Greg Klein: "Schools Will Make Flexible Purchasing Decisions"

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Nothing stirs Greg Klein up like blended learning. As the Director of Blended Learning at the Rogers Family Foundation, he currently works with eight public schools in Oakland, CA to incorporate technology into classrooms. Prior to this role, Klein launched a Learning Lab at Downtown College Prep’s Alum Rock campus in 2011. And in his first year as a teacher in Oakland Unified back in 2004, he also set up a mini-lab in his sixth-grade science class.

This year, he’s checked out over 50 innovative schools along with 100-plus edtech products. Here’s his forecast for what blended learning in 2014 could look like.

1. Schools will make flexible purchasing decisions

Device adoption will not be a winner-takes-all battle. “We’re going to see more schools use a portfolio approach to content,” predicts Klein. Schools will find that certain devices work better for certain classes and grades, and as a result, “they will stop looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, especially after seeing big rollouts get bit, whether it’s Los Angeles and iPads or North Carolina and Amplify.”

Klein predicts schools will take a similar approach with software and content. There is a treasure trove of content available on the web, and “what teachers will find out is that different kids need different solutions. It’s not going to be about buying gigantic contracts,” says Klein. In schools where students share devices (as in Oakland), the device needs to be open and flexible enough so accommodate a host of different content and tools.

As school officials refresh some purchasing cycles--or as the devices break--they will not be tied to the same hardware that they previously bought, especially as developers make their services and tools platform-agnostic. “It’s not going to matter if you’re on iPhone and your partner is on Android OS. You’ll be able to switch either direction.”

2. Half-measures won’t be enough

Some schools are purchasing technology mainly to prepare for the Common Core assessments in 2014-15. But making technology available just for testing won’t be enough.

“Systems that are only buying a minimum [amount of technology] to meet the SBAC/PARCC assessment requirements are going to find themselves with teachers super hungry for a full 1:1 implementation and frustrated at the lack of resources to make that happen,” he says.

Some Oakland schools have purchased four full carts of Chromebooks to meet the SBAC requirements. The devices have been slowly phased in for certain grades and classes--but not others. “It awakens people’s curiosity and hunger for more. The kids going to social studies class will ask ‘Why can’t we get the Chromebooks and iPads from the other classrooms and use it for our class?’”

“The test means we need the tech,” says Klein. “But we can’t just put the tech in a closet just to meet the test.”

3. LAUSD will bounce back

Klein is optimistic that LAUSD will recover from its series of much-publicized mishaps with its $1 billion iPad rollout. When he first read about how the second largest district in the U.S. wanted to pursue iPads, “the focus was on access to the Internet and 21st century tools. I felt like it was about civil educational rights of young people.”

“Then it became about keyboards and the hack...I think that they are going to fix these rollout issues, redeploy them, deploy a little slower than they already did. It’s going to roll out, they will still have spent a ton of money on it, but they will get value out of it.”

Many promises were made about “ensuring access to tools for all kids--not just the rich ones, but the lower-income ones as well.” The stories that we’ll see next year, he says, will return to focusing on “equity for kids, not about tech and iPads.”

4. Misdirected Common Core angst

Concerns about the Common Core standards and assessments will only increase as we inch closer to their official rollout in 2015, says Klein. But much of that is misdirected at the principals, unions, or even the district.

“The superintendent did not choose to adopt the standards,” says Klein. “If you really have a beef with the Common Core, you ought to take it to the state legislature."

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