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Education Experts on the Main Challenges and Future of Education

Our panel of education experts discuss how they see educators face the challenges and upsides of technological use in today’s classrooms. 

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Vincent Grosso

SVP, Managing Director of National Geographic Learning, Cengage

What do you think is the greatest challenge that elementary educators face today?

Elementary educators, and specifically teachers, need to manage the incredibly complex and diverse ecosystem of today’s classroom. Teachers strive to maximize the learning outcomes for every individual student, regardless of ability, talent, socioeconomic background or other unique attributes, and all while properly balancing time and resource allocation across academic disciplines from reading to science.

How do you think technology entering the classroom has impacted Elementary-level learning today?

Technology has impacted elementary-level classrooms in multiple ways, one being motivating and engaging today’s learners. Young learners have grown up on devices using game-like software, and need and expect the same type of engagement and brainwork when it comes to school. Teachers have benefited from seeing real-time results and using that data to make immediate learning decision in order to individualize each student’s learning path.

What do you hope to see for the future of elementary education in this digital age?

I hope to see elementary educators and providers further embrace technology to improve learner outcomes. Digital programs, like National Geographic Panorama and Reading through the Lens of Science provide personalized instruction, cross-curricular courseware (both reading and science) and data/analytics to reach, engage and improve effectiveness and productivity in the classroom. To meet the ever-increasing demands on the teacher (and the learner), digital solutions can allow the educator to better serve the student and unlock his or her full potential.

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Pamela A. Mason

Senior Lecturer on Education and Faculty Director of the Language and Literacy

What do you think is the greatest challenge that elementary educators face today?

Promoting high academic achievement for all students is more than a mantra. It is the mission of elementary educators. High academic achievement is attained in classrooms and schools that are culturally responsive to students and families. In most districts, the teachers do not come from the same cultural or linguistic backgrounds represented in their school communities, so elementary educators benefit from professional development to understand and tap the many strengths that their students bring to school. Keeping up with innovative, effective teaching techniques and managing student data to inform instruction are also part of the challenges in attaining high academic outcomes.

How do you think technology entering the classroom has impacted Elementary-level learning today?

Technology presents the challenges of seizing opportunities and threats. Opportunities center around promoting critical thinking skills. Why ask questions when answers can be searched online? Elementary educators can use the affordances of technology to develop critical thinking skills about the sources as well as the content of web-based information. Technology can be used to foster peer collaboration within a classroom, across classrooms, or across the world, using multiple languages. It can also strengthen family engagement, providing families with expanded information about curriculum and lines of communication with the school.

What do you hope to see for the future of elementary education in this digital age?

I hope to see a balance between the use of technology to promote student learning, their love of learning and developing empathy within the “global village.” Elementary educators can build the foundation for responsible uses of technology as a tool for learning and not the outcome. School leaders should support teacher use of technology to enhance their responsiveness to the ever-increasing knowledge base and to expand professional development, especially concerning closing opportunity gaps for all students. Technology can benefit students who have been typically marginalized by providing them with culturally relevant instruction, expanding everyone’s definition of the canon and of experts.

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Julie Yaeger

EVP, Learners Edge

What do you think is the greatest challenge that elementary educators face today?

Meeting the individual needs of all students continues to be challenging for elementary teachers as learners become more diverse. Elementary classrooms reflect varying academic abilities thus the capacity to differentiate instruction to a meaningful level is a daunting task.

How do you think technology entering the classroom has impacted Elementary-level learning today?

Technology can provide dynamic tools for monitoring student achievement, timely communication with parents and guardians and at times increase student engagement. Challenges usually surround professional development training to insure efficiency for the educator and the incorporation of lesson or unit modifications to maximize learning through technology.

What do you hope to see for the future of elementary education in this digital age?

Classroom instruction that encourages a balance of technological and non-technological opportunities for learning. Energized and inspired educators using research-based strategies gained through purposeful, sustained professional development, allowing for increased differentiation of instruction and, ultimately, improved student outcomes.

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