Clear Hurdles to Foster True Innovation in K–12 Schools

Schools need planning, collaboration, training and forward-focused leaders to prepare students for an increasingly digital future.

A type of magic happens when education and technology-driven innovation come together. Guest speakers from around the world enter classrooms through a screen. Instruction weathers even the heaviest storms. Economically disadvantaged students get Wi-Fi access through backpacks. A VR headset reveals pathways for a virtual hike through rainforests. Learning comes alive for students and the future moves within reach. 

Those are examples of the broader promise and end results. The full picture, however, is often more complicated. Essentially, the introduction of technology alone is not innovation. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Learn how project-based learning fosters skill building and real-world relevance for students.

Without planning, strategy, educator training and support, among other things, the marriage of education and technology won’t work. 

CoSN gathered feedback from experts across the country for its Driving K–12 Innovation series, examining technology trends in education and offering a deep dive into utilizing accelerators and overcoming hurdles. I contributed to the upcoming 2020 report. 

Here are things to know about the hurdles the 2019 board members identified. 

Scaling and Sustaining Innovation

This is intrinsically a type of collaboration. Scaling requires stakeholders to have a shared understanding and appreciation of set goals and why they matter as well as a willingness and support to work together toward the same end. That means administrators need to break down silos. As Karen Cator told EdTech earlier this year, the No. 1 requirement for scaling is to make people care. 

“If you break down these silos, have shared goals, shared vision and are very laser-focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning, that’s when you’re going to get people to buy in on teaching and learning,” she said.

Digital Equity

There’s a growing understanding that disparities in home broadband internet access put students at a disadvantage — typically those who already face obstacles because of low family income or race. These students also increasingly make up the population of the nation’s public schools. When it comes to the core goals of teaching and learning, it’s clear why this is a challenge. 

CHECK IT OUT: Read what three K–12 leaders say about ensuring students have equal access to digital resources.

The Gap Between Technology and Pedagogy

In its report, CoSN notes a “new sense of urgency” around this issue. This gap increases with ongoing tech advancements. Again, districts should not invest in technology for technology’s sake. There should be clear goals around the educational need technology supports and a plan for effectively using technology for teaching and learning. This also ties into the next hurdle. 

Ongoing Professional Development

Research indicates some troubling realities about teachers’ comfort levels when it comes to using tech in their classrooms. Few feel comfortable teaching higher-level, in-demand technology skills. Many report passive technology use, which is also disturbing given the $13 billion U.S. investment in educational technology. It’s not that teachers don’t want to do better, but they need sufficient training to get to that level. 

Technology and the Future of Work

This is an area where the other hurdles converge. It’s also what CoSN describes as a “megatrend challenge with implications that are just beginning to come into view.” 

In a successful modern learning environment — one where technology is woven into the pedagogy, where silos are absent and where the majority of stakeholders of a school community support the greater teaching and learning goals — students are prepared for an increasingly digital world. Educators must understand the skills needed for that future and have the training and resources needed to work with those emerging needs in mind. 

All of these pieces matter. Talk about these hurdles within your school community and develop a strategy to clear them. Seek out the success stories of districts using technology well and discover what best fits the unique needs of your schools. 

This is not easy. But in the end, the work will foster future-ready stars of teaching and learning.

True Innovation in K–12 Schools
Nov 25 2019

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