Enabling learners to find success and helping educators navigate the ever-evolving technology to best support those students in the challenge some of the world’s leading education non-profits are ready to take on.
Leaders from 1Edtech, Digital Promise, CoSN, and ISTE gathered for the “Leading Innovation to Power Learner Potential” panel, sponsored by PowerSchool, at 1EdTech’s Learning Impact Conference in Anaheim this summer to talk about their organizations’ current efforts to support teaching and learning.
One challenge they all agree districts need help overcoming is sorting through the multitude of edtech solutions and finding the right products to best support teaching and learning.
“We ask ourselves, what do leaders in school systems need to know,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “With technology, there is always something new, so what should leaders be thinking about as new opportunities present themselves? What are the bigger ecosystems, enablers, and technology options they should consider? We look at these questions and work towards answers that will help them do their jobs.”
“We want to be sure districts are buying the right tools,” said Joseph South, chief learning officer for ISTE. “Products need to be teacher ready and put pedagogy first. The EdSurge product index puts products side by side with independent third-party certifications and recommendations to increase the quality of purchasing. It’s also better for suppliers because it reduces the questions from districts and makes the conversation clearer.”
Some of those third-party certifications and recommendations come from 1EdTech and Digital Promise.
“We hold vendors’ feet to the fire,” said Rob Abel, CEO of 1EdTech. “We are very serious about the implementation of our standards, and our certification is very advanced. There is live testing and verification in school districts and higher education. We also help suppliers implement the standards with support and resources. We just want to make sure everything works.”
“We want to be advocates for educators,” said Jean-Claude Brizard, president and CEO of Digital Promise. “They want to know, ‘What am I buying, and why am I buying it?’ Right now, districts are asked to be general contractors, so we need to make it easier for them to pull products together.”
As the organizations help educational institutions sort through the options available now, they also consider the technology educators will use in the future. Two areas they are all considering are personalization and digital credentials.
“We’ve been working with digital credentials for more than 17 years,” said Abel. “We’ve developed very successful Open Badges and Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) standards. It’s a hot topic in higher education, and we see the gleam in the eye of the K-12 community because it enables personalized learning and pathways.”
“We have an opportunity now for truly learner-centered learning,” said South. “We have the tools to connect what learners’ goals are and what is happening outside of school. We can make their learning community, their whole community, and their competencies don’t have to be academic specific. Credentials can play a big role in that.”
“What’s especially important with microcredentials is interoperability needs to be verified,” added Krueger. “You can verify where the credential comes from and need open standards to make sure badges can travel. Otherwise, they aren’t helpful.”
“We’ve talked about credentialing as part of a larger arch of the work we need to do,” said Brizard. “Particularly, how do we use that to move toward competency-based education and providing economic and academic security.”
The leaders say social-emotional learning is also an important part of personalization, and technology can enable that personalization.
“Up until three years ago, you never heard about SEL or student well-being,” said Krueger. “But it’s the job of every educator. We need to ask if what we’re doing enhances or gets in the way of the student, the teacher, and the parent’s well-being.”
“The big questions we need to ask is what and why are we personalizing learning,” said Brizard. “Many people consider well-being and SEL ‘nice to do,’ but it’s a big part of the work we do to understand how kids learn. It’s so important.”
“AI can also open up true personalization for not just student capabilities, but also their interests,” said South.
“You can’t personalize if you don’t have a choice,” said Abel. “Open standards give you choice and give you the chance to work with a wide variety of suppliers.”
Abel wrapped up the panel by emphasizing the need for continued collaboration.
“All four of these organizations serve the same audiences in different ways. We really need this type of collaboration to improve education around the world, and we need to make more time for it. So often, we’re busy serving our stakeholders, but when we take this time, we can see where we can bring a lot of our work together.”