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The Teacher Professional Development Controversy: Is It Just a Joke? Or More Effective Than Ever?

“I’m about as professionally developed as I need to be.”

Those are the actual sentiments about teacher professional development from Eddie B., a teacher turned comedian. He has a huge YouTube following of loyal teacher fans. Why?  Because he gets to the heart of their pain through laughter.

It’s no secret that the workload for teachers has become increasingly difficult with demands that seem unrealistic to fulfill. This has led to teacher shortages across the entire country. But now, with the hybrid of remote / face-to-face learning, ramped-up safety precautions due to COVID-19, and a greater diversity in students’ needs to add to the mix…teacher professional development is more critical than ever.

And teachers are seeking better professional development programs as another school year is underway with COVID-19 safety practices in place. Let’s look at the goals of teacher PD.

Goals of Professional Development

According to research completed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, student achievement can improve by as much as 21 percentile points if “teachers receive substantial professional development.”

We’ll revisit “substantial” in a moment. But first, let’s look at some of the goals administrators.

They may seek teacher professional development that

  • Trains teachers new technology
  • Prepares teachers for leadership positions
  • Creates awareness of different learning styles
  • Gains a deeper understanding of subject material or standards to be taught
  • Supports brand new teachers
  • Reviews school procedures or learn new ones
  • Learns time management and organizational skills

There is no doubt the value professional development provides teachers. So why has it caused teachers to cringe in the past?

PD Goals vs. Teacher Reality

According to an article from Education Week, What Do Teachers Really Want From Professional Development? Respect, by Sarah Schwartz, teachers’ needs haven’t been put first.

Here are some of their complaints:

  • Courses cover skills mastered years ago.
  • Courses are irrelevant to the subject they teach.
  • They are not given the freedom to choose what courses they need.

PD like this, teachers say, doesn’t respect their experience, expertise, or time.

Let’s face it. Teachers want to be in their classrooms teaching. BUT…they also want to improve their teaching skills—especially now as they are having to adjust to their new world post Covid.

What Teachers Really Want from Professional Development

Last year teachers felt there was a lack of guidance.  There was a mad dash to figure out how to move everything to remote learning and teaching suffered as a result. This caused confusion among students, teachers and parents.  And teachers want to be better prepared this year.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, Help Us Get Better at Remote Instruction, NYC Public School Teachers Ask by By Leslie Brody and Katie Honan, teachers want direction on how to better implement online learning in these areas:

  • Choosing the most important content for an online format
  • Assessing students’ understanding over a screen
  • Providing meaningful feedback when there is less direct interaction
  • Pacing and developing tasks for learning offline

So, when that precious time is consumed with training that isn’t even applicable to them… Do you wonder why they might see it as a joke?

Even if professional development has been a priority for district leaders, their efforts are worthless if teachers see it as a waste of time. So, how do we change this? Put teachers in the driver’s seat of their professional learning path.

Professional Development Best Practices

How do we keep our teachers informed and up to date on the latest skills, tools, and ways of teaching?

As the pandemic swept across our nation at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, teachers had to make immediate changes to the way they traditionally taught.

There was a mad dash to take their technical skills to a new level, find out what programs offered solutions, and keep students engaged all without traditional face-to-face instruction.

According to Education Week, this is what teachers need now:

Source: Education Week Reportinghttps://lh6.googleusercontent.com/AU0adF2xQ14VViRcG0M5u3W4YUMHmHRcSLwfkn-AhsfFB33FIUCw706Ur3MQID0F6nPtzOSMdA-mkLDKOO0VUSRootB-DXa_P6-rpyRMYI8Y3RDS5bycwVlPd8wHpweB4R9LyJxh

Teachers need “substantial” programs where they are getting specialized instruction that they need in specific areas. A “substantial” program would mean they are learning new ways of teaching, how to pivot in the wake of Covid-19, and filling learning gaps where they know they are lacking.

How District Leaders Can Meet the Professional Learning Needs of Their Teachers

For many years, administrators have expected teachers to provide differentiated instruction to their students. This means they are required to accommodate learners. They have to adjust their curriculum to make sense for the students by meeting them where they are.  Shouldn’t the same be expected of the administrators when it comes to teacher professional development?

Not all teachers need the same professional development. By providing teachers the opportunity to pick and choose the courses they want and need, professional development becomes much more effective. If district leaders and administrators respect their teachers and want the very best for them, teacher driven professional learning is a win win.

Teachers know where their weaknesses lie, what courses would fill those gaps, and are fully capable of doing it on their own schedule. The teachers are accountable for their learning and as a result… In the driver’s seat. A concept that’s long overdue.  And…that is no joke.

If you would like more information on how to promote teacher driven professional learning all-in-one learning platform, please feel free to reach out to us at info@mobilemind.io

MobileMind in the NEWS: Electronic Education Report

Pandemic Highlights Connectivity and Preparedness

July 10, 2020: Volume 27, Number 14

The below is an exerpt from July 10, 2020: Volume 27, Number 14 of the Electronic Education Report.

Importance of PD

Tyce Miller, CEO at the personalized virtual professional development provider MobileMind (Atlanta), said many schools were not prepared for a distance learning environment because their teachers were not up to speed on how to leverage technology to teach remotely. The teachers need connection, equipment and the ability to use it effectively.

It is not just students who will need distance learning, according to Miller, teachers also will need anytime, anywhere professional learning assistance. Schools will need to be thoughtful and intentional with the goals they set for teachers, so they are not overwhelmed. Miller said teachers need to learn more than how to use a tool, they need to learn why the tool is necessary to how they instruct students.

Schools were thrust into survival mode when the pandemic hit, according to Miller, going into the new school year they need to advance to effective collaboration that engages students.

Noting any situation has a silver lining, Miller said what educators have experienced could propel them to the next level as they will not be able to go back to what they did before. For example, teachers who declined to use Google Classroom may now find it necessary. Leadership and culture will give some districts the edge; when the instructional departments and the IT departments are aligned, the results will be positive, Miller said.

The NEW MobileMind!

MobileMind is thrilled to announce the official launch of our new and improved personalized professional learning hub!  From distance learning to Google certifications, we have schools covered with the simplest and most effective professional learning solution for leaders, teachers, and staff!  We’ve already received some amazing feedback from those who are already learning in the new version of our platform, and we are excited to show you some highlights! 

With new streamlined onboarding upon logging in for the first time, learners tell us a little about themselves so we can point them in the right direction. 

We suggest a learning path to get our educators started, but learners are always welcome to explore on their own.

Another fresh feature is the personalized dashboard page, tailored for each learner!  The widgets on this page may change daily based on a learner’s achievements, progress, and feedback.  In addition, the dashboard provides learners with announcements from us or their leaders and updates from Google.  Learners can even submit a support ticket right form their dashboard, and our educator support team is waiting to help them as they progress through their micro-courses!

Our new filtering features make it easier than ever for learners to find what they are looking for.  From the Learn tab, educators can now search by Learning Paths, such as Distance Learning, Google Certification Level 1, or Special Education.  

Learners now have an at-a-glance view of which micro-courses must be completed in order to earn desired badges, which demonstrate competency of a particular skill or set of skills.

In the In Progress tab, courses are now separated by courses learners have begun, which courses need review, and which courses have been submitted and are awaiting feedback.

The Achievements tab displays all micro-courses completed, all badges earned, and all completed Learning Paths.

Learners will still see the challenge window appear when they launch a challenge, which contains the video and challenge instructions.  This box still follows learners as they complete their challenge, so the video and instructions are always at their fingertips.

After submitting a challenge, learners will even see a few suggestions for relevant courses so they can hop right into another micro-course to continue their learning!

Finally, leaders still have visibility into learner progress as educators engage with the MobileMind micro-courses.

We would love to give you a live tour of our platform and answer any questions you may have about our personalized learning solution.  Want to learn more?  Click here to schedule a call!

What School Leaders need to know about Distance Learning

Distance Learning is becoming the new normal. As schools and districts learn to adapt, we would love to share a few things school leaders want to know about transitioning to a distance learning model.  Below we’ve shared some highlights regarding what we know about how to successfully implement a distance learning or blended model.  In addition, we’ve included some things you might wish to avoid as you roll out your virtual or blended learning initiatives.

Do
✔️ Communicate clear and strategic professional learning goals and expectations to teachers, leaders, and staff

Don’t
❌ Leave it to teachers, leaders, and staff to wonder what it is they should be doing - or the "why?" behind it 

✔️ Meet educators and staff where they are, and create reasonable timelines to demonstrate competency and growth 

❌ Overwhelm teachers by trying to "boil the ocean" - or by expecting instant proficiency for all learners

✔️ Encourage educators and staff to personalize their learning in our platform when possible

❌ Require all teachers/staff to complete the same exact courses or learning pathways from start to finish

✔️ Reassure teachers and staff that we will all work through this challenging time together, and that imperfection is acceptable

❌ Allow the stress of our current climate to set a tone grounded in urgency, anxiety, and perfectionism

✔️ Consider incentivizing your top learners to share with and support others through this journey

❌ Immediately penalize those who aren't quite "getting it" without first offering support

Distance learning isn’t a prescribed formula, but we hope our recommendations help you get started on the right foot as we prepare our educators for a unique and potentially unpredictable 2020-2021 school year.

Click here to find our Distance Learning Resources for Google.

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/

Key Findings to the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Accelerators’ 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 second 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- Accelerators' report simply click here.

What is an accelerator?

Accelerators are megatrends that drive the needs and skills expected of students and educators. Some disruptive shifts are moving rapidly (and some suddenly), while others are happening so gradually that their effects may not be felt for years.

Top 5 Accelerators
  1. Learners as Creators - The idea that students don’t have to wait to graduate to change the world is motivating schools to embrace real-world learning experiences that promote student-generated ideas and solutions.

  2. Data-Driven Practices - Schools are increasingly leveraging data about the student experience, measuring engagement and skills acquisition to inform decisions about curriculum, hiring, technology investments and more.

  3. Personalization - Just as the consumer sector has exploded with new ways to customize user experiences, products and recommendations, schools are finding ways to provide individualized learning pathways and promote student voice, choice and autonomy.

  4. Design Thinking - Design thinking is a strategy for creatively exploring and ultimately formulating solutions to challenges based on empathy and iterative processes.

  5. Building the Capacity of Human Leaders - When leaders take actions to strengthen the professional community of their schools, providing and incentivizing opportunities for leaders and educators to learn and master new skills. It opens the door to innovative practices and approaches that can further student engagement.

Spotlighting Two Accelerators

Accelerator Number 1: Learners as Creators

This accelerator recognizes that creativity is a valuable, essential competency in workplaces and communities today. Future-focused learning means learning by doing and making the application of knowledge and skills to solve real problems not just theoretically, but practically. As a result, creating engages students in active and meaningful learning.

Exploring the Opportunity

Sparking students’ creativity might not seem like a radical new idea. However, in traditional schooling, reliance on assessments and typical learning spaces don’t allow much time or space for this to be a central focus point of learning. However, educators are aware that students are often naturally curious and full of ideas and questions.

Key educational titans like Jean Piaget, Seymour Papert and Reggio Emilia regarded learning through a constructivist lens.  Piaget believed educators have to make inventors and innovators - not conformists. He advocated fostering curiosity and providing experimental activities to help students build new knowledge from prior experience.  Papert believed that ‘the ability to physically make, test, analyze, rethink, remake, and retest, as often as needed, allows for deep learning on the student’s terms.’ Emilia believed that constructivism through pedagogy in studio or workshop-style spaces enables artifacts to become tools for reflection.

The appearance of Makerspaces and the Maker movement in general is one trend that captures the spirit of this body of inquiry about student-focused experiences. Makerspaces are popping up all over the world, enabling children to create within these multi-purpose areas.

“Learners as creators really goes to the core of the mission of education: To develop independent, robust citizens of the future.”

Oystein Johannessen, Chief Executive, Somna Municipality, Norway

Imagining the Potential

Internationally, this model is proving to be vital.

In Singapore, improving student achievement has developed a reputation for didactic teaching, rote learning, and academic brilliance. It is now undergoing a silent revolution by combining students’ ability to ‘ace tests’ alongside becoming innovators and creators.

One such example is Woodgrove Primary School, which transformed their library into a Makerspace. Students are encouraged to let imaginations run wild after school by creating a variety of different materials - from 3D products to stop-motion films, digital art to building mechanical objects, coding to creating a game console. The school gives students regular innovation challenges - design tasks that stretch their problem-solving skills.

In El Salvador, DAI Maker Lab is supporting two Makerspaces where young people can build and demonstrate technical skills in 3D computer-aided design and digital manufacturing for rapid prototyping, among a range of other creative learning opportunities. With access to this technology and skills training, young people can turn their physical work products into credentials for employers. This is part of a wider innovative initiative called Bridges to Employment (Puentes para el Empleo).

In the U.S., Pittsburgh has a thriving Maker community. Remake Learning is a regional network of more than 350 organizations across early learning centers, schools, museums, libraries, after-school programs, community non-profit organisations, colleges, universities, edtech startups and major corporations. All of this enables young people are able to access Makerspaces across the region.

It’s important to understand that the maker mentality isn’t just about physical spaces. It’s fundamentally about integrating choice and autonomy into everyday learning activities, enabling students to actively demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a creative and innovative way.

Driving Innovation

This accelerator is growing in education at a fast, intense pace - and sometimes changing learning in an unplanned and surprising way. Fortunately, an emerging body of research and thought leadership can prepare education leaders can champion learners as creators, integrate creative learning into the core instructional program and channel students’ imaginations toward productive learning activities.

The CoSN Advisory Board members offer the following advice:

  1. Take an expansive view of creativity

  2. Integrate creative learning with the core instructional program

  3. Develop meaningful literacies

  4. Pay attention to rigor

  5. Set challenging parameters to deepen learning

  6. Broaden assessment

Accelerator Number 2: Personalization

Personalization exemplifies pressure for schools to stay relevant in the midst of a seismic shift away from a one-size-fits-all to tailor-made interactions. Technology enables anything to be personalized, from playlists to social media to footwear and fashion. Products value bespoke experiences, which now seeps into education with students and parents increasingly expecting the same within their schools.

Exploring the Opportunity

Educators have long recognized that a one-size-fits-all schooling now does not work for many learners. With students entering schools at vastly different places on their learning journey, with varying degrees of needs, styles, interests and preferences, something new is needed.

This has been changing slowly over the last decade. This uniformed, structured model has been giving way to a more flexible, student-informed and student-focused instruction. Engaging and motivating students is becoming the starter point for a deeper level of learning.

The issue of offering personalization can be confusing. As it has become a buzzword, there is no one definition of what it actually means. For example, some definitions include:

  • Personalization is ‘instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content, as well as the method and pace may all vary. Personalization, in turn, encompasses differentiation and individualization.
  • Personalized learning is learning that is focused on, demonstrated by and led with the learners, connected to students’ communities and cultures.
  • Personalized learning is a progressively student-driven model where students deeply engage in meaningful, authentic, and rigorous challenges to demonstrate desired outcomes.

In short, what is personalization if nobody can agree on a defined meaning?

Imagining the Potential

Personalized learning is akin to the kind of education expected for students with special needs or disabilities. Those that educators and parents already have developed an individualized education program (IEP). In short, personalized learning is about enabling every student and giving them a personalized/individual learning plan.

Technology is already assisting in this area. It can simplify and amplify personalized learning. Such tools already exist which is starting to scratch the surface.

  • Student Information Systems/Management information systems
  • Formative, interim and summative assessment systems and results

As with any technology, schools must take into account the vast privacy and ethical concerns associated with capturing storing and sharing data. Further, it is vital for school leaders and practitioners to collaborate on the aspects being measured and to accurately capture a holistic picture of learner and engagement and needs.

An emerging body of research can help make learner profiles much more personalized. Adaptive learning systems may one day capture a range of cognitive, affective and behavioural personal traits.

Learner profiles empower educators to meet students where they are and tailor teaching and learning to leverage individual strengths. Digital resources also can help teachers adjust the pace and content of instruction for individual students.

Driving Innovation

How can educators craft systems where students can pursue learning as a thousand ways, one destination?

As Guy Levi, Chief Innovation Officer at the Centre for Educational Technology in Israel says; ‘The one destination needs clarification. It is not that they are all the same when they get to the end, but they do need to get to a mutual place. There is a need for some common denominators.’

Where can you start? The OECD wrote a paper called ‘The Future We Want’. It looks at the position on the future of education and skills that calls for personalized learning environments. Among the recommendations in the paper; Develop student agency, shrink the curriculum and move to competency-based education. The paper sets out a shared vision and design principles for changing curricula and education systems.

Don McLeod, founding director of the University Council for Educational Administration’s Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership in Education (CASTLE) identified, ‘four changes that are key to making the learning process relevant and personalized.’ These are;

  1. Moving from factual recall to higher-level thinking

  2. Moving from teacher control to student agency

  3. Moving from traditional activities to authentic work

  4. Moving from traditional resources to a technology-rich environment

Conclusion

The two accelerators featured in this report- learners as creators and personalization - present enormous opportunities to educators. Both accelerators put students at the center of learning. 

To expand acceptance of these accelerators, we recommend initiating conversations with your stakeholders, considering how to leverage the accelerators and turn them into opportunities;

  • What would it take to provide students with innovative learning experiences?
  • How could you help students become agents of their own learning and creative learners?
  • How could you help teachers personalize learning for every student?
  • How would you have to change your education system, curriculum, instruction and assessments to embed creative and personalized learning into the student experience?
  • What changes might you need to make in your learning environments and spaces?
What we think

One aspect of the report we think is also valuable to mention is the final accelerator; ‘Building the Capacity of Human Leaders’.

When leaders take actions to strengthen the professional community of their schools, providing and incentivizing opportunities for leaders and educators to learn and master new skills, it opens the door to innovative practices and approaches that can further student engagement.

We believe that this is the key to opening the doors for innovative learning to take place.  If it is not common practice to offer personalized learning opportunities or allow students to be creators of authentic and unique products to demonstrate learning, this will be a significant paradigm shift in your district.

Transformation cannot occur in your classrooms without first offering educators and leaders the opportunity to engage in modern professional learning that might challenge antiquated instructional practices.  We must provide educators with access to learning that strengthens technological and pedagogical skills if we are to empower them to transform learning for our students. In addition, educators must comprehend the why behind new initiatives, which is even more vital than the how.

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, here, that will help you plan for meaningful professional learning for your educators!

We hope you’ve found our simplified breakdown of the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Accelerators’ Report useful. Keep an eye out for our next blogs covering a breakdown of CoSN’s final reports due to be released later this year!

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

Key Findings to the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Hurdles’ Report

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

We are very excited to announce that CoSN has just released the first of 3 reports which focus on the hurdles facing implementation and utilization of school system technology. Alongside these reports, CoSN will also be releasing a practical toolkit to inform strategic planning and smart technology integration into teaching and learning.

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’ report simply click here.

Top 5 Hurdles Affecting Education

The K-12 Advisory Board looked at the state of education and the biggest hurdles and obstructions facing education, in particular when it came to imposing new technology within schools and districts. The 5 key hurdles they found were;

  1. Scaling and sustaining innovation – How can we impact change when people within the organization are reluctant to change?
  2. Digital equity – How do we ensure those without full access to internet and digital tools have access to them?
  3. The gap between technology and pedagogy – How do we ensure that technology is always grounded in solid pedagogy? Should we buy something simply because it looks shiny or because it actually impacts learning?
  4. Ongoing professional development – How do we personalize PD for each person rather than using a top down, all-in-one model?
  5. Technology and the future of work – With advancing technology, how do we ensure our children are prepared for the future?

Spotlighting Two Hurdles

The advisory board took these top 5 hurdles and looked at the ones that they felt were the most significant challenges currently impacting education. The two they found were ‘The Gap Between Technology and Pedagogy’ – buying for the sake of buying or buying to have an impact within the classroom –  and ‘Technology and The Future of Work’ – how we ensure children are educated in the ever-evolving world of technology.

Below is a breakdown of the focused analysis of these two main hurdles impacting education:

Hurdle 1: The Gap Between Technology and Pedagogy

The major question when determining whether to buy a new product is whether it considers the growing needs of the students and potential impact of student learning. Professional development that is grounded in pedagogy is also crucial.  Continuing advances in technology create disconnects between the needs of the students and the skill sets of the teachers.

Searching and finding the next ‘cool’ thing can be interesting and exciting. However, focusing on the pedagogical needs of the students and then purchasing technology that meets those needs is a much better strategy.

Pro tip: Create a strategic plan which establishes a shared vision of curricular and pedagogical approaches.

Professional development is critical for bridging the gap between technology and pedagogy. Simply providing devices isn’t enough!  Many schools struggle to integrate new technology successfully because teachers struggle to use it on a regular basis. As a result, it’s not only classroom teachers that need professional development. District leaders, principals, and other school leaders are equally in need of professional development. This PD needs to cover the ‘why to’ of using technology to support teaching and learning, not just the ‘how to’. Focusing only on the ‘how to’ will prevent teachers from appreciating the benefits of the technology and will result in teachers feeling that integrating technology is a chore.

Giving teachers opportunities to see the purpose of technology through exploring and reflecting upon the ‘why to’ is incredibly important. Deeper professional learning enables teachers to support student learning more effectively.

As technology advances and more schools adopt devices, PD becomes a more urgent challenge. A recent PwC (2018) study showed only 10% of US teachers feel confident teaching higher-level technology skills that meet the increasing workforce demand. 79% of respondents say they want more technology-related professional learning, and 81% said they want more funding and more ‘release time’ to attend PD workshops, build curriculum plans or course materials. Find out more read the PwC report here.

PwC also found that a large proportion of teachers are not making innovative use of technology. According to US teachers, the use of classroom technology is broken into two ways.

  1. 60% passive by watching videos, reading websites
  2. 32% active by coding, producing videos or performing data analytics

NOTE: It is also important to link creation with technology with higher order skills such as critical thinking, reflection and computational thinking.

Internationally, this is the same story. Another report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that “Professional development should target their overall school culture, providing time for professional practice, collaboration and identification of what works.” Find out more read the full report here.

The demand for STEM skills is rapidly increasing. As such, countries such as South Korea now emphasize “computational thinking, coding skills and creative expression through software” within its country-wide national curriculum. At the end of 2018, South Korea had trained 60,000 elementary teachers and 30,000 middle school teachers through a myriad of software education.

The major gap between technology and pedagogy results in wasted time and money, frustrated educators, and lost opportunities for students to develop new curiosities and skills for the digital age.

What if we could bridge this gap?

What if technology was purchased with the sole intention of improving pedagogical practices which benefited the students in developing their high end tech skills and benefited the teachers who are using it?

With foresight and preparation, educators can move students from passive to active learners who take charge of their own learning, collaborate, participate, inquire, discover, reason and create.

This hurdle is easily solvable! By merging PD with an intentional rollout plan, technology is more likely to have the desired impact.

However, this also needs to affect the district level. Leaders such as superintendents and chief technology officers need to fully understand teacher needs, as well as invite them to have say on strategic planning moving forward. Facilitating these conversations helps create an organizational culture that values professional development and continued growth.

Piloting new technologies and sharing results within a network of schools can help school districts and individual schools. Another option might be partnering with tech companies to inform their research and ensure these companies are providing products that clearly reflect and support pedagogy.

“It is so important that educators are supported by sound pedagogical practices within professional learning. Helping teachers to improve their craft by leveraging technology to improve the success of our students is crucial. As a district, we need to have all voices at the table when making technology purchase decisions. This is a vital step to ensure the technology and the pedagogy matches up within instruction.”

— Anna Baldwin, Director of eLearning and Integration, Anderson School District Five, SC

Hurdle 2: Technology and the Future of Work

With the new technological advances, how does education stay ahead and work with these emerging technologies rather than get beaten by them?

The major challenge for educators is to anticipate and develop a skill set that will ensure they are ahead of the curve. Creating ample opportunities for students to engage with emerging technologies could stir their interest and excitement about designing future technology. Tying these tools to real-world and deep learning outcomes is, as a result, essential.

With the growth of technology, the skills needed to succeed often have less to do with computer programming and rather with ‘digital literacy’. Digital literacy is the ability to interpret, create and strategically use digital information. In a survey produced by McKinsey Global Institute (Read the full survey results here) more than 3000 business leaders in seven countries found that there is a ‘significant need for everyone to develop basic digital skills for the new age of automation.’ Basic digital literacy skills are the second fastest-growing set of 25 core workplace skills for the future, behind only advanced IT and programming skills.

“We’re missing a great opportunity if we don’t make the connection between the evolving role of robots and AI as a factor on the opportunities for future learners. We need to make a real-world connection for learners.”

  • Norton Gusky, Coordinator of Educational Technology/Educational Technology Broker, NLG Consulting and Co-Chair of CoSN’s Emerging Technologies Committee

Next generation technologies are already making their way into many industries, including education. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of these, with many learning management systems already built with AI in mind. Many products and services developed by non-profit groups and companies are quickly becoming available to educators. For example, some products harness AI by using aggregated data from students to understand how they solve math problems.

AI has the potential to personalize learning with perceptive, adaptive digital tutors and enliven learning experiences with mixed reality and augmented reality alongside virtual and artificial reality technologies. With technologies harnessing this power, educators will be able to design learning environments that mimic working environments and partner more easily with employers, providing students with authentic, virtual learning opportunities.

For teachers and administrators, next-gen technology could support pedagogy and assist with classroom management and rote tasks, offering granular insights into student learning and needs. This will ensure educators are expected to spend more time on their core work; teaching, learning, and in-person interactions with students.

Surmounting the Challenge

It will take time to fully grasp how next-generation technologies will change the future of work and education. For now, the Advisory Board recommends paying attention to developments in this arena and to start discussing how emerging technologies will impact;

  • Life and work, and what that means for preparing students for a happy and productive future
  • Education through digital learning materials and environments (analyzing learning behavior, interactions between learners and individual learning experiences for each learner)

Additional resources:

  • A Future Ready project to develop a framework for identifying, developing, collecting evidence of and evaluating key attributes of future-ready learners. Collaboration, creativity, personal learning, problem solving, global sustainability, and other attributes for which there is historical research.
  • Ask About AI: The Future of Work and Learning, a 2017 report offering ways for educators to prepare for the coming of AI

Conclusion: So what does it all mean?

The two hurdles highlighted above pose significant challenges to educators. It’s about starting the conversations now to determine opportunities these present – and how you can make a difference within your school or district.

The CoSN K-12 Innovation Advisory Board recommends starting conversations with your community to change the prospected outcomes for these hurdles. Why not give it a try:

  • What would it take for your students to experience innovative education?
  • How could you help teachers immerse students in engaging learning experiences designed to spark curiosity, deepen knowledge, and build higher-order thinking and practical skills?
  • How could you help students become agents of their own learning, with the digital fluency to pursue knowledge, collaborate, create, and solve problems?
  • How are learning, doing and thinking intertwined and connected to the wider world?
  • What skills will students need to navigate the world of work in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’?

What we think

We agree with the large majority of the report. There is a distinct lack of pedagogical thinking when purchasing technology within schools. We need to be asking important pedagogical questions and considering impact on student learning prior to making any purchasing decision.

At MobileMind, meaningful professional development is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that when districts are spending significant money on technology, they deserve high quality professional development to ensure schools are making the most of this investment.

As the report shows throughout, stakeholders need to understand the reasons why technology has been purchased and what the desired impact is on student learning.  Teaching why to use the product will further enhance how teachers use the technology.

As the report suggests; a pro tip is to create a strategic professional development plan accompanies the rollout of the new technology.

 

We hope you’ve found our simplified breakdown of the CoSN ‘Driving Innovation Hurdles’ Report useful. Keep an eye out for our next blogs covering a breakdown of CoSN’s following two reports due to be released later this year!

In the meantime if you’re interested in kick-starting your technology innovation journey, why not download our free PD Planner here: https://mobilemind.io/5-steps-turn-school-districts-into-gsuite-experts/

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