Professional learning

Published: August 3rd, 2020

Embracing edtech amid the unknown: Best-practices from leaders in the field

As teachers are increasingly asked to teach remotely and students learning at home, education technology has morphed from being a nice-to-have to a necessity.

Nationwide, district leaders are trying to figure out the best way to bring students and teachers back into the classroom. However, rising COVID-19 cases are prompting many schools and districts to make difficult, high-stakes decisions: namely if, when, and how to safely reopen schools in the coming weeks.

U.S. districts are increasingly splitting into three groups – those that:

  • Plan to teach online only;
  • Will let families choose between in-person and at-home instruction; and
  • Offer a hybrid approach where students split their time between the classroom and learning remotely.

Amid the turbulent back-to-school season, it’s tough to pinpoint the best and most up-to-date practices to help teachers embrace edtech when it’s never been more necessary.

Luckily, Promethean’s education consultants have some insights and suggestions from their experiences in three school districts across the U.S., aimed to ensure edtech success in your school or district. Let’s explore best practices for implementing classroom solutions that help them work for the long term:

Make lessons engaging

People today have a Twitter-like attention span, so getting students and teachers engaged quickly in edtech is key. Forget the fluff and get right to the meat of a lesson.

One way to ensure your edtech integration will be successful is to plan for edtech needs in advance followed by finding the right professionals to put the plan into action, like leaders in Lee County School District in Fort Myers, Fla. did.  They routinely turn to their edtech providers to ensure implemented technology was easy to learn, meaningful, to the point, and engaging for students and teachers.

One of the district’s tools is Promethean’s 86-inch ActivPanel Titanium, an interactive panel that includes engaging apps and a variety of easy-to-learn, easy-to-use teaching tools available at the touch of a button. Although the district just installed this edtech during the 2019-2020 school year, the buzz is spreading among schools and teachers about the engaging teaching tool.

Specifically, educators want more training, such as webinars, to better understand how to optimize their high-tech, low-maintenance interactive panels.

“It’s amazing what a strategic implementation can do for adoption and efficacy of classroom solutions,” said Laura Pappas, Promethean education consultant for Lee County School District. “The more excited their teachers are to learn new ways to use our technology in the classroom, the more effective and engaging the overall edtech investment is.”

Ensure training is readily available – and ongoing

Training is essential in getting educators on-board and well-versed in edtech. Education consultants from the Miami-Dade County Public School District, the nation’s fourth-largest school district with 345,000 students, strive to make professional training sessions personal and relevant to teachers.

“A crucial part of training is ensuring the instructional materials break up products into clear and concise sections, with plenty of hands-on practice,” Meg Folcarelli, a Promethean education consultant at Miami-Dade County Public Schools said. “By doing so, we allow teachers to go back to their classrooms feeling confident in using this new skill set with their students.”

This includes creating content-based training that includes real-life, classroom-ready examples.

According to edtech consultants in the Minneapolis Public School (MPS) District, it’s critical to provide ongoing training and support to ensure teachers don’t get frustrated and give up because of a lack of understanding of how to use new tools. Therefore, when updates are released, make sure your edtech provider is available to deliver the necessary training, whether on-site or remote.

“If teachers aren’t provided with the proper training and can’t figure out to do what they need, they often abandon the ship to find cumbersome workarounds,” Kayla Kelsey, MPS District education consultant said.

Communicate change regularly

The importance of communication cannot be emphasized enough. New technology can lead to both excitement and anxiety. MPS consultants say they achieve the best buy-in from teachers when they communicate before, during, and after the installation of new edtech, including ActivPanels. Teachers are getting a whole new way of delivering their lessons – and big change can leave them frustrated if communication is lacking.

Therefore, districts and schools should provide regular communications and edtech training in different formats, like group and individual sessions. Both types of sessions allow teachers to continue learning the skills needed to make sure students are simultaneously growing and learning, too.

Teachers appreciate knowing edtech providers are there to help them find the best solution for their needs. And when they realize they aren’t being forced to change everything they know about teaching, they are much more receptive to trying out – and often permanently adopting – new edtech.

Embrace the unknown

According to EdSurge, COVID-19 has cast an ominous, uncertain spell over the U.S. education system. Educators, many of whom will find themselves working remotely part or all of the time during fall session – often with their own children underfoot – must have edtech providers willing to help them simplify the complexities of modern teaching and learning.

To succeed, schools and districts will have to create an engaging hybrid learning approach for students and teachers alike, and edtech can certainly help. However, ongoing training and communication are non-negotiable table stakes.

When teachers understand what new tools are available to them and have the proper, ongoing training, they are in a better position to adopt new edtech and embrace it. And if they are passionate about edtech tools, their students, too, are more likely to mirror the enthusiasm and are better able to make the upcoming school year, regardless of its challenges, a success.