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Educational technology for a better classroom experience

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The 2014 SXSWedu Conference & Festival kicked off Monday in Austin, Texas. SmartBrief Education is on the ground, bringing readers regular coverage of the event.

Educational technology should not be intrusive in the classroom. It should be designed in a way that makes the most of the real world of teachers, families and students, according to SXSWedu keynote speakers Vivienne Ming and Norma Ming, co-founders of educational technology startup Socos.

“We can build technology that provides amazing support without you ever realizing that it was there,” Vivienne told attendees. “Technology does not need to be intrusive.”

“Stop trying to disrupt everything,” she added. “There are systems out there. Integrate them. You’ll get so much more done that way. We’re not talking about big intrusive technology.”

Here are five lessons Vivienne and Norma shared with attendees to help educational technology designers — and others — keep the promise of educational technology in the classroom.

  1. Design with the end users — teachers and learners — in mind. Educational technology fails if it does not engage with learners. “Design educational technology so that it suits the learner and not the builder of the technology,” Vivienne said. “It’s not enough to put it out there; you have to actively engage with students.”
  2. Look deeper into the available data. Data about student learning that comes to designers easily may not be the most important data; designers need to go deeper. “The shallow use of data has always been a problem,” Norma said. “We have to look for the data that tells the real story for the problems we need to be solving.”
  3. Use data for good. No more using data for shame or punishment. There are no bad numbers, Vivienne emphasized, offering this alternative response: “Your class is struggling. That’s wonderful (to know). Now we can identify the need to make a change and determine what we can do to make the change. “
  4. Think outside the classroom. Data about student learning can be collected without having a test. “With technology that’s available today, we can look at social interactions between students on the playground. We can look at online interactions between college students,” Vivienne said. “We don’t have to keep on testing. We can build assessments that are part of the learning experience.”
  5. Make data accessible to teachers and learners in a way that makes sense. “If you have an elaborate, fancy report that you hand to a teacher or provide in a dashboard, and the teacher doesn’t look at it, you haven’t provided any information at all,” Norma noted. “Think about the environment that teachers are working in. Present data in a way that makes sense to them. It needs to be something that is useful, meaningful and actionable.”

Stay tuned for additional conference coverage. Read our Q-and-A with SXSWedu Executive Producer Ron Reed and coverage of a SXSWedu Playground session.

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for the content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education briefs. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels. Prior to joining SmartBrief, Melissa held a variety of positions in the education field, including classroom teacher and education editor and writer.