In an evolving digital age, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) shares best practices and possibilities so state education systems can help shape the future.
As the principal organization representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology and digital learning leaders, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is committed to promoting edtech teaching standards so educators are better prepared to inspire students in modern learning environments, no matter where they go to school.
SETDA believes when states, schools, and teachers are equipped to use digital tools in the most effective manner possible, the result is a more personalized — and successful — learning experience.
Computer device and platform issues have posed problems for remote online learning, as have connectivity glitches and student isolation. But SETDA board chair Doug Casey, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology, says the use of tools for collaboration and problem solving is essential in preparing students for what lies ahead.
“Many of us in the workforce pivoted quickly to using technology for these purposes during the pandemic,” Casey said. “Modeling for students what effective online teamwork looks like and giving them the opportunity to choose and use different tools provides great learning opportunities that will prepare them well for the workplace.
“And with proper guidance from teachers and peers, we hope mastery in the use of technology also includes better discernment, awareness of data sharing, and overall cyber hygiene.”
The impact of COVID-19
“I would encourage those considering the use of technology for learning not to look at what took place during the pandemic as a model,” Casey cautioned. “Practically overnight, teachers needed to learn new tools and expand the use of existing platforms to provide effective, all-remote learning experiences. Virtual schools have been working for decades to do just that, so it’s no surprise there were some serious shortfalls in the shift to remote learning.”
It’s also important to note that remote learning doesn’t work if parents and students aren’t completely on board with educator and school system supports.
Through the ThoughtExchange platform, Connecticut officials used a Delphi model of input and feedback to survey parents, students, teachers, professors, and administrators across K-12 and higher education.
“While we’re still evaluating the results, using tools that employ the Delphi approach can be powerful,” Casey said. “The result is an aggregate of ideas, as well as blind and unbiased rankings of those ideas, by the entire learning community.”
Connecticut and other states have made significant inroads in closing the digital divide by equipping students with computer and broadband internet connections. Connecticut has also launched an open education resources site where teachers and college professors can create, search for, and curate high-quality learning materials.
“We also streamlined data privacy management by hosting a free, virtual clearinghouse where edtech providers can list and teachers can find software that complies with Connecticut’s student data privacy law,” Casey said.
Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Utah’s state superintendent of public instruction, says her state has made a concentrated effort to invest in edtech initiatives, with education stakeholders and legislative leaders discussing how to infuse technology into schools for a more personalized approach.
“Our assessment system was moving online, and stakeholders saw an intentional investment as an important investment,” Dickson said. “When we abruptly closed our doors to in-person learning in March 2020, we were able to deploy digital tools to 70 percent of our students.”
Utah is the home of a tech industry, and educators want students to have the option to stay in their rural communities and build a life for themselves and their families, while not being hindered by demographics or geography.
“Some of our rural districts, thanks to early investments, have been our most innovative places for education technology to be an integral part of the school community,” Dickson pointed out. “The challenge has been equitable access to adequate broadband. Efforts have been ramped up to ensure that a remote or rural location does not limit access.”