Rethinking edtech and school partnership.
GUEST COLUMN | by Mike Evans
A close connection between schools and education technology companies is a formula for collective success. Moreover, that critical connection needs to consider one simple—yet important—point: school and district leaders are looking for opportunities to improve student outcomes.
If a company is truly outcomes-focused, it puts itself in the shoes of school leaders, and determines how to best help in meeting their goals. With that in mind, schools and their edtech partners benefit from ongoing student outcomes discussions. The best partnerships are the result of three main tenants:
Edtech companies typically have one or several core competencies—their special strengths. For example, a company’s strength might be assessment, as it provides data and insight to educators for the purpose of knowing where their students are and what needs to happen in order for those students to be propelled forward in their academic growth.
Schools and districts that capitalize on assessment data to develop a broader view of what’s best for their students and teachers want to choose partners that support the development of holistic perspectives. The goal is to provide a diagnosis and help educators in making critical choices for students—whether that’s through a new instructional program or a different way of approaching the teaching cycle.
If a company is strong in assessment, they may partner with a likeminded edtech partner who is strong in instruction. Ultimately, the aim is to come together to create the best possible outcomes for students—and the way to do that is to align with other providers who complement and interoperate, presenting an entire solution to a school or district.
In developing software, edtech companies at times forget the classroom teacher—the person on whom a solution’s success most often depends. If you’ve spent any time in a classroom, it becomes quite clear that data-driven insights are about more than test scores. Teachers have to look at test data and beyond to understand their students holistically. Are they focused today? Are they having issues at home? Are there challenges around accessibility? Full insight is what teachers bring to the classroom each day.
Keeping the teacher and their relationships with their students in mind is critical to the success of any classroom solution. This means setting a high bar in terms of usability. Teachers’ user experiences should not just be easy, but also enjoyable. The use of any technology should be a natural act; one that changes for the better how they differentiate and personalize instruction for their students. This all comes back to why a student and teacher-centric view is so important. A view of product innovation that does not fully consider teacher and student dynamics often results in a seldom used innovation.
Fundamental to a classroom solution is the connective tissue that ties individual pieces together to create a more powerful whole. As classrooms implement more data-driven instruction, choosing the right assessments, instructional resources, planning tools and practice applications is critical. However, combining those elements doesn’t automatically create a solution. Bringing them together into a seamless experience that fosters student success is the key.
Educators can further optimize the use of classroom technology by utilizing meaningful professional development in the forms that best meet their needs. Whether online and point-of-use, a personalized approach to coaching and implementation, or live-answer customer support, the best edtech companies are always available to their schools and districts as they help support teachers’ primary goal of helping every child succeed.
Mike Evans is the interim CEO and chief financial officer at Renaissance. He is a 20-year veteran of education technology and passionate about K-12 education.