Mark D. Benigni, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Meriden, CT Public Schools; President-Elect, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents
Throughout this pandemic, we all needed a glimmer of hope. Educators have seized the moment to make sure learning occurred for students at home and in person.
Educators worked hard to ensure students had devices and access, that they interacted with engaging content, and that learning could be personalized. One cannot help but appreciate the value of educators’ dedication during the pandemic for providing both in-person and distance learning for students and staff, especially as our communities were faced with a challenge like no other.
Using educational technology to extend learning has been a benefit for children and staff.
When undergoing a digital transformation, it is essential that all students have devices, access, and a single sign-on solution. We have worried less about which device will be used and instead have focused on ensuring access, ease of use, and reliable connectivity.
Whether using tablets, Chromebooks, or laptops, students and staff benefit greatly from a single sign-on solution. Single sign-on allows teachers and students to spend more time learning and less time logging in. Single sign-on also allows students to easily log in on any device and not have to be concerned about remembering numerous passwords.
Devices, when coupled with excellent teaching, are key learning tools and should remain with students on a daily basis, even during vacation weeks and summer break.
The digital content
High-quality digital content embedded into core curriculum can have a strong impact on student learning and growth.
Districts that experienced the greatest success during the pandemic avoided the urge to adopt all the new digital content that was generously being offered for free. They stayed focused on their core digital partners and explored areas for expansion with them. Digital content partners that had previously been part of the district’s digital transformation team offered products that their students, staff, and families were familiar with and could easily navigate.
At a time of new learning for all, successful districts minimized changes and focused on strategies they knew were already working for their students, staff, and families. Districts in need of digital content had the perfect opportunity to pilot new products with minimal expenses due to generous offers by vendors.
The pandemic forced parents, grandparents, older siblings, and others into the new role of teacher’s assistant. Thinking strategically about this dynamic and the unique needs of families is critical to a district’s success.
Offering families technology support via a quick call or virtual meeting allowed families to better support their children. Also, remote teaching was a new learning environment for many of our teachers.
By recognizing the challenge and providing support for staff, districts kept the focus on student learning and engagement. Instructional coaches provided online professional development and the tech help desk was a simple call away.
While the pandemic has certainly presented numerous challenges to our students, staff, and families, the crisis has also provided an opportunity for educational decision-makers to rethink teaching and learning, parental and family involvement, and the role of education technology. No one will ever question the need for devices, access, single sign-on, or high-quality digital content again.
Education technology allowed teachers to continue the educational process for students, regardless of their learning location. Virtual professional development, as well as staff and parent meetings, became the new norm. Virtual parent teacher conferences allowed many schools to have the highest participation rates ever.
Educators have shown that by extending learning via education technology, we can continue to provide a high-quality education for all learners, whether in person or at home. These lessons leave us inspired about the role education technology will play in defining the future of education.