Dr. Brian Troop
Superintendent, Ephrata Area School District,
Innovative districts are leveraging the power of educational technology to transform schools into places that inspire the skills and dispositions essential for future success. The traditional model of school was designed for another time based on what society knew about learning, the type of knowledge and skills society thought it needed and the type of educational experience they could actually provide to students. Today, changes in what we know about student engagement, what present-day society needs from future graduates and advances in educational technology have made the traditional model outdated.
Teaching in the modern era
We now know students are more engaged when they are allowed to give input on decisions about what they learn, how they learn it and the ways in which they demonstrate learning. Increases in student voice, choice and ownership spike engagement levels and accelerate learning.
As students progress through the educational system, the positive impact of increased autonomy over their learning has a cumulative effect and a positive social-emotional impact. The skillful use of educational technology can provide students the ability to increase ownership of learning, elevate their connection to learning goals and provide access to more authentic learning resources and audiences.
Our society now needs graduates who have mastered content and developed skills beyond those traditionally measured by our standardized tests. Those graduates armed with the ability to apply content expertise creatively, solve problems, communicate in a variety of forms, and contribute to a larger team will be valued most. To fully equip our students for success in this technology-enriched world, we must aim higher and inspire the development of the skills essential for applying content knowledge in new and innovative ways.
Using new tools
Additionally, through the use of digital tools we have the ability to engage students in a significant amount of course content independently and in more personally relevant ways. While students engage independently through technology, educators have increased opportunities to interact with students, strengthen relationships, make connections to student aspirations and co-design next steps along their learning path. When used well, educational technology can help expand the reach of our students and educators to bring in outside experts and access learning goals in ways that produce deeper learning and empower authentic application of skills.
Creating the educational system our students need is not easy work. The inertia of a system that is both easy to measure and is viewed as sufficient from the perspective of most parents and adults makes it difficult to redirect. Only when transformation efforts are grounded in what we know about learning, aimed at the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that society needs, and led by empathetic educators leveraging the power of technology will we have school systems capable of producing exceptional graduates.