Dec 27 2021

Building a Culture of Digital Innovation in Education with Student Devices

Leverage the growth of one-to-one programs to promote a culture of technological integration.

In a world where digital natives are now sending their own children to school, technology in the classroom should no longer be optional. I’ve spent the past few years as an instructional coach showing teachers how to integrate technology into the curriculum. During that time, I’ve learned that for teachers to truly embrace digital innovation in the classroom, they will need to be supported by a culture that fully embraces educational technology. Here’s how we get there:

Challenge Expectations with Digital Innovations in the Classroom

In her book “Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World,” educational consultant Suzie Boss wrote, “The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.”

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Yes, innovation can occur in classrooms without technology. However, technology in education should no longer be a curiosity, or optional. While the pandemic was undeniably painful, it served as a catalyst for many schools to reduce digital inequity and help students acquire 21st century skills by kicking off or ramping up one-to-one device programs.

I believe that educators across the board should see technology as essential for today’s modern classroom. In the same way that teachers walk into a classroom and expect to see desks, tables, chairs, paper and pencils, I believe they should also expect to see tablets or laptops on every desk. When technology becomes standard, it leads the way for digital innovation.

Model Ed Tech Uses for Smoother Integration

As teachers, our key words are “facilitation” and “agency.” One-to-one programs support these efforts. We must support our students’ critical thinking and autonomy by giving them full access to resources and tools that will allow them to take a greater role in their education.

Digitizing lessons and getting them into a learning management system is a first step to embracing a culture of innovation. However, we must also take the next step to master more educational technology so our students can become proficient in using these tools.

READ MORE: ASCD's virtual learning community supports professional development for educators.

You don’t have to be perfect at using every piece of ed tech before you share it with your students. In fact, the more you model these tools for your students, the easier it will be for you to integrate them into lessons.

This was how I first got excited about using technology in my classroom. It was probably about 10 years ago, when one of my second grade students brought a tablet to class. I soon learned how to use the device and then had students complete a few assignments on the tablet.

Build Educators' Confidence Through Professional Development

In Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s 7th Annual Educator Confidence Report, 66 percent of teachers reported being very or extremely confident in their ability to use ed tech. That confidence serves as another building block for innovation in education. During the pandemic, I watched excitedly as one of my teachers took a traditional math project and turned it into a digital project.


The percentage of teachers who reported being very or extremely confident in their ability to use ed tech

Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 7th Annual Educator Confidence Report, October 2021

Traditionally, she would assign a “restaurant” project, where kids sold candy to learn about decimals. During remote learning, she took a different approach: She had the students mimic modern digital commerce and use their tablets to make a website and embed a Google form for taking orders. This kind of creativity is something that every teacher can replicate — not just those who are ed tech experts.

We can increase digital facility by treating digital professional development the same way we treat other curricular practices. We can talk about and share various tech tools at our grade-level and departmental meetings. Districts can also bring in coaches and offer ed tech PD opportunities.

Additionally, district leaders should include teachers (and not just ed tech enthusiasts) in the process of selecting the tools that they will be using. This will help teachers understand the rationale behind using certain tools and provide strategies for teaching with them. Innovation is a process, and it’s never too late to start.

DISCOVER: Educators use ed tech to create virtual escape rooms for K–12 students.

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