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How We Can Empower Teachers to Use Tech in the Classroom

We spoke with Jane Snyder, chief marketing officer at Illuminate Education, for her insights on how technology can support students and teachers alike.  

Jane Snyder

Chief Marketing Officer, Illuminate Education

In what ways can administrators and companies alike support teachers to be prepared for and excel in their careers?

They can support teachers through the job-embedded professional learning and high quality, needs-aligned tools teachers need to turn data into information.

Most credentialing programs provide little to no training in assessment literacy and data analysis. When used correctly, data empowers teachers with critical information about their students, about their own strengths and weaknesses as educators, and about wider, system-level needs beyond their classrooms (insights that help position them as leaders, should they want to advance).

Administrators support this work when they value and prioritize providing the knowledge and tools teachers need to succeed. Invest the time and resources into helping teachers understand core concepts and understand job-embedded applications for those concepts (how do I unpack my interim results to better support students? What does it mean that the student’s rate of improvement is significantly below the goal line?). Select valid and reliable assessments that provide quality data. Select high quality data visualization and management tools that make it easier to understand those data.

Companies can ensure that teachers’ needs drive their product and service offerings. Information-dense, high-impact tools – like high quality distractor rationales or intervention tracking – should fall out from the decisions teachers need to make. Reports should be centered around questions teachers need to answer, as opposed to a laundry list for the sake of offering more. Tools should mimic and support natural workflows and enhance collaboration.

As services partners, companies should develop professional learning to support teachers where they need it most. Create support materials to help them use your product skillfully and easily. Develop and exemplify implementation best practices. With every decision, put teachers first.

How can technology in the classroom enhance the learning experience for students?

Technology can enhance students’ learning experience in many ways, including:

  • Immediacy of feedback – with online assessment tools, students immediately understand what they already know and where they need more practice. No more waiting for teachers to return grades.
  • Empowering students as consumers of data – visualization and reporting tools engage students as primary stakeholders in their learning, progress, growth, and goal setting.
  • Personalization – educational technology has made it more feasible than ever to provide curriculum, activities, and performance tasks that connect to student interests and honor student voice and choice.
  • Differentiation – with edtech, it’s easier for teachers to meet students where they are. Students who simply need more support can continue working on a skill, while students who are ready to advance can do that as well.
  • Teacher empowerment – ultimately, almost everything that impacts student learning and experience stems from our actions as adults. Our ability to be more present with students, more informed of their needs – and with more visibility into what is and isn’t working – absolutely impacts the experience of students.

In this digital age, what are some ways that students can take advantage of learning assessments and resources to achieve success in their futures?

  • Interests – there are so many open educational resources, apps, and resources that help you master standards in a way that interests you. There are also a lot of ways to demonstrate mastery. Ask your teacher if you can make a video or diagram or other project to demonstrate mastery.
  • Understand your assessment data – ask your teachers to walk you through what various assessments and other data sources show as your current strengths and needs, in terms of both skills and standards. Set your own goals and ensure your teacher knows what you need to reach them.

Take every opportunity to fail – in a high quality assessment culture, students are given lots of ungraded practice prior to being assigned a grade. Take advantage of that and see it as feedback from teachers who only want to help you succeed.

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