Educator, Innovator: How Teachers are Becoming Leaders in Edtech
What’s next in the world of educational technology? For the answer, look no further than your nearest classroom teacher. Educators have always been the primary source of product testing and feedback for edtech developers—after all, products that were designed for use in the classroom need buy-in from teachers! However, educators also have the skills to invent new edtech solutions and develop them from the ground up, and involving educators in creation and development often leads to edtech products that are more in line with student needs and classroom goals. Read on to discover how educators’ unique skills make them leaders in every stage of edtech development.
Educators are inventive
There’s no denying that educators are the true experts in what their students need to succeed. They see firsthand where students’ interests lie, which skills they need to improve, and which teaching tools are most effective. What's more, they know what material is required for their grade and where students require the most support. To meet these needs, educators adapt and invent new approaches to teaching all the time; whether simply rearranging their classrooms or comprehensively redesigning entire lesson plans, educators are already innovators in the classroom.
Now, educators are bringing their classroom experience into the world of edtech by becoming more involved at the earliest stages of content creation; in fact, as reported by Brendan Laughlin for EdSurge, some schools are beginning to create environments that encourage teachers to develop their own tech tools. These school-based programs give educators extra time, coding software, and grant money to create what they want to see in their own classrooms. Since educators already know what their students and classrooms need, it’s natural to give them the resources to invent their own digital solutions.
Even if educators don’t have the ability to build their own edtech, content creators are paying more attention to educator feedback. In an interview with edCircuit, Dr. Monica Burns (creator of ClassTechTips.com and author of "Tasks Before Apps") said she sees change on the horizon now that content creators are beginning to listen to educators and focus on what educators need their students to learn. According to Dr. Burns, effective edtech puts learning goals at the center and then looks at how digital tools can help them get there. In both areas, listening to educators is key.
Educators are dedicated
Another skill that educators bring to edtech development is their commitment to student success—no matter how many times they may need to revise or reteach a lesson. Educators know that not all students learn in the same way or at the same pace, so regardless of whether they're using a traditional lesson from a textbook or a newly developed piece of edtech, they understand that they might need to make adjustments along the way.
It’s this commitment to excellence that defines a true innovator. In an Edutopia article titled Every Teacher an Innovator, author Joe Mazza explained that innovation is a mindset, not a set of tools. According to Mazza, “There are high- and low-tech examples of innovation being leveraged on a daily basis to meet the needs of our students, staff and community.” Since educators already have this mindset—and use it every day!—it stands to reason that they are uniquely qualified to develop edtech.
Educators are responsive
Most product development involves a period of testing wherein a focus group tries out the new product and gives feedback to the developers. When the product is an educational tool, this testing phase carries an inherent risk. If the product is flawed, how will the student test group learn the material? And if adjustments need to be made, how long will it take to find a new student test group
When educators work closely with edtech developers—or when they are the developers themselves—the gap between testing and practice narrows dramatically. According to Laughlin's EdSurge piece, this is where schools are truly superior to startups in building edtech, as fostering edtech development within a school allows “a tight feedback loop where teachers can introduce a tool, measure success and quickly make adjustments, all while remaining responsive to their busy schedules and limited free time.”
Since educators already use their inventiveness, dedication, and responsiveness in traditional teaching models, it’s no surprise that these same qualities are useful for building higher-tech education tools. By involving educators in every step of edtech creation from the initial idea to final testing, we can incorporate time-honored teaching skills with the latest technological advancements—a winning combination for educational technology.
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