EdVestors Education Headliners Breakfast

Last Tuesday, Kattie went to an Education Headliners Breakfast hosted by EdVestors, a philanthropic organization which identifies important practices and brands themselves as a catalyst for change. The Edvestors tagline is “Driving Change in Urban schools” and the breakfast they hosted was to discuss the landscape of edtech challenges of true edtech success in the boston community – specific to boston is the high and diverse ELL (English Language Learning) population.

The setting of the breakfast was informal and was for educators who are already experimenting with technology. The meat of the discussion was affirming what most of us know: Technology is here to stay and many are working to make it more efficient, more effective, more useful—something teachers can actually see themselves buying into and using. In addition, the panel identified the complexities of delivering effective instruction as an effect of increasing diversity in the district. Because of the high ELL population, the district isn’t prepared well enough to deliver an instruction to overcome both traditional education obstacles and technology integration.

The Q&A session was when they started speaking our language. Jordan Meranus, CEO of Ellevation memorably said that apps are supplemental.  His key message was that no piece of technology is going to teach your students algebra, but technology can help in other ways. Another takeaway was that to be effective, a whole school system has to buy in. Technology works best when administration supports the teachers and teachers can get students to engage.

Mary Skipper, Network Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, discussed another very important reality: interfacing between new solutions and the current system can be difficult. Not everyone likes change. Situations may arise where technology is chosen and purchased by stakeholders who are NOT the ones using that technology day-to-day.  It’s wildly frustrating for both parties when they don’t see eye-to-eye.

To those people, you have my empathy. I’ve helped install systems before for bosses who didn’t care about the employee experience. Their mentality was “just learn it.” But like I said, technology isn’t going anywhere and Kattie put it well:

Ed tech is not supposed to overturn the system and render teachers and traditional systems useless—there is tons of merit in the traditional system, but there holes that tech can mesh together. Someone described it to me as having cracks in a sidewalk and technology as the gel to puts it back together.

My overall takeaway is that there are gaps in the current structure. From the Gradeable point of view, teachers spend a lot of time grading, analyzing, and reporting that we can help with. The gap is the amount of work that needs grading and the time and energy that teachers have to do it. For those teachers, and others looking to fill gaps in the classrooms, they look to apps. The developers who can work to fulfill teachers’ needs will succeed. No app will succeed without there first being an actual, teacher-voiced need. There are definitely some bumps in the adoption process — especially when technology is implemented hastily or without having the right planning or people at the table — but we’re on the right track!

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