As the use of technology continues to flourish and grow in schools everywhere, it’s time for schools and districts to be more intentional about crafting a comprehensive K-12 (or Y5-12) vision for education technology.
Too often, technology implementation is haphazard at best; an ever-increasing number of devices, websites, and apps are used in an attempt to meet students’ learning needs, but little thought is given to coordinating that technology use in a meaningful way throughout a students’ K-12 experience.
Here are four key questions school districts should be able to answer as they work to better align their use of classroom technology in a cohesive manner.
1. What are the ultimate goals for student tech proficiency? In the area of technology, what would a well-educated student from your district know and be able to do with technology by the end of 12th grade?
Is your district concerned with ensuring that all learners are responsible digital citizens? Are you hoping that students will exit 12th grade knowing how to do some basic computer programming? Is it still important for students to know how to type? Are you envisioning that students will exit their K-12 experience with a rich portfolio of work that can serve as the beginning of their digital footprint? Is it worthwhile to teach students how to avoid cyberbullying? Do your students need to know how to quickly and critically assess the validity of a website they are visiting for the first time?
The answers to these questions and others, and the importance placed upon each question, will certainly vary from district to district. But it’s important for districts to be clear about which of these goals matter to them and at what grade level(s) those skills will be taught.
2. How do the various tech devices and tools used throughout the district lead to the proficiencies described above?
Once a common set of proficiencies is identified, it’s critical to assess current and proposed tech programs to identify if and how they will help students to gain those desired proficiencies. For example, before purchasing a class set of iPads for several first grade classrooms to share, educators must ask themselves: “How will these devices help us to meet our agreed-upon goals?” As simple as this sounds, often this is overlooked, and tech devices are dropped into classrooms with completely undefined goals.
3. What professional development will teachers need to be successful in helping students meet the proficiencies described above?
It’s important to note that the answer to this question will vary by teacher. Professional development should be differentiated to meet the needs of individual teachers, just as in-class work for students should typically be differentiated to meet their individual needs.
4. What data should be collected to track the progress of our ed tech initiatives?
This, too, is often overlooked. How will all stakeholders (parents, community members, staff members, board members, and students) know if the district’s ed tech initiatives are working? Should the district track test scores, collect feedback from students and parents, survey teachers to get their feedback about the technology in their rooms, create online student portfolios, or something else? Will this vary by grade level, and if so, how?
Before placing more technology devices in classrooms, schools and districts should answer the four questions above and create a comprehensive plan for student learning that will occur through the use of educational technology.
About the Author: Neven Jurkovic
Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath. Image source: POP City