Edtech Needs More Infrastructure, Educator Support in 2017

School Infrastructure

Edtech Needs More Infrastructure, Educator Support in 2017

By Shauntel Poulson     Dec 20, 2016

Edtech Needs More Infrastructure, Educator Support in 2017

This article is part of the collection: EdSurge 2017 Personal Statements.

2017 is shaping up to be a big year of what-if’s. The President just called and is asking for advice on shaping the U.S. education technology agenda. What do you say?

Much work remains to be done to realize the full potential of education technology. While device penetration is increasing and edtech products are proliferating, adequate infrastructure in schools lags behind. Additionally, educators and school leaders need further support in identifying the best technology solutions, effectively integrating edtech in the classroom, and ensuring edtech helps, not hinders, the development of social, collaboration and teamwork skills.

Continue Efforts to Improve Connectivity In Schools

Just last week, one of my portfolio company founders was excited to pilot a new literacy tool in a school in Richmond, Calif., only to discover that there wasn’t adequate broadband to execute the lesson. Unfortunately, this happens all the time—especially in rural and high-need communities. Initiatives like ConnectED are thus critically important to equip schools with high-speed internet so that all students can benefit from the latest learning innovations like media-rich, personalized content, live remote tutoring and mentoring, and content creation and publishing tools.

Help Schools Identify What Works

As more schools get connected to high-speed internet, it is imperative that the most effective technology solutions get implemented. What if we could provide all schools with affordable consultants and researchers to aid in the edtech selection process? Edsurge's Concierge fills the consultant need by helping schools find edtech solutions aligned to their needs. Mathematica’s Rapid Cycle Evaluation (RCE) Coach fills the researchers’ needs by helping schools execute low-cost evaluations and make evidence-based decisions. In working with the RCE Coach team, I have seen schools begin to ask more informed questions like “Will usage of X tool under Y conditions lead to Z outcomes?” This type of questioning and analysis will drive schools toward selecting better products for their classrooms.

Support Teachers in Effectively Integrating Technology

Getting the best products into the classroom is only half the battle; we need to support teachers and administrators to effectively integrate these products to achieve the intended outcomes. Teachers need the time and space to learn and share best practices around technology integration, especially amidst the sea of change of Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, and ever increasing demands on schools. Teachers are hungry for collaborative learning experiences as evidenced by the growth of Edcamps, and they need more opportunities to reflect on their practice, especially as it relates to the use of technology in the classroom.

Advocate for Technology that Increases Connectedness

The best technologies often enable the most human aspects of teaching and learning such as inspired pedagogy, collaborative problem solving and authentic ways to “show what you know.” In an era where kids are often glued to devices outside of the classroom, the classroom should provide opportunities for social and emotional learning and collaboration. The Holberton School, for example, has leveraged technology to adopt a peer-based learning model where future software engineers “learn to learn” and solve challenges collaboratively. To prepare students to thrive in an increasingly globally connected world, it is critical that technology is used to facilitate collaborative problem solving and allow students to create and “show what they know” beyond standard assessments.

I look forward to 2017 and the potential that education technology has to continue to impact learning by engaging students with high quality, relevant content, empowering educators to differentiate and better assess learning, enabling school leaders to make data-driven decisions, and engaging families on what happens during the school day. For all of these education technology solutions to reach their full potential, educators and schools leaders need support to navigate the on the ground realities and help edtech live up to its promise of improving access and opportunity in education.

Shauntel Poulson is a General Partner at Reach Capital, an investor in EdSurge.

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