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Reflecting on technology's role in learning environments

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Whenever we roll out a new technology platform, our elearning team works closely with our teaching and learning teams, ensuring that the choices we make are rooted in instructional practices. 

That’s because we’ve learned that placing technology in the classroom is about more than just adopting new platforms, integrating them and then getting all students and teachers up to speed on how to use them. Introducing new technology is really about ensuring that we explore what the tools and the learning look like in the classroom.

For example, the classroom where all students sit quietly and work independently is very different from one where teachers are not only accessing, but leveraging, data and using it to make artful instructional decisions that can effectively “clone” themselves across the entire class for specific tasks.

When this happens, technology supports personalized learning and can help improve student potential for learning -- two strong “wins” that we can’t get enough of in the K-12 environment right now. We use Lexia Core5 Reading to help facilitate this concept in our classrooms, with an emphasis on equipping teachers with both data and resources to bring out the best in every student.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to push us into an altered teaching reality, it's important to continue to make informed technology and personalized learning decisions. 

Here are four observations that our district has made that will continue to help us make our own decision moving forward:

Personalized learning goes hand-in-hand with blended learning

To help maximize instructional time -- and to adapt to the unusual circumstances that we’re all dealing with right now due to the pandemic -- you’d be hard pressed to find teachers who don’t believe in personalized learning. Blended learning gives personalized learning a boost, meeting students where they are, and giving students voice and choice in their own learning.    

Online learning doesn’t diminish the teacher’s role

We have a rich history of online and blended learning in our district, and we offered students a lot of technology-rich experiences pre-pandemic. Along the way, we have learned that online learning doesn’t diminish the role of the teacher. While a teacher’s role shifts in this environment, an effective teacher is critical to student success. That student-to-teacher connection is vital to teaching the whole student.

Technology and data can boost success

By using data from technology platforms such as Lexia’s Core5, we can group students appropriately, help personalize their learning and ensure that they’re working at the appropriate level -- instead of just offering all of the same resources to all students. It isn’t just the data that matters, though. Especially at the elementary-school level, interactive, engaging reading blocks are powerful tools. 

Picking technology indiscriminately doesn’t pay off

When adopting any tool or platform, consider what the learning goals are and what metrics you require. Then, once you really start integrating technology, take a step back and reflect on the quality of learning that the platform will provide. It’s easy to fall into a trap of confusing compliance with deep learning. We have to remember that even though we have all of this technology at our fingertips, no device or tool is a silver bullet. 

As we move forward and look ahead to a post-pandemic educational environment, schools should be deeply reflecting on the characteristics of highly-engaging, highly-effective learning environments that are supported by technology. 

 

Michele Eaton is the director of virtual and blended learning at the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Indiana. She uses Lexia Core5 Reading as a resource in her district. 

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