Lately all eyes seem to be on edtech, specifically technology’s role in education, especially in terms of how new offerings are reshaping the classroom. New tools are meant to help improve educators’ teaching abilities, help enhance the actual learning process and also help students become more tech-savvy. But while such tools are important to the overall education ecosystem, technology can also make an impact long before and after a lesson takes place.
As such, technology should have a leading role in the part of the education process that takes place behind the scenes – parts of the process that are often overlooked, but that can also improve student achievement and learning outcomes. Let’s take a quick look are three such areas: human resources, professional development and improved IT infrastructure.
One area technology can help enhance current practices is within HR. More and more successful districts are considering hiring software as they face budget cuts. Such software can help schools ensure they are hiring the best teachers to impact student achievement – and that they are doing so efficiently and cost-effectively. Many school districts are inundated with resumes, full of highly qualified teacher candidates. Without software support, the right applicant might easily be overlooked. Teacher selection tools can help hiring managers make fast, data-driven decisions regarding which candidates should be considered for in-person interviews.
Plus, these tools can also help ensure districts are honing in on the teachers that will actually impact student achievement once in the classroom. Turning back to classroom-centric Ed-tech tools, it’s important to remember that even the greatest in-classroom ed-tech tools are ineffective if we don’t have great teachers to utilize them. In fact, research has shown time and time again that teacher quality remains the most important school-based factor for student achievement. (For inspiration for your district, consider Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools as a best-practice district, dedicated to optimizing teacher effectiveness, starting with the hiring process.)
Of course, technology isn’t just about hiring top teachers; it’s also about improving and nurturing the teachers already in the system. Digital tools can also help improve and customize professional development of teachers, both during the school year and during summer hiatus. Online courses let teachers log-in during the summer and gain skills to help improve their teaching. New technology, like video meetings, can help make professional development meetings more engaging, effective and accessible. And as an added bonus, greater access to data and improved analytics can help shed light on the strengths and weakness of teachers and help personalize the professional development process.
Finally, technology can also help with some fundamental tasks like storing, organizing and analyzing data – aspects that, when streamlined, free up time and resources for other tasks. This has become especially important, once again, in the wake of recent budget cuts. Luckily, new cloud computing and analytic systems are improving districts’ data storage for materials including student attendance records, grades and individual student information.
All in all, despite the focus on the classroom, technology can (and should) have an impact on all steps of the education process. And if used properly, behind-the-scenes tech can have just as large of an impact on classroom results as more learning-oriented ed-tech tools.
Joel Sackett has been helping organizations realize their digital visions for almost a decade. Joel has worked on numerous high-profile projects, including PBS Student Reporting Labs, Whitehouse.gov and 2012 Olympics coverage for AP. Joel joined Hanover Research to help expand its product offerings in the eager, under-served education market. He tweets at @joelstweets.