Trends | Teachers Want More Tech Training

CREDIT SamsungA nationwide survey of K-12 teachers revealed that while schools are taking steps to bridge the digital divide by putting more technology into classrooms, more action must be taken to ensure that teachers know how to integrate it into their lessons. According to research conducted by Samsung Electronics America and GfK, while 90 percent of teachers believe that technology in the classroom is important to student success, 60 percent of teachers feel they are inadequately prepared. Other key findings include:

  • 91 percent of teachers believe that up-to-date training on using technology in the classroom is important to achieve success.
  • 37 percent of teachers say that they would “love” to use technology in the classroom, but they simply do not know how.
  • 32 percent are not satisfied with the support they receive from their schools in integrating technology into their classrooms.
  • 76 percent say they would like a professional development day dedicated to technology during the school year when students would not be present.

“With the increasing popularity of Chromebooks, tablets, interactive whiteboards and apps in classrooms today, it’s evident that technology is a critical tool for today’s learners,” says Ted Brodheim, VP of Vertical Business at Samsung Electronics America. “However, our new research highlights that teachers are not yet receiving full support to harness the power of technology and truly transform classroom learning into a 21st century experience,” he adds. Learn more.

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Education Technology is Nothing — without People

Putting purposeful tools in the hands of teachers we support and believe in.

GUEST COLUMN | by Renny Monaghan

CREDIT D2LThere are some teachers and administrators who are so smitten with education technology, they believe there’s a technological solution for every problem. And, if there isn’t a technological solution yet, there soon will be.

As someone who makes a living in the education technology industry, it’s a sentiment I’m very familiar with. When I run into well-meaning people who hold this view, I’m reminded of this quote:

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

Now, while that sounds like something a back-to-basics, paper-and-pencils, blackboard-chalk-dust covered Luddite might say, bear in mind that’s a quote from Steve Jobs — who wasn’t exactly the enemy of technology.

We need to make sure that our teachers are adept at using the tools we give them – and have faith that they will do wonderful things with them.

The point here is that while the tools we give educators are important, it’s just as important that we make sure that educators are able to freely and properly use the tools they’ve been given.

In the last decade, the list and complexity of technological tools available to teachers has grown by leaps and bounds. Now, it’s not enough to have a single computer connected to the Internet at the back of the class. IT has permeated every aspect of the student journey — from the first day of school to the last, from student research to reporting to parents — technology is now ubiquitous in the learning experience.

More recently, teachers and administrators have begun to embrace the idea of creating a personalized learning experience for students. Instead of teaching a subject at one speed to an entire class, technology allows us to reach students individually at a speed and pace that’s right for them, and then scale that experience as required.

At the core of this new approach are Learning Management Systems (LMS), which are sophisticated pieces of software that let teachers deliver lessons based on mastery and self-paced learning to suit various learning styles. An LMS can do everything from deliver course content to assessment and reporting to resource management and skills gap analysis. To people who love technology, they seem like a one-size fits all solution to the challenges facing students in the classroom.

But while all of this enthusiasm is appreciated by those of us who create and sell these technological marvels, we can’t forget that at its heart, education is still about people. And if the people who deliver education simply provide an online learning tool, that’s not enough. Educators need insight into where learners are succeeding or struggling. They need to intervene to improve outcomes and degree attainment rates throughout the term. If teachers are using the new tools inefficiently — such as glorified record-keeping and report card writing software — they’re not maximizing their use. If teachers are still only providing feedback to students after a 13-week period when it could already be too late to make a positive impact, that’s a waste.

Instead, teachers should be using real-time analytics that aggregate student data from the full learning ecosystem — including several different LMS’, learning apps, online tools and content publishers — and use it to develop a complete view of each learner. Then, use that data to adjust and tweak the approach to each student to make sure they have the best-possible chance to master the material. This form of big data analytics has already been remarkably effective in boosting positive outcomes across a number of industries. Imagine what the result would be for student attainment if the same were true in our schools?

The bottom line is that it’s important to provide educators with the right tools to solve challenges in the classroom. And there’s no doubt that there are more technological tools at our disposal than ever before.

At the same time, even the best tool is only as good as the builder or artist who uses it. We need to make sure that our teachers are adept at using the tools we give them – and have faith that they will do wonderful things with them.

Renny Monaghan is CMO and SVP for D2L, makers of Brightspace, an online platform that makes the learning experience better.

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Local Strength: The Power of In-Country Presence  

Establishing international strategic channel partners in the edtech market.

SMARTER SCHOOLS | by Michael Spencer

Courtesy BC MapsEstablishing a presence internationally is best accomplished via in-country strategic partners and resellers. Attempting to conduct international business from U.S.-based offices is not the way to go. There are several reasons for this, which I will explore in more depth here. But first, let’s have a closer look at what having a strategic partner and reseller means. Then, we will explore the value and benefit derived from such an in-country approach.

A Smart Partnership

In the context we are talking about, a strategic partner would mean an established individual or organization who is aligned to your needs and wants, where there would be mutual benefit, and who is also aligned to your goals and purposes.

While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats the real thing when it comes to getting business done internationally.

For example, this might be an organization doing global business on the ground in-country and is deeply involved and working in the education vertical; one that already has strong relationships in place and is continually creating more and deeper relationships with interests in that country. You have made known what you need and want, and they are clearly aligned to your goals and purposes.

In working with such a person or group, here are eight clear advantages:

Smoother, cost-effective expansion. International (local) strategic channel partners work more efficiently being on the ground, in-country, and can thereby more cost-effectively grow your business in-country.   

Scalability and sustainability. Key to any successful international expansion strategy is the ability to scale revenue and subsequently sustain scalability year over year, something much easier to achieve with a strategic channel partner well in-tune with and servicing the customers’ ongoing needs and wants.

Ability to create new market opportunities. International strategic resellers can uncover new niche or vertical markets that would otherwise not be possible from a U.S.-based sales team.

Local representation. Nearly all in-country customers would prefer to deal with a local representative for a variety of reasons that stem from the fact (and strength) of being in closer communication to ‘see it through’ – to really execute on plans and strategies by providing whatever live communication and follow-through is necessary.

Mitigate financial risk. On the flip side, attempting to collect from late or delinquent accounts from your home country can make collecting money very difficult. Having a local representative can greatly alleviate this challenge. Additionally, strategic partners are more in tune with country protectionist laws and have better insight into transferring funds for payment of goods and services without being heavily taxed.

Localization. Speaking the local language and having marketing materials in the local language, and communicating within those realities (including idioms, styles, values, customs and senses of humor or culture uniquely understood by the local public) all work to avoid missing the mark, and lower any barriers to effectively delivering the message about features and benefits of your product or service.

Logistics. Local strategic channel partners are very in tune with import duties, taxes and tariffs and, if experienced, will advise you on the best means for shipping product to the country without high import fees, and through the most expedited way possible.

Costs. The costs associated with implementing international strategic channel partners is far more inexpensive than implementing an international, salary-based sales team.

Complications, hidden difficulties, and other barriers all related to time, distance, language, culture and simply not being there ‘on the ground’ — inevitably arise when administering business from afar.

While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats the real thing when it comes to getting business done internationally.

Companies working in the international arena need to establish international strategic channel partners with the ability to be there locally, to see business through, and to ensure that your investment in the international market is an expansion that adds strength to your mission.

Michael Spencer is Senior Director of International Business Development at K12. He is past SVP at The American Education Corporation, past president of One2OneMate and a co-founder and investor in multiple edtech startups. With years of success in taking educational products to the domestic and international market, Michael has proven to be an industry expert in effective expansions both stateside and abroad. Write to: mspencer52163@gmail.com

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Cool Tool | The Chalkup App

CREDIT Chalkup imageChalkup is a class collaboration platform that does anything a learning management system can do, but with a beautiful, intuitive interface. With its seamless Google Drive integration and powerful engagement tools for assignments, discussions, grading, rubrics, and flashcards, it’s also completely free for teachers and students to use. And now, there’s a new and improved app for iOS. This latest release has added tons of features, bringing the best of the platform to mobile. Users can create classes, assignments, and discussions from their device, even submitting homework by taking a picture. The app is available for free download on iTunes.

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Beyond the Chasm

The critical nature of IT in transforming higher education and research.

GUEST COLUMN | by Cole Clark

CREDIT Oracle Education and ResearchFrom advances in online learning platforms to the use of predictive analytics to measurably improve student outcomes and foster data-driven decision making in higher education and research, it is clear that IT has “crossed the chasm” from an auxiliary service that keeps the trains running (i.e. wireless networks operational, payroll processed, IP telephones working, etc.) to a strategic enabler of transformation in higher education. But where is the higher education IT function headed and what areas of education and research still need to be addressed?

We convened a small panel of undergraduate students and the discussion clearly demonstrated just how clear they are about the need for this “frictionless” interaction with their institution.

While the main focus of heightened technology has been the shift from on-premise applications to all things cloud, there is a decided real shift in the dynamics facing the higher education system. While higher education has already experienced considerable change, it is apparent that there is still much to do to truly transform. There are three key areas in which this transformation is absolutely necessary: delivering education and research at scale (increased access); differentiating between institutions (and to expose those key differentiators through technology); and reducing “friction” in the student experience.

Underscoring this, Andy Clark, Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications from Valdosta State University; Mario Barry from Lone Star College; and outgoing Oracle Higher Education User Group president Steve Hahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently echoed these sentiments at the Alliance Executive Forum. The group discussed how important the development of an enterprise-wide approach to the use of data is to enhance student success and how it has become one of the most critical drivers for the executive teams in their respective institutions.

Increased Access to Education and Research

Many institutions are currently struggling to shoulder significant budget shortages while also balancing the growing demand for IT services from students, faculty, and staff. To address these challenges, institutions should consider adopting cloud computing strategies to meet the needs of their diverse, mobile, and demanding constituents. With shared services in the cloud, institutions are able to share applications rather than each department investing in the technology and support individually. Furthermore, the cloud provides a uniquely flexible way for institutions to improve access to services while enabling them to scale the level of access according to their business needs. While there are several highly successful early adopters of cloud, there is still significant opportunity for more institutions to take advantage of its benefits.

Differentiation Between Institutions 

Technology in the education and research industry is permeating every market. For example, certain parts of Europe are moving towards the U.S. model of funding based on outcomes, and the need for the “consumers” of education to bear more of the cost. This kind of shift will cause “consumers” to become much more conscious of value, and demand a more personal, effortless, and modern “experience” that they may have become accustomed to from their interactions with entities that have made much greater strides in leveraging technology – such as customer relationship management tools. For institutions to attract the best and brightest, and further retain the relationship through the donor level, they will need to focus on providing a unique and progressive experience, and investing in technology transformation will be key to achieving this. 

Reducing Friction 

Another key to transformation is to reduce the amount of friction students experience when interfacing with higher education institutions. These interactions are shifting from purely in-person and on campus, to becoming more technological and involving many different devices at many different times. To support this shift and maintain these interactions throughout the student lifecycle (from prospect to donor and all stages in between), institutions will need to differentiate themselves through technology.

At Oracle Industry Connect 2015, we convened a small panel of undergraduate students and the discussion clearly demonstrated just how clear they are about the need for this “frictionless” interaction with their institution, and the role they expect that institution to play (much more of an advisor, coach, and mentor than of “parent”). Students expect their institutions to meet certain boundaries in their use of social media and data, but those boundaries are dissimilar from the expectations they have from their interactions with commercial entities on the internet, for example. This discrepancy makes our job of creating a frictionless environment that much more difficult! But it was also evident from these discussions that we have a long way to go in our efforts to focus investments on student experience and engagement and that basic concepts like one-time authentication into the many systems with which students interact is still elusive.

The higher education and research industry is continually changing and it is critical for institutions to keep pace with this change and maintain progress. By investing in innovative technologies, institutions will be able to assess strategic approaches to managing data, increase service access, differentiate from competing institutions, and focus on the student experience – things that are absolutely imperative to the next generation of higher education and research.

Cole Clark is Global Vice President of Education and Research at Oracle.

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