they’re doing in this space.
Entrepreneurialism and the Maker Movement. Teachers desperately need help here. If we want to see more entrepreneurs and more makers, we’ve got to create the spaces for our students to not only discovery but develop these skills. For this to happen, there need to be the resources in place to facilitate this kind of learning. It represents a pedagogical shift for sure, but education is ripe for this kind of innovation and we think the edtech community is primed to bring it. Here’s the bottom line: if you want entrepreneurs and/or makers and you are one, you need to create something to help expand the playing field. You need to get more folks into the game, not less.
The Nature of Learning. The massive influx of personal computing devices into classroom environments represents a tidal shift in pedagogy. If we want teachers to be successful with these pedagogical shifts, we need to give them the support and resources they need to make them. More than just an app or a tool, teachers need training and practical steps to help them cross this chasm.
The 21st century is here and it’s brought some baggage. How will you turn it into an opportunity? Teachers, which of the above most resonates with you? Be sure to leave some feedback for us in the comments.