Friday, March 11, 2016

What Tech Savvy Teachers Want Policymakers to Know


Issues of data privacy, school-home communication, and equity are hard to ignore in the new climate of education. Communities are hashing out how to best use technology as a tool in education, especially in a job market that is forever changing and increasingly utilizing technology at every turn. From the classroom, school-wide, and district-wide educators' perspectives there are a few essential elements policymakers should hear. At SXSWedu, educators like Jose FaustoMatt Worthington, and me had the opportunity, alongside moderator Governor Beverly Perdue, to share our experiences and insights on these challenging, but exciting, topics during our panel. Here's a quick summary:

Teacher-Tested Effective Uses of EdTech Exist

Teachers love technology that gives them a chance to create and curate content; give students a learning experience that is fitted to their personal needs; provide a feedback loop between students, teacher, and parents instantly; and when they are able to bring the world to their students via online media and video chats. Technology has enabled students to be creators of evidence of their learning. School is not longer about taking a test. Students are creating movie trailers or designing infographics, and then sharing that work with the world outside their classroom.

Students are Using Professional Skills and Tools

Frausto made a great point when he said, "I've never been asked as an adult to prove that I can use a glue stick." We want our students to be doing things "that adults have to do," as Worthington mentioned, while they are in school. School should not be thought of as preparation for the real world. It is the real world for our students. Teachers have seen their students as film-makers, designers, advocates, authors, and more. They can build marketing, designing, and communication skills as they contribute to their school and community.

We Know Student Data Privacy is a Growing Concern

Up until this moment in American education, the adults have been the experts and the children have been the learners. Year to year, month to month technology is evolving so quickly that children and adults are learning it together. Adults don't have time to develop an expertise before their children have adopted it. For the adults who see their children and students using apps they haven't heard of or tested, it feels daunting. This is why data privacy has risen to the top of education policy debates. There are school districts, like Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, have worked with companies, teachers, and parents to establish a vetting process that keeps all parties informed. When all parties are transparent and we keep the lines of communication open, we can build sensible policies together.

We Care About Equity

We want our students to have access. But access is not limited to putting devices in hands. Our students deserve to have teachers who have had a chance to learn and tinker, so that they know what it feels like to fail and succeed with technology. Equity means that our students need access to devices, skills, and teachers that will help them try, iterate, grow, and eventually succeed at building essential college and career skills. There are ways that school leaders can provide these opportunities for teachers, but they need to have flexibility. If classrooms are going to start looking different, then professional development and school culture have to start looking different too.

This is only a quick review. There is more and the panel is worth watching. After you read and/or watch, please comment or tweet and let us know your thoughts.