In Education: Technology Need Starts with a Simple Question…..


In life, you come across numerous questions “Who are you?”,  “What is the meaning of life?” Of these thousands/millions of questions, which ones are truly life changing? To bring about change, small or big, we must stop asking so many questions, but rather ask the right one(s).

Working in a field where my interactions have the opportunity to touch and influence thousands upon millions of lives, it is imperative that the right questions are asked, and that the right answers are available. How many of you are positioned in the same boat? In Education, you need open-ended questions to have a a proper discussion about how any educational based product/ program will support the users of the district. Any discussion asking or answering questions that are close-ended will lead you down a path that will ultimately not support you and your district. The simplest yet most impactful questions need to start with the ‘WHY?’.

The classroom is a parallel entity to a home. It is but another room until it is occupied and becomes a safe environment for its occupants to learn and grow in. Introducing technology into the classroom must be done with a purpose, one that does not interrupt or cause conflict. This is the biggest issue with today’s flooded educational application market. Where ever you turn, someone has an app that will solve a Math, ELA, Social Studies, or Science issue. With so many solutions available, WHY are there so many struggles with implementing technology into our classrooms?

The answer is simple- the end solutions have not considered the impact on the classroom and teachers. Even the greatest ideas will fail to be implemented into a classroom if we fail to recognize the lives and processes of teachers and complicate their modalities. One such example was a fantastic application to be used with math programs. It was an adaptive program that used an algorithm to identify the best learning path for each individual student as questions were answered. Imagine having a classroom of 25 students all participating in the lesson being taught, and each student working at their particular level with unique problems being delivered to them in a systematic approach for their learning! AWESOME, right? So why did this program die out as the years went by?

The design of the product did not focus on the ‘use-case’ of the classroom. Any teacher would agree that the overall concept of the product fits a true need of the classroom- however, there were major flaws that did not support the ‘use-case’ of teachers and students. In order to utilize the adaptive program, a teacher needed to make and select several choices for each lesson or assessment each day:

  1. Did they want to make the lesson or assessment adaptive?
  2. Did they want intervention or enrichment?
  3. Did they want this for individual students? Groups? or Class?
  4. Did they want a special Personal Plan in addition?

The teacher would need to make these choices every day for every lesson or assessment they wished to assign. The achilles heal- making a teacher run through hoops to simply make a lesson or assessment adaptive for their students everyday. WHY? because someone didn’t ask the right questions.

By asking the right questions, the proper solutions and teacher workflow could have been developed. Someone should have understood that teachers are craving for simplicity with technology.  How about a simple checkbox?Want to assign Lesson 3 for homework and make it adaptive? Check! and your student will get enrichment or remediation work depending on their abilities! Leave the box unchecked to assign non-adaptive work if you choose. Why? Because a teacher wants to simply make a choice of assigning adaptive work or not. Done.

For the student who needed remedial support- the Personal Plan provided a 10 to 15 minute warm up, followed by the adaptive lesson or assessment, followed by another possible remedial adaptive lesson for an extra 10 or 15 minutes of additional work. Achilles heal- Take a struggling student and ask them to sit for an hour or more with work they struggle with? Again- a great concept with unlimited potential- derailed because the designers and engineers did not ask the right questions. They clearly focused on the ‘How’ rather than first determining the ‘Why’!

From devices to infrastructure on the district end, to the feature and functionality that educational programs are offering- It needs to start with WHY. The choices that districts are confronted with are multiple and confusing. The environment to which they will be used is massive and ever-changing. There is one constant that must stay in focus….the Classroom. While we talk about how the classroom must change, fundamentally it will always stay the same. The structure of a house does not make it a home. A house becomes a home once it is occupied and becomes a safe environment for its occupants to learn and grow in. Any outside influence allowed into any home must fit and provide value without disruption, or it will not be welcomed! The same can be seen for most educational apps in classrooms as they come and go through the revolving door!

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10 Thoughts a Teacher Hopes All Parents Know


In my 15+ years of teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students, I tried to keep a very complicated system as simple as possible. We kept our standards high and did our best to reach them. I only asked one simple question to determine the success of my students and their efforts….”Are you PROUD?”

Whether I was talking with the smartest kid in class, or the one who struggled the most, this one question was all I could ask for from each and every student. There is a connection when you look a student in the eye and ask this one question that any standardized testing will never be able to capture. Let’s remember that every student is an individualized learning anomaly. As parents, it is hard to keep an open mind when your child is grouped with his or her peers and is struggling in comparison. However, just like learning to walk, each child is able to rise on their own 2 feet when their mind and body are ready to do so. The main objective for both parent and teacher is to be a great supportive net to help each and every child when they are ready, and be there to support them in good and bad times.

With that being said, I always wanted my students’ parents to know 10 things when their child was in my care:

1. Your child does not treat me as they do you. You are their parent and they will test you 100 times more.  Don’t get me wrong, they will also test me in the classroom (it is a part of growing up), however, I have the power of peers, the Principal, and you on my side. If you teach your children to be respectful, chances are they are being respectful!

2. In Elementary School, your child will tell lots of stories of what goes on at home! We only believe half of what they say, but the question is what half do we believe?? 🙂

3.  I am not perfect. I, too, will make mistakes. I am sorry. If there is a problem, please approach me with a mindset of what is best for your child, and don’t hold it against me. (Remember I know we are both not perfect- see #2!)

4. Your child’s education is not about you and any embarrassment you may have. I simply want what is best for your child to be successful. This may mean being honest with your child. There is nothing wrong with being honest about negative behaviors you are observing with your child as long as you reassure them you are there to support. Please work with me if I approach you. I am doing so to help your child, not to inconvenience you.

5. Most important- Stop focusing on getting Straight A’s!! This is propaganda being pushed by society. If your child gets a C, it does not mean they are failing, it means they were average. There is nothing wrong with having a goal of A’s, but getting some B’s and C’s in 4th grade will NOT stop your child from getting accepted into Harvard as you may have planned. I do not give out grades, your child earns them. Be PROUD of a “hard earned C”, because it is better than an “easy A”!

6. Elementary School is NOT as easy as you remember it. Sure adding and subtracting is easy for you now, but can you find the mean, mode and median? How about naming the parts of a plant cell? Indirect objects? Prepositional Phrases? How about labeling all 50 States and their Capitals? Trust me, your child is not struggling to frustrate you. Take a deep breathe, remain calm, and listen. (Remember that I have to do this with 25+ students everyday!) Frustration is a fine line- It is good cause it means they still CARE and desire to be better! However,  you have to be careful, because the next step is to quit. Make sure your child knows “You are not allowed to quit!” No matter how frustrated they are, let them know you care too and will help or get help for them!

7. The most important skills your child needs to learn in Elementary school are- Study Skills! From flash cards, to note taking, your child must learn to study for Secondary and Post Secondary years. Especially keep an eye on your child if they are a straight A student- as elementary school may be too easy, but eventually the subject matter will become increasingly difficult and they will be ill-prepared to study and ill-equipped to handle failure.

8. Don’t compare your child’s learning to any other child’s learning. For both success and struggle, asking your child to be like another child is just wrong. Keep it focused on what your child can accomplish. Forming better study habits or asking for help, are reachable tasks that can help a C student shoot for a C+ or B on the next test/report card. If you know your child has worked hard, be proud, show encouragement and your child will continue to put forth the effort and blossom!

9. Don’t compare me to any other teacher your child has had, or will have. We, like the students, are unique in our own ways and styles of teaching. What makes this great is that it mimics the real world where your child must adapt to others in leadership. From colleagues to the boss, your child must use the experience of school to help adapt into the workforce. Social Skills are important to learn during these years, so empower your child by allowing them to handle their issues. Your support is important, but your personal involvement should be the last option.

10. Lastly, but most importantly, I care for your child as if they are my own (In my mind, they are a part of my family and always will be). I have but 180 days to instill a passion to be a life long learner and empower them to chase their dreams. It is NEVER about straight A’s, but rather taking steps forward, no matter how small. Failure is NOT an option.  I will be there to help out even when they have moved on to higher grades if ever needed.  I am just a phone call or email away, for help, or simply to update me!

Just like every other profession out there, 10% are bad teachers. Unfortunately you will have to experience one or two educating your child. Use it as a learning experience in adapting to make the most of a bad situation (for you and your child), and never hold it against your next teacher! Do what you need to support your child and document everything!  Lastly, if your child is struggling and you feel there is something wrong, ask for your child to be tested. Document all of your worries and things you see, approach your teacher, and don’t stop until you see results. Lastly- remember to “Thank a Teacher” when you appreciate the work they are doing. At a time of teacher evaluations based on standardized tests, government mandates, and the norm of teacher bashing, a simple handshake or a note is priceless in uplifting the spirit of a teacher.

To all of the parents whose children are now considered “my kids” also, I thank you!  Thank you for your support. Thank you for your input. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your efforts. I did my best everyday to be a positive influence on the students.  I am proud to say that your children have had as much of a positive influence on me!

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