We’ve all been there — dazzled by the latest gadget or software promising to revolutionize education. But as Kermit the Frog wisely said, “It’s not easy being green” — or gleaming gold for that matter. In a world where edtech can feel like a whirlwind of shiny objects, it’s crucial to pivot from chasing trends to steering intentional innovation that brings genuine benefits to students and educators. Behind the sparkling facade, even the shiniest innovations require careful evaluation, strategic implementation, and keeping students at the center.

Picture this: a world transformed by the promise of education technology, in which every student’s learning experience is enriched, and educators are empowered with cutting-edge tools. The reality, however, paints a different picture. The sudden surge in edtech adoption and global move to one-to-one devices for students during the era of emergency remote learning left many students with substantial learning gaps, as reflected in the sobering 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and state testing results. 

But fear not; this tale isn’t one of despair but of hope and transformation. Our vessel, fueled by insights from CoSN’s 2024 Driving K-12 Innovation Advisory Board, is charting a course toward intentional innovation. A course that will help us achieve the ideal picture of edtech integration and student success. Our voyage begins with exploring the treacherous waters of edtech implementation and discovering keys to overcoming common hurdles.

Prioritizing people

In the first leg of our journey, we encounter schools and districts grappling with the aftermath of massive edtech investments. Though necessary and well-intentioned, these initiatives often failed to bridge the learning gaps and create the digital equity for which we had hoped. While this experience taught us that education systems can be nimble when needed, we also noted something was missing. I believe that where we fell short was understanding that successful edtech integration is not about gadgets; it’s about investing in people.

Implementing edtech tools that place people at the helm is much like navigating uncharted waters. Imagine the crew on a ship — each member plays a vital role. Similarly, in our educational voyage, teachers, leaders, and support staff are the heart of successful integration. Resources, institutional support, and tailored professional development are the wind in our sails, propelling us toward true impact. We know that students who have appropriate resources, institutional support, and personalized learning opportunities are more likely to succeed. Why wouldn’t we offer that same rigging to educators?

Our crew, diverse in experiences and needs, requires personalized learning experiences. One-size-fits-all approaches leave our crew disheartened. Meaningful professional learning coupled with exploration time is the compass we need. By putting the teacher at the center of the learning journey, we not only improve attitudes toward technology, but also foster a collaborative spirit among educators. When surveyed, most teachers report that their attitudes about using technology improved after attending high-quality professional development that was tailored to their learning needs. 

The importance of assessment

At our next port, we confront the reality that assessing the success of edtech integrations is not a snapshot but a continuous voyage rich with course corrections. Misjudging success by the mere presence or absence of devices in classrooms is akin to judging a sea expedition solely by the visibility of ships on the horizon. Ongoing assessment is a dialogue, not a monologue. Just as sailors discuss the best routes before embarking, educators collaboratively assess, learn, and grow to foster a culture of collective improvement.

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Valuing the lessons learned on the journey

Approaching our final port, we reflect on the wisdom gained from our journey. In the dynamic landscape of education technology, setting the right conditions for success is crucial. Establishing a clear vision, involving key stakeholders in the planning process, and creating a shared language for success are fundamental steps. It’s not just about adding technology; it’s about designing a vision that aligns curriculum, instruction, and technology for the benefit of all students. Gone are the days when curriculum and technology departments operated in isolation of one another — technology is curriculum and curriculum is technology.

As we navigate the ever-evolving edtech landscape, let’s remember: “It’s not about the technology; it’s about the intentional, human-centered change we bring to education.” By acknowledging the challenges, learning from the past, and focusing on intentional innovation, we can ensure that education technology becomes a catalyst for positive outcomes, propelling both students and educators toward success. Groundbreaking CoSN resources like the Driving K-12 Innovation Reports (the newest report will be released in early February) offer actionable guidance that can serve as our north star as we journey forward. 

Join me in steering the ship toward intentional innovation, and let’s make waves in the world of education technology.

Author: Stacy Hawthorne, Ed.D., CETL, Learn21, CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee Member

Published on: Jan. 16, 2024

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