More than 50 million public school students and their teachers have found themselves completely dependent on educational technology, or EdTech, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While EdTech has provided viable solutions for distance and hybrid learning, it has also revealed the downsides of how EdTech is developed, deployed and optimized in the United States. As the pandemic continues to affect American schools, EdTech applications used in foreign countries offer insight into how American EdTech could be optimized.
How is the United States failing with EdTech?
In general, EdTech refers to efforts to leverage technology to improve educational methods or practices for the purpose of improving learning. A well-known example of EdTech is Google Classroom, a free learning platform developed by Google to enable file sharing between teachers and students. Google Classroom integrates with most G Suite apps, allowing teachers to manage homework, grades, and online meetings with students.
While EdTech tools like Google Classroom have met a critical need during the pandemic, Shane Quinlan, director of product portfolio at Rise8, believes they have also revealed a flawed approach to EdTech in the United States that needs to be revised.
“There are great services for educational institutions, but any student or teacher can tell you that products like Google Classroom and Blackboard are far from perfect and only solve some of their challenges,” explains Quinlan. “With limited IT resources and a constantly threatened budget, educational institutions rely heavily on vendors, which unfortunately traps them with solutions that don’t do exactly what they or their staff, teachers, and staff do. their students and their parents need it. “
Rise8 is a full-stack digital transformation company with a vision for EdTech in which universities as well as federal, state, and county school systems create reliable software with continuous delivery to meet their unique needs. Schools could own such platforms and make them available to other institutions, either through partnerships or open source software libraries, to share the costs and benefits.
“There is nothing more important to staff, faculty and parents than the success of their students,” says Quinlan. “To let bad software or vendor lockdown get in the way of this is a disservice to our education system. “
How is the world doing with EdTech?
Virtual classrooms and online homework tracking systems are two of the most well-known EdTech applications, but they are only a small fraction of the ways technology serves educational efforts around the world.
Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa that struggles to provide a sufficient number of schools and teachers for its students. School officials have turned to EdTech to provide data visualization tools that can analyze data on student distribution and provide a clearer picture of resource gaps.
Fab Inc., a London-based EdTech company specializing in data analysis applications for the education sector, helped Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Basic and Upper Secondary Education standardize data formats and combine previously fragmented data sets in a central location.
By providing a framework and centralized dashboard to analyze data from annual school censuses conducted across the country, EdTech solutions from Fab Inc. enable officials in Sierra Leone to make better decisions about school location and schooling. way of optimally assigning teachers.
The data visualization efforts undertaken in Sierra Leone could provide an effective model for the United States as it strives to remedy its shortage of teachers, which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. For years the American school system has struggle with the development of an effective system for employing experienced and effective teachers where it is most needed. EdTech like the one developed by Fab Inc. could provide viable solutions in the United States.
Another example from EdTech, which involves a platform developed by a school system in Sweden to give parents access to school information, provides a lesson for American school officials on what not to do. As stated in WIRED, a parent with children in the Stockholm school system became so frustrated with the school’s convoluted and confusing online platform that he developed his own. While the new app offered a simplified interface to more than 500,000 parents, students and school employees that could be used free of charge, the Stockholm school system took offense and demanded its closure, threatening the involvement of the school. police.
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Quinlan, referring to the problems illustrated by the failure of EdTech in Stockholm. “Rise8 saw similar challenges at the Department of Defense and refused to accept the status quo. With our learning culture principles, situations like Sweden’s are completely avoidable. Engaging with end users like parents, students, and educators can help avoid the pitfalls of unusable apps.
Educational initiatives launched and tested around the world provide American educators and administrators with numerous case studies on how EdTech can be best applied. As the American education system strives to find effective ways to utilize the financial resources provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, it would benefit from seeking overseas best practices on how building EdTech can enhance the American educational experience.