“Study the Past if you Would Define the Future” – Confucius
Following are 5 undeniable realities of education technology, as I see them. What do you think? Feel free to weigh in with a comment and share your perspective. – KW
1. There are documented successes
I get frustrated with the rhetoric that ed tech isn't or can't making a difference. Just what measures are people exploring? High School graduation rates in the US are higher than they've ever been. Of course, there are many factors that play into that, and how much technology has made a difference is anyone's guess, but as technology continues to play a growing role in education, that is an important metric to consider. In the meanwhile, there are certainly documented success stories in which schools have carefully planned approaches to leveraging technology as part of a larger effort to improve grades and graduation rates. Here's a few of those stories:
- Mooresville Graded School District: This school underwent a “Digital Conversion” back in 2007 and raised graduation rates from 80% to 91% over three years. Learn more here.
- Carpe Diem High School:This public school has been highly successful at increasing student achievement with their innovative, technology-enabled blended-learning approach, which they initiatied nearly a decade ago! Explore their story here.
- Flipped Classroom Pilot improves “DFW” grades: Okay so granted, this is a small scale view, but it is one I was directly involved in and I am pleased to share my school's effort to find solutions that work.
- Moby Max – A Proven Adaptive Learning Tool Set: Yes, we should all be wary when a vendor publishes a study about their product, but documented results for over 100,000 students in over 3,500 schools are hard to disavow (learn more here). There have been many tools and techniques that have been shown through rigorous studies to provide improvements in learning in outcomes.
- There are plenty of other examples out there, like Clintondale High School (flippedhighschool.com), Western Governors University, and Franklin Academy, to name a few.
These are not singular, isolated cases. The difference between these successes and the education technology failures that we hear about are often the result of poor planning and execution. Proven techniques and concepts can always fail (this list of “12 Potential Education Technology Implementation Pitfalls and Ways to Avoid Them” documents many of the common shortcomings failed projects suffer from).
2. It's not about the device
How often have we seen this – a school buys a bunch of new digital gadgets (computers, tablets, etc.), rolls them out in classrooms or 1-to-1 programs, and Viola!, they think they've implemented education technology. Then they just sit back and wait for the improved learning outcomes to roll in (and act surprised when it doesn't happen). Maybe they did a little training and provided a few resources? Far too often it is far too little. How many of the horror stories we've heard (iPads in LA schools anyone?) have started with this ill advised approach?
3. No train, no gain
One of the most common failings of education technology implementations and integrations are the result of insufficient of or poorly designed professional development for the faculty who are expected to change their practices and embrace new solutions? You can't conduct training once prior to a launch and simply expect everyone to be on board. There must be a variety of PD opportunities and some of them must be “memorialized” so that teachers can leverage them repeatedly over time (for a “refresher” when needed) and so new teachers can use them. Of course, there's a lot more to good PD than that.
4. If you fail to plan (well), you plan to fail
Ben Franklin is often cited as the source of the powerful phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Whoever said it, it's just so danged true. You may have heard it before, but it's worth repeating and embracing. As with any new, involved undertaking that can affect a lot of people, good planning is essential to success.
If a school or district lacks the the skills or experience to properly plan the implementation of an education technology solution or a technique that requires the use of technology (such as flipped or blended learning), they had better allocate budget to provide for that planning and find a proven, qualified consultant to help deliver it. Otherwise, just stop right there and don't waste the funds, or everyone's time, because your effort is far too likely to bottom out. (Not to mention that fact the good planning includes the definition of how success will be measured, and without that, you won't even know what success should look like.)
5. Digital Fluency is a vital skill in today's world
In my work at The College of Westchester, I meet with adult students who are embarking on their pursuit of higher education, or returning to it after a prolonged absence, and many of them are pretty nervous. Add to that a lack of experience with the digital technologies that are essential to our hybrid programs, and some of these students are bound to struggle and feel discouraged.
Many of these students are less than 10 years removed from high school. That means they were attending high school in 2007 or after. The personal computer had been around for decades and the Internet boom was far behind us. Surely these students were exposed to computers in high school? Well, apparently many of them were not. How much longer are we going to wait to make digital literacy an essential part of our school curricula?
While many low paying, low skill jobs in today's workplace do not require the use of digital technologies, many better paying jobs do. When higher education technology outcomes go beyond simple skills like creating documents and searching the web, and teach curation, creativity, communication, and collaboration using today's evolving mobile, web based applications, then students can get a leg up on their competition.
How are you differentiating your curriculum?
Explore the importance of 21st Century Skills further here:
- Study Shows 21st Century Skill Development Clearly Linked to Career Success
- Angela Maiers’ Fresh Look at 21st Century Learning: Classroom Habitudes
- 21st Century Technology Skills Are a Core Competency for Today’s Graduates
- 4 Dimensional Flipping: Setting the Stage for 21st Century Skills
So let's open our minds to these realities and start righting the ship of floundering technology implementations, poorly trained faculty, and teachers and admins who aren't willing to model lifelong learning and do what's right by the students they serve. If you're gonna #edtech, do it right, or don't do it all.