EdTech’s Next Phase

Empowering teachers to achieve learning success.

GUEST COLUMN | by Crystal Hutter

CREDIT Edmodo.comEdtech is on fire. So much buzz, so much energy (investment and otherwise), so many ideas, and one of the last sectors to be fundamentally transformed by technology. But unlike other industries, the line between cloud-based service, crowd-sourced content, technology powered gizmo, or big data insights (all familiar catalysts in other industries) and K-12 education industry impact is extremely non-linear. This non-linear route continues to exist for both good reasons (protecting kids from frivolous experiments) and some that are more difficult to defend (inefficient decision-making, budget constraints, fear of change).

Edtech is on fire. So much buzz, so much energy (investment and otherwise), so many ideas, and one of the last sectors to be fundamentally transformed by technology.

But perhaps the largest iceberg in the route from idea to effect is that most innovations do not adequately leverage or empower the part of the equation that has the most influence on student outcomes: the teacher. At my company, we believe that the route must go straight through the teacher, and that edtech investments are best focused on helping teachers personalize learning for their students.

Eighty-six percent of K-12 teachers believe education technology is essential in today’s classroom – a testament to the volume of educators integrating technology into their instructional practice to explore new content, connect their classrooms, measure student learning progress, and engage digital natives with the tools and communication modalities endemic to the generation. We built our platform to facilitate many of these desired behaviors, and we see teachers actively leveraging classroom discussions and digital communities to foster project-based learning and collaborative discussion beyond the confines of the chalk-and-talk experience. And beyond the walls of the classroom. We see them tapping new types of content, and sharing best practices with teachers close by and far away. Over the 2013-14 school year, we saw a 62% increase in teachers integrating educational applications from our store into their lessons, compared to 2012-13, and nearly 25% of teachers making more connections with peers, both domestic and abroad.

We see growing connective tissue and a shared sense of purpose and daily accountability between teacher, student and parent. We see districts wanting more access to real-time insights to help identify and promulgate best practices and provide professional development when it is needed. At last year’s EdmodoCon, our annual professional development event, over 27,000 educators participated from 170 countries, a 145% increase from the prior year. These teachers demonstrated their eagerness to learn new approaches and best practices to implement within their classes.

While it used to be that edtech meant cool devices, digital content, and collaboration tools mimicking the consumer space, the industry is moving into the next phase of learning—personalization. The ability to correct learning gaps on an individual level allows teachers to be more far more effective in driving the kind of improved learning outcomes that attracted them to the profession.

An essential ingredient is identifying student challenges early and often through frequent, formative assessment. As the 2014-15 school year approaches, teachers will be focused on successfully implementing the Common Core Standards and adequately preparing students for the end-of-year exams. They’ve told us that the winning technologies in their classrooms will provide the ability for more evaluative and quantitative learning—not at the end of the year, but as a routine part of their weekly practice. Snapshot, our free, formative assessment tool tied to the Common Core, is helping teachers check for learning in the flow of instruction, access immediate insights about where the gaps are and for whom, and address those gaps immediately and, most importantly for teachers overloaded with administrative minutiae, easily. We, and they, are very excited about this new feature of our platform.

At my company, we believe that a deeper focus on learning measurements combined with actionable insights, data-driven content recommendations and rich, connected classroom communities can bring us that much closer to achieving what the industry has been working toward for decades—a high quality and personalized education for each student, no matter their location, background or socioeconomic status. If we can help teachers save time on administrative tasks, engage their students deeply, and enable omniscient action, we will be empowering teachers to focus on the highest order priority—unlocking each student’s potential. This is the renewed promise of American education.

Crystal Hutter is the chief executive officer of Edmodo, an organization committed to ensuring that all learners reach their full potential. She joined the company in 2010 as part of the founding team and was named CEO in March 2013.Write to: press@edmodo.com


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