Key Findings to the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Tech Enablers’ Report

CoSN (Consortium of School Networking) is the premier North American professional association for school system technology aims. 

We are pleased to announce CoSN has released their third and final report on driving innovation in the K12 market. 

Want to know what this all means for you? Don’t worry we have put together the following simplified guide summarizing their findings along with our thoughts on what we think this means for the industry. If you'd like to read the full ‘Driving K-12 Innovations- Tech Enablers' report simply click here.
What is a Tech Enabler?

Tech enablers are supporting tools that facilitate more expansive opportunities and solutions in education.

Top 5 Tech Enablers
  1. Mobile Devices - Mobile devices connected to the internet enable access to knowledge and creative activities anytime, anywhere. Internationally, schools are using mobile devices to try and address digital equity issues - although mobile devices can also exacerbate gaps in learning opportunities.

  2. Blended Learning - A mix of face-to-face instruction and online learning reflects how people operate in the real world. Blended Learning can provide a much more personalized learning experience for students.

  3. Cloud Infrastructure - Shifting to cloud services makes teaching and learning resources more readily available in any location while also reducing costs.

  4. Extended Reality - Educators are beginning to use a mixture of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality to help students learn complex content whilst also giving them access to experiences that might otherwise be impossible (due to funding, geographical, or physical challenges).

  5. Analytics and Adaptive Technologies - Technologies that measure, analyze, predict, and customize student learning and other factors in student success could help educators individualize and adjust learning experiences for individual learners, build on student assets, and offer targeted support to address student needs.

Spotlighting Two Tech Enablers
Tech Enabler Number 1: Blended Learning

This tech enabler gets to the heart of driving K-12 innovation - shifting pedagogy and making digital leaps to transform learning experiences and prepare students to thrive in a digital world.

Exploring the Opportunity

While blended learning is nothing new, the current influx of more capable digital technologies means that it’s becoming ever more relevant. As this interest is amplified, heightened recognition internationally is highlighting that digital fluency is no longer a luxury in learning but an essential foundation for pursuing knowledge, collaborating, creating and solving problems.

As a result, more disciplined and nuanced approaches to blended learning have arisen over the past decade. According to Horn & Staker “Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns;

1 - at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace;

2 - at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;

3 - and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

The Christensen Institute launched the Blended Learning Universe in 2016. They identified seven common blended learning models.

  1. Station rotation - students rotating through learning stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one station is an online learning station

  2. Lab rotation - the online learning station occurs in a dedicated computer lab

  3. Individual rotation - students rotate through stations, but on individual schedules set by a teacher or software

  4. Flipped classroom - students learn at home via online coursework and lectures, and educators use class time for teacher-guided practice or projects

  5. A la carte - students take an online course or courses with online educators in addition to other face-to-face courses

  6. Enriched virtual - students complete the majority of coursework online at home or outside of school, but attend school for required face-to-face learning sessions with a teacher

  7. Flex - students move on fluid schedules among online learning activities according to their needs. Teachers provide support and instruction on a flexible, as-needed basis while students work through course curriculum and content

All of the above can be adopted individually or used within a combination, which enables educators to blend digital technologies into teaching and learning.

Imagining the Potential

Linking to previous reports, blended learning is ‘a bridge to personalization’ (Caitlin Tucker). But, as she points out, blended learning is not synonymous with personalized learning.

“Blended learning, particularly models supported by adaptive learning programs and tools, enables teachers to match the right student with the right content at the right time. It is a core component of a personalized learning model... These models place the student at the center of the learning process, harnessing the power of technology to create more engaging, efficient, and success-oriented learning environments.” 

Report by the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL)

Personalization is difficult to scale in the classroom without digital technologies. However, blended learning makes personalization possible when educators and students make regular use of timely, actionable information about student progress. Teachers can guide students to digital learning resources aligned to individual learning needs and preferences. 

“In blended learning… teachers often use time and space differently to give students more time for small group or individual work... which allows for the delivery of targeted intervention to and acceleration of specific students. Teachers are enabled and empowered to give on-on-one attention to the students who need it most.”

In Peru, this has been evident. Innova, set up by businessman Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor and IDEO, has become the largest private network nationwide, with plans to have 70 schools serving over 70,000 students by 2020. All schools rely on blended learning to inspire students with modern technologies and self discovery, splitting independent digital technologies with teacher-led collaborative sessions by 30-70 respectively. Innova takes a holistic approach to blended learning, making time for socializing, recreation and an innovation program for all students to focus on a social challenge. To support educators, themselves, Innova created the Teacher Resource Centre, with a catalog of 20,000 lesson plans from veteran teachers to inspire younger teachers.

“Blended learning can help to improve student voice, choice and engagement in learning. When used appropriately, it can also improve teacher efficiency while accelerating the learning process by personalizing instruction to meet the needs that individual students may have.”

 - Darren Draper, Director of Innovative Learning Alpine School District (UT)

Driving Innovation

In part, the popularity of blended learning represents a pullback from online-only coursework, which is best suited to highly motivated K-12 students with highly engaged parents. Too much screen time can be problematic for many students who need and want in-person teacher guidance. As a result, there is a major fear and risk of schools being out of balance with community expectations.

Blended learning should balance online learning with face-to-face social interaction with educators and peers. It is human contact that helps develop the fundamental skills of communication, collaboration and teamwork skills. These skills enable students to benefit from teacher guidance and support - even as they gain more choice and autonomy in the digital world. Blended learning programs should not neglect opportunities for students to develop these skills. 

“The personalized learning movement is often maligned by those who misconstrue the end goal to be the replacement of human connectivity with technology. On the contrary, personalized learning provides teachers with not only the models and tools to help create individual academic paths, but also the time and tools to connect with students on a deeper level.” 

- Tiffany Wycoff, author of Blended learning in Action and co-founder of LINC

Blended learning can help educators address a range of challenges and opportunities in student learning. In the US, districts and schools working with Digital Learning Collaborative are using blended learning programs to support a variety of educational goals, including;

  • Offering career and technical education
  • Addressing equity issues
  • Reducing dropout rates
  • Serving at-risk students
  • Providing world languages in a small district
  • Educating during extended emergencies

The Driving K-12 Innovation advisory board places particular emphasis on professional development to prepare leaders and teachers for pedagogical shifts. This also addresses a Top 5 hurdle: building the capacity of human leaders.

Tech Enabler Number 2: Analytics and Adaptive Technologies

This tech enabler recognizes powerful, behind-the-scenes technologies that are already making an impact on educational practices. Data analytics track student performance and other indicators of student success. Enabled by machine learning and AI, adaptive technologies learn as students learn, leveraging analytics to serve up tailored content that reinforces and propels learning. Although this is an emerging K-12 innovation, it is rapidly accelerating. The positive is that it could help educators overcome barriers and accelerate innovation. However, this particular tech enabler can cause tension between people and technology.

Exploring the Opportunity

Data analytics and adaptive technologies work in combination as tech enablers. Before technology arrived in education, school systems and educators already had plenty of data to digest, from student information and test scores to teacher gradebooks and observations to student work. Online learning platforms add volumes of data to the mix.

The added factor in this, however, is that with the introduction of software and algorithms, this removes the tedious process of sifting through mounds of data. These technologies can synthesize data from multiple systems and sources, discern meaningful patterns from broad sets of indicators, and communicate data findings with data visualization. Analytics technologies can generate data-based, actionable information for educators and students.

Adaptive technologies support both data analytics and personalized learning. They monitor and adjust to student learning in the moment serving up the next best lesson based on student engagement and success with discreet learning tasks. This can then help students immediately when they exhibit wobbly conceptual understandings, ensuring a smooth advance onto more challenging content as soon as they have met the learning objectives set.

Adaptive technologies can also feed newer kinds of data into data analytics systems. This log of data can enhance engagement, predicting learning performance and further monitors online collaboration.

Imagining the Potential

The biggest issue with data is the significant lag time between entering the summative data and the release of said data on student performance. Often this latter stage comes too late in the learning process to intervene and give children who need that additional support. This often has a massive impact on education.

Data analytics may offer a solution to this challenge. Analytics technologies provide more than a static, retrospective examination of a limited set of student indicators. A lot of increasingly sophisticated data analytics are using more data sets (including; longitudinal data sets, big data, machine learning and AI) to provide more timely information. Frequent, even real-time dynamic updates can make this data more relevant to educators daily practice. Thus creating a better balance between the weight of high stakes and formative assessment.

They can also give educators insights into what to expect in the future. Predictive analytics can help school system leaders “address multiple measures of progress on performance, from the student level to the teacher, school, district, system and state levels, through postsecondary performance, and into the workforce,” according to a report from the Southern Regional Education Board. “At the individual student level, failing to identify patterns in data will lead to missed opportunities to create personalized learning programs, or to intervene with at-risk students to ensure they complete high school or college. On a larger scale, that failure will result in misguided policies that invest precious resources in ineffective programs.”

Many companies and partnerships are trying to work together to harness the power of learning analytics, particularly data visualization. Based in India, The Learning Analytics Collaborative uses ‘visual data engines’ to support student reflection on learning; predict extra supports that students require; help teachers plan learning opportunities, improve current courses or develop new curricula; and make decision on efficiency and effectiveness measures. As a result, educators can use  analytics to actually address predicted outcomes.

Driving Innovation

The promise of data analytics is the ability to deeply understand student needs, progress and competencies in the moment which will fully inform educational practice. But there are headwinds to consider.

Data privacy is the key concern. Educators must think carefully about which data they will collect, what purpose the data will serve, who will have access to this data and safeguarding that data. Emerging technologies are starting to build in this area which are starting to alleviate these concerns.

Data quality is another issue with analytics as well. Experts use the succinct ‘garbage in, garbage out’ to emphasize how important it is to use valid, reliable, accurate and complete data.

The final key challenge with data analytic software is the human role. Technologies and algorithms cannot replace educators’ knowledge of their students, pedagogical expertise, or the guidance and support that only teachers can provide. Data analytics should empower teachers and students to make decisions. Adaptive technologies can be used to support personalized instruction and save time for personal interactions.

Conclusion

The two tech enablers spotlighted in this report are in different stages of adoption within the K-12 sector. Blended learning is gaining international recognition and is integrally connected to personalization, a key accelerator. Whereas, analytics and adaptive technologies are still very much in the early stages of K-12 adoption. This can be down to the reliance of human data entrance and an unreliance on rapidly evolving technologies.

Both tech enablers hold promise as mechanisms for providing more learner-centred, differentiated educational experiences that better prepare students for the digital world in which they live. Both present opportunities for educators to be more effective at engaging individual students while challenging educators to balance powerful (and useful) technologies with their own expertise and human touch.

The CoSN Advisory Board fundamentally believes these tech enablers address virtually all top hurdles and accelerators to innovation. They recommend initiating conversations with your community, considering how you can turn these tech enablers into solutions.

What we think

Although we regularly discuss topics such as blended learning, analytics, and personalization for our K-12 students, we do not always consider ways in which we can leverage such concepts to transform learning for our educators.  At MobileMind, we believe that infusing virtual learning for teachers and staff is a must if we are to provide quality, personalized professional development. We should be maximizing the benefits of modern learning models for educators just as we do for our students.  In addition, utilizing reporting data is essential in order for district leaders and instructional coaches to better support our adult learners in the K-12 space as they learn to adopt new technologies to transform learning for our students. Finally, we should be modelling modern strategies for our educators if we are expecting them to engage in an instructional shift. 

Change is difficult, and MobileMind is here to help transform learning with G Suite in your district!   To get started, you can check out our planning tool that will help you plan for meaningful professional learning for your educators! https://mobilemind.io/5-steps-turn-school-districts-into-gsuite-experts/

We hope you’ve found our simplified breakdown of the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Tech Enablers’ Report useful. Click below to view our blogs breaking down the previous two reports released by CoSN.

Click here to read our abridged guide to the CoSN report on ‘Driving Innovation Hurdles’

Click here to read our abridged guide to the CoSN report on 'Driving Innovation Accelerators'

In the meantime if you’re interested in kick-starting your technology innovation journey, download our free PD Planner here: https://mobilemind.io/5-steps-turn-school-districts-into-gsuite-experts/

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