Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Top Three Most Important Issues Facing K-12 Educational Technology for 2011-12

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

Recently, Christine Wiser T&L's Managing Editor, asked the Tech Advisors the following question:
What do you think are the top three most important issues facing K-12 edtech this year?

I thought that this was a great question that would generate a lot of discussion. So, I wanted to share with you my top three and see what you have to say. After all, sometimes, the more voices heard the more progress can be made.
Here are my top three:

1.  Mobile device adoption. Especially bring your own device program implementation.

   Obviously, mobile devices are very popular and just about everyone has one.  They come in so many “flavors” that there are many to choose from. Also, with school district budgets not getting any better they are becoming more attractive for schools to explore due to their overall lower price points.

   Furthermore, with the diversity of technology assets available to consumers, bring your own device (BYOD) programs are starting to crop up all over the country. I really like this idea and think that with more and more students owning technologies that can meet their needs for school, BYOD promises to have benefits well beyond cash savings for school districts.

   The challenge lies, just as it does with a one-to-one program, in the implementation.  Policies have to be properly written, to protect not just your network but to comply with the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA).  Web filtering needs to be selected carefully so staff and students can still pass through the filter with their device so inappropriate sites can be blocked and network security solutions have to be carefully considered in order to protect the integrity of your staff and student data.

   So, although I believe that this is the way to go, there are many things that need to be considered and it’s important enough that we all, as educators, collaborate on effective models for success.

2. Getting people to really understand what is meant by 21st century teaching and learning.

   Twenty first century teaching and learning is defined in many ways. For the most part it is teaching our students the following skills - Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation. But, many educators are overwhelmed with the task of implementing a plan to address these needs. More understanding and training needs to take place and districts need to implement plans that work for them. This will help bring those reluctant, late adopters, along at a comfortable pace that will allow them to have small successes that will motivate them to continue and build confidence.

   One skill, which I believe is very important for our students to learn is empathy and I am not alone. In a February 2008 eSchool News interview entitled “Four things every student should learn...but not every school is teaching,” Alan November discussed global empathy -

“November said he was talking with a senior executive at a global investment bank recently, and he asked the executive: What is the most important skill for today’s students to learn so they are prepared to succeed in the new global economy?

“Empathy,” the executive replied—the ability to understand and respect different points of view.

Most of today’s companies do business with customers all over the world, and several also have branches in multiple countries. Chances are good that when students enter the workforce, they’ll be working with—or doing business with—someone from another nation, with its own culture and its own unique perspective, at some point in their career.
It’s not hard to find people who are smart, the executive said. What is hard to find are employees who have to ability to empathize with, and be sensitive to the needs of, people from other countries.”

So, we need to teach students skills that will prepare them to not only to be intelligent, creative thinkers, but also to have emotional intelligences to succeed in future jobs that are still to come. This is quiet a challenge, with a skill set that many educators need to learn in parallel with their students.
3. Anytime, anywhere learning.

   This is the piece that links together numbers one and two. If school districts are provided the opportunities to give students, and staff, the ability to access school resources outside of the classroom then powerful learning can take place.

   The advent of virtualization and cloud computing can allow a BYOD program to succeed.  Access to software and resources at home will allow students to do their work without having the fear of not having the correct software.  It can also save a school district money over time.

   If technology departments would look at putting resources into their “back end,” network development by implementing, for instance, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), then students with just about any device can safely and securely access learning resources and files.

    Mobile and BYOD programs can then be designed using the VDI environment as the vehicle to enhance and supplement teaching twenty first century skills.  Students and staff can use their own technologies, if they want to, and school districts can effectively extend the life of some of their older systems since VDI is server-based and requires a much less powerful workstation The teachers and students can then work on projects that will allow them to use the same tools both at home and at school.

   So there are my three.  What are yours? I urge you to take time and reflect on the question. Then contribute and let the readers of T&L know what you think. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.