When I think about the biggest challenges that currently stand in the way of large-scale success in our classrooms, I come back to the fact that the public still doesn’t fully understand how data advances student learning.
I also believe that many school districts aren’t taking enough time to comprehensively plan out how they can use digital learning to help students grow. This is about setting goals for students and working through the issues before purchasing hardware and software solutions.
Finally, I would like to see us bridge the gap between administrators and teachers when it comes to the level of preparation that’s necessary for using technology effectively.
If we use technology effectively, we can transform education. This isn’t wishful thinking; standard research is showing this. But when we deploy technology we have to make sure that teachers are in no way diminished. They still need to be the educational designers. And an effective plan can help reinforce this.
Through its Future Ready School Initiative, the Alliance for Excellent Education, working with the Department of Education, has a planning template and a process that helps schools adopt and embrace technology in a thoughtful way and doesn’t disenfranchise teachers. The effort provides districts with resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally under- served communities.
More specifically, teachers in technology-oriented school environments need a good deal of support. They have to understand that technology is a way of enhancing and enriching
the classroom. Or, to put it another way, in military terms, they need to see that technology is a force multiplier that expands the important work they do.
I’ve heard educators sum it up by saying that teachers harnessing technology have to learn to give up control — not of the classroom, but of the learning process itself. And, indeed, going forward, each student must manage his or her own learning process, and technology helps them do this.
Other metrics will also have to change as the use of technology in our schools becomes more pervasive. First and foremost, we want to make sure that there’s core knowledge. But we’re going to have to shift from multiple-choice testing to broader evaluation. So, assessing how well students work together, or how much they’re learning outside the classroom, for example, will become increasingly important.
The metrics of the future aren’t crystal clear, however; they’re still being developed. But I believe we’ll keep moving away from assessments that are one-time snapshots to a series of
If I could make just one change in our educational system as we look ahead, though, it would be to push the stop button in every school’s central office and just spend a few days working on a comprehensive plan for implementing technology and teaching that would take the school through the next three years.
The next years will be critical ones in American education because we’re going to see new benchmarks, standards and budget strategies, and because the role of teachers will change as more and more technology enters the classroom. These digitally influenced outcomes will be meaningful and beneficial for an entire generation of students, and we must be ready.
Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a nonprofit organization that has become a national leader in transforming the country’s high schools so that all students graduate prepared to succeed in college and a career. A prominent voice promoting the effective use of technology to improve education for all students, Wise led the Alliance in pioneering the first-ever Digital Learning Day in 2012. He also led the Alliance’s “Project 24,” a ground-breaking initiative to help school districts plan and effectively use technology and digital learning. From “Project 24” grew Future Ready Schools — a free, bold and new effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career and citizenship. A joint effort of the Alliance and the U.S. Department of Education, with the support of the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission and a vast coalition of organizations, Future Ready Schools is serving more than 1,900 school districts, representing over 15 million students. Wise is author of the book Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth And Our Nation.