The Value of Instruction

What excites me about technology and today’s emphasis on mobile applications is that no matter where I am or whatever problem I encounter, it is not difficult for me to leverage technology to better frame the problem or get a head start on coming up with a solution.

Software innovation has been democratized, allowing relatively unsophisticated users of technology to have easy access to the technological solutions of others who have experienced similar problems or pains in their everyday lives.

A few weeks ago I found myself wondering where the nearest dog park was in my neighborhood. Of course, my first thought was to search the App Store to find an app to help me find places for my dog to play. To me, this is the most exciting thing about technology is the concept of “hacking” everyday life: Looking for technological solutions to life’s everyday problems. Some of these hacks we use without even knowing about them, which is a testament to how pervasive they can be.

These applications can be as simple as the flashlight application on your iPhone, the check deposit feature of your online banking app or even a complex, multi-faceted, note taking and to-do list application such as Evernote. With more mobile and location-based applications coming out everyday, the list of applications designed to solve everyday problems and enhance people’s lives goes on. However, despite this growing idea, when it comes to education, the most celebrated technological advancements seem to be those that seek to “radically” transform the learning process and educational landscape and often overlook the smaller incremental changes that address the needs of those that have been and continue to be instrumental to learning: teachers themselves.

As a former teacher and tutor who is a technology enthusiast, the EdTech space is particularly exciting to me. I believe that the impact of a great teacher is incredibly powerful. The ability to make impossibly complex material digestible through instruction, analysis, repetition and encouragement is invaluable and irreplaceable in students’ lives.

Unfortunately, given today’s educational landscape with increasing class sizes, poor resources and limited time in the classroom, teachers who have both the resources and drive to maximize their impact are harder and harder to find. This seems like the perfect problem for a technological solution.

Students shouldn’t require a superhero teacher to have a chance at a great education. How can we use technology to help everyday teachers maximize their potential for impact in a students life? This seems like an obvious focus for the Ed Tech movement. However, it feels to me that the movement has taken on a different challenge: scaling education by removing personal instruction, essentially taking the teacher out of the equation. I don’t want to be misunderstood, I am excited by the advancement of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and think they are extremely beneficial and are making education that much more accessible. I am just curious why, given a “hacking” culture where we are creating apps to solve life’s everyday problems, are there not more innovative solutions that seek to solve teachers’ everyday problems?

It is with this desire to enhance the lives of teachers that I got involved with Gradeable. Gradeable just made sense to me. Perhaps it was because of their focus on the needs of teachers. But more than that, I think their very refined focus on a specific pain in the lives of teachers and the education sector was the piece that was particularly refreshing. Gradeable isn’t out to radically transform the education sector as a whole, it instead strives to transform the lives of teachers and in turn, the lives of students.

The EdTech movement is exciting and it seems to be clear to everyone that we are on the verge of changing the way the world thinks about consuming information. My hope is that we don’t lose focus of the smaller, incremental changes on the frontlines of education that can be made with the help of technology. Gradeable respects the value of instruction and instead of seeking to remove it from the center of learning, embraces its importance in students’ lives. Gradeable is the education hack that I would have downloaded as a teacher, which is why I am working to get it into the hands of those that need it
-Matt, EdTech Enthusiast, Teacher

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