Ed Tech Leadership Blog #3: Ed Technology Trends

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Emerging practices in education today stem heavily from the incorporation of technology in the classroom to foster a greater dedication to lifelong learning by our students.  By identifying effective methods of implementation, teachers are now able to create a more individualized learning experience for each pupil, tailored to their specific learning styles and needs while providing a greater opportunity to foster communication between the teacher/student and teacher/parent.  As with all tools of the trade, however, integrating technology in the classroom requires an increased sense of responsibility by all parties involved. Beyond financial needs, the use of edtech also affects the workload required of faculty and staff in learning how to navigate through new software programs and adjusting their daily lesson plans to maximize these new digital tools.  

As the use of computers in the classroom becomes more prevalent, many educators have begun adopting a blended classroom approach to provide supplemental instruction and encourage parent involvement.  With this flexible approach, teachers are able to utilize blended learning to encourage students to take control of their learning through a facilitator role as students work through course material online.  This learning can further be reinforced through the use of a flipped classroom in which students are provided hands-on learning and guided practice during class time after progressing through online modules. Software such as Google Classroom allows teachers to distribute materials and instructions to students/parents instantaneously, while also integrating into most other educational apps for ease of grading (Steinmetz 2018, October 29).  This translates to a faster turnaround time for grading assignments and communication of information, freeing up valuable instruction time for the teacher. Apps such as Class dojo and infinite campus also provide greater transparency for parents monitoring academic progress while serving as a direct and instant line of communication between parent/teacher.

Through the use of software including Microsoft Forms, HP School Pack 2.0 and SMART Learning Suite, teachers are able to provide students with a much more individualized learning experience by utilizing formative assessments.  These assessments are short and informal quizzes that can be used to assess students as they learn, highlighting which areas may need further emphasis as the teacher progresses through a specific instructional unit, rather than relying upon summative assessments given at the conclusion of that unit (Zimmerman, 2018, October 16).  Perceivant, an emerging edtech company, is taking this individualized instructional approach to another level entirely. This company partners with instructors to build custom content digital course materials, integrating analytics to measure student engagement along the way. As students progress through the course materials they are presented with formative assessments, however this software also provides indicators measuring student confidence levels in the given material such as how long a student stays on one page, stop and start behavior, and mouse movements.  These indicators are combined with the overall assessment performance to create an individualized study guide for each student (Walsh, 2018, October 23). This type of on-the-fly assessment allows teachers to adjust their teaching to meet the learning styles of students more efficiently than a standardized instructional approach.

Along with the increasing use of technology in classrooms comes an increased responsibility for teaching students about cybersecurity and responsible digital citizenship.  Children today have the ability to search for a wealth of information at their fingertips, but face the danger of being targeted by others who would want to take advantage of their curiosity.  In response to this, many school systems have begun implementing responsible digital citizenship within their existing curriculum (Ottesen, 2018, October 1). Digital citizenship encompasses not only the safeguarding of personal information and critical thinking in determining the authenticity of information through online sources, but serves as a deterrent to digital piracy and plagiarism as well (Lynch, October 2).  School district administrators are not immune to this responsibility either. When considering the need for edtech vendors to pursue data mining in improving upon and updating existing software, clear guidelines should be developed to monitor what specific information is being collected by vendors, whom will have access to this information, and what safeguards have been put in place to minimize the risk of potential security breaches (Lynch, 2018, October 4).  A truly comprehensive program places parents and guardians in the center of this issue as well, maintaining transparency on the part of teachers and administrators to assist parents and guardians in deciding what programs their children will be allowed to participate in.

Current estimates place the U.S. as the leader in the development and implementation of edtech, investing 60% of this overall $8.38 billion dollar market worth locally (Lynch, 2018, October 18).  However, in the face of waning educational funding at local levels, this boom in available technology resources requires a comprehensive analysis of digital tools prior to their implementation in the classroom to maximize budgetary resources.  Specifically, policymakers must be vigilant in validating the circumstances surrounding the effectiveness of proven programs against their own local district demographics to avoid investing monies on programs that won’t effectively target the pupils we are trying to reach (Lynch, 2018, October 5).  Administrators must also take into account the monetary and staffing resources required by their Information Technology department charged with daily maintenance and integration of new programs within the district. According to Graf (2018, October 8), school systems should be proactive in recognizing potential conflicts prior to updates while also establishing alternative means, such as a comprehensive knowledge base or self-service portal services, to reduce the workload of the IT department in fixing isolated incidents.  Above all, the implementation of new digital tools must be both proven and practical for everyday use in order to maximize limited budgetary and human resources.

The practice of technology in the classroom, once perceived as a novel idea, has quickly evolved into a staple of education today.  With opportunities for individualized instruction, greater communication, and data analysis, we are poised at the forefront of a new standard in education.  As we strive to meet the needs of students, these developing digital tools provide the perfect opportunity to reach the individual rather than teaching to the masses.  The challenge therein, lies in how effectively we can utilize this technology while preparing our youth in the new age of cyber security.

 

References

Graf, A. (2018, October 8). Four keys to a modern IT approach in k-12 schools [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/four-keys-to-a-modern-it-approach-in-k-12-schools/

Lynch, M. (2018, October 18). Which country is leading the edtech movement? [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/which-country-is-leading-the-edtech-movement/

Lynch, M. (2018, October 5). Stop supporting digital tools that have not been tested and proven [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/stop-supporting-digital-tools-that-have-not-been-tested-and-proven/

Lynch, M. (2018, October 4). Digital privacy and security for educators [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/digital-privacy-and-security-for-educators/

Lynch, M. (2018, October 2). Internet safety tips for school-aged kids [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/internet-safety-tips-for-school-aged-kids/

Ottesen, J. (2018, October 1). New ‘digital citizenship’ curriculum helps students become responsible tech users [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://edscoop.com/new-digital-citizenship-curriculum-helps-students-become-responsible-tech-users/

Steinmetz, R. (2018, October 29). How K-12 schools can get started with blended learning [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/10/how-k-12-schools-can-get-started-blended-learning

Walsh, K. (2018, October 23). Getting to know perceivant – a uniquely effective approach to higher ed content. [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.emergingedtech.com/?s=next-level+content+approach

Zimmerman, E. (2018, October 16). Data driven instruction: how student data guides formative assessments [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/10/data-driven-instruction-how-student-data-guides-formative-assessments-perfcon

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