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Tech Tip: How to evaluate digital learning environments

3 min read

Edtech

Today’s learning spaces are evolving to meet the needs of contemporary learners. More and more classrooms include desks and walls with writable spaces, hands-on learning tools, flexible seating options and responsive learning technologies.

But how effective are these spaces? School stakeholders want assurances that these digital environments are meeting students’ learning needs. My district, Ithaca City School District (ICSD), uses qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure the effectiveness of these spaces and ensure that they support instructional goals.

ICSD’s mission is to “Engage, Educate, and Empower.” The data we gather is aligned to this mission and used to inform continuous improvement efforts. Our instruction focuses not on technology tools but on the instructional strategies used by educators to engineer learning. Accountability metrics follow suit, representing the student achievement results we seek and not the tools used to meet that end.

Here is a breakdown of how data supports this three-pronged mission:

  1. Engage. Discussions and professional development about engagement focus on creating opportunities for students to be at the highest level of engagement instead of exhibiting compliance, retreat-ism or rebellion. To measure engagement, we track enrollment patterns, co-curricular participation, attendance rates and discipline rates.
  2. Educate. Students’ reading levels and high-school diplomas reflect the quality of the district’s educational program. To this end, we pay close attention to at or above grade-level reading percentages and graduation rates.
  3. Empower. Students should feel empowered and supported in their learning environments. We want to know how our learners feel about their school experience and how they’re building relationships with their teachers. To gauge this, we gather data such as the number of schools that have students lead the parent-teacher conferences and curriculum nights; analysis of student survey results; and analysis of community perception survey results.

Digital learning environments and programs should support educational goals. Accountability metrics can help make this happen. Make sure your organization has a strategy for data collection and analysis that keeps action aligned with vision and mission.

Dr. Luvelle Brown has served as superintendent of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) in Ithaca, New York since January 2011. Prior to arriving in Ithaca, Dr. Brown served in various educator, administrative and technology roles. He has received multiple national and state recognitions including the 2014 eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award, and was recognized by the National School Boards Association as a “20-to-Watch” in 2014. Dr. Brown is the co-author of “ThinkTweets: 100 Transformative Tweets for Educators.”

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