Sunday, October 9, 2016

3 Innovative Solutions to Combat #EdTech Issues #CDEtop30

Three obstacles to successful integration of technology into teaching and learning include:

1 - Innovative educators often work in isolation
2 - Guidelines and policies for tech use are lawyer, not student or teacher, friendly
3 - Lack of tech expertise and funding for professional learning opportunities

Do any of these sound familiar?

If so, read on to discover how these problems inspired innovative solutions. As you do, consider if any of these are solutions that can be implemented where you work.

Problem - Lack of Tech Expertise & Funding for Learning Opportunities

Solution: Developing and leveraging partnerships to build expertise across the district in using cutting-edge technology.

IPPD logo   Google Slides.pngThe Story
Not long after Carmen Farina was appointed as school chancellor in 2014, she noticed that while schools were equipped with technology few teachers were using it to transform teaching and learning. The problem started two years prior when the U.S. Department of Education has failed to reauthorize funding to enhance education through technology so in August 2012 ed tech offices in all five boroughs of New York City were shut down as the funding ran dry. The Ed Tech Director and staff developer positions across the city were eliminated. It’s no surprise that a few years later the lack of support was evident in classrooms.

When tech isn’t used effectively it is not only the schools that suffer and look bad; it is also those who provide the technology to the schools who look bad. So I reached out to leaders at the technology resources most commonly used in schools. Places like Google, Microsoft, PBS, SMART, Promethean, BrainPop, and Common Sense Education. I asked them to work with me to build cohorts of teachers who would become certified in the use of their product. The solution implemented was the Innovation Partner Professional Professional Development program.

To do this interested educators would complete an application which would help identify across the city those who already know and love the product and have experience in sharing what they learn with others. We would bring these teachers together to connect with each other, have a direct connection with the company, and of course share their knowledge across the schools and districts. As a result we had experts and evangelists across the city that could ensure tech resources were used effectively.

This was a win-win that has ultimately resulted in more than 1000 experts identified and developed across the city. They can now support teachers in a number of ways. Some are inviting others to visit their classrooms to see how to implement the technology in which they have expertise. Some are recording or live streaming the work they do to share with others interested in their work. Most are providing support to colleagues in online communities. Nearly all are sharing what they learned by providing professional learning opportunities to teachers during weekly professional development time, conference days in the city and some are even speaking at conferences both nationally and internationally.  

When companies and school systems partner to develop educator expertise, everybody wins.  

More information

Problem - Innovative Educators Work in Isolation

Solution: Leverage social media to create an online community to connect educators interested in innovation.

The Story
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NYC Schools had educators interested in doing innovative work across the city but they often felt isolated and unsupported in their schools where few teachers were integrating technology. For the most part these were not teachers in 1:1 environments but rather those who teach in a lab or bring a laptop cart to the classroom. Most schools had at least one person on staff who was the resident tech guru, but when you’re the go-to person, who do you go-to when you need support?  

This problem was the impetus for starting the #NYCSchoolsTech group on Facebook. Two years later there are more than 2000 members in the group passionate about educational technology. This includes educators, district leaders, as well as representatives from companies who create the tech resources our teachers use.  

As a result this group has become the “go-to” place for innovative educators across the city when they need support or have questions. Innovative educators are no longer alone but rather a part of a learning community of thousands.

More information
  • You can read more about the how the community came about  here.  
  • You can read what community members feel about the program here.

Problem - Need for Friendly Tech Guidelines

Solution: Engage students, teachers, and parents in a participatory design process to create user-friendly social media guidelines.

The Story
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When the NY Post reported NYC schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that when it comes to communication between students and teachers on social-media sites like Facebook, “We prefer they not interact,” I had a problem. My take is different and I shared that via a comment that was picked up as it’s own story: I shared that I felt “One of the most important things educators can do is to ‘interact with students.’ The chancellor should be praising educators who do this.”

My innovative and practical way of looking at the issue resulted in the district bringing me on board to share ideas about responsible social media use. This started with the collaboration between young people, parents, and a dedicated affinity group of teachers who together worked to create guidelines for students (along with guides for parents and teachers) which are used in New York City and have been the foundation for social media guidelines and policies in other districts as well. All materials are available at no cost.

More information
  • The guidelines, along with student materials and parent and teacher guides are available at
  • You can read about how we engaged in the participatory design process here.

These solutions have been successfully implemented in New York City and were recognized by the Center for Digital Education who featured them in their current issue featuring Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers.

What has your experience been? Have you encountered problems that have or can become inspiration for innovation where you work? If you have innovative solutions that you’ve implemented or are thinking about implementing, we’d love to hear them. Please share in the comments.

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