#FutureFriday: Getting Teachers and Tech to Work Better Together

on February 3, 2017 in Student Information System

In this week's #FutureFriday, explore the big-picture view of your K-12 ed-tech ecosystem and ensure that teachers and technology are working brilliantly together!

Welcome to Future Friday!
For all of my technologists out there, it's important once in awhile to check in and remember the fact that ed-tech is only as good as its impact on student performance and outcomes.
Unfortunately, when we stop and check in in the classroom the situation isn't always that great.
For example, one in three teachers admit that they spend more time on paperwork then they do collaborating with their PLCs or with their parents (both of which are activities that they actually feel make an impact on student performance!).

This is a problem;  all of this paperwork, there's not much we can do about it. It's all coming out of the volcano of state, district, and federal regulations.

This is another big problem, because almost half of all teachers say that dealing with all of these regulations is the single biggest thing that is stopping them up on their pursuit of better student outcomes.

So, we here in the technology world, we try to help. We will plug in technology tools to help to streamline these individual policies or procedures that we're dealing with.

For awhile, this was fantastic. It's helping make things more efficient. Unfortunately, we've kind of hit a point where this technology may be making things worse.

We're in a situation where we have piled on so much technology in the last few years that we have smacked head-first into this dreaded point of diminishing returns.

Teacher Overload Imminent!

When teachers were asked about the programs that they used on a day-to-day basis.

  • 60% of them are using their grading and administrative tools every day.
  • 43%, their parent portal and communication tools.
  • 32%, their digital curriculum.
  • 26%, their learning management system.
  • Their student data dashboards.
  • Their assessment tools.
  • PLC collaboration technology.
  • Website creation tools.
  • SGO programs.
  • Staff evaluation programs.
  • IEPs.
  • Lesson plans.

It never ends!

Here's the worst thing - in almost every case, this is a different program every time. So, it's a different interface to learn. It's a different login for students and parents.

There's a different number to call when you have a question. Sometimes, in the worst-case scenario, I have to shuttle data back and forth between these programs.

How bad is it?

86% of teachers say that they are very challenged or challenged in meeting or managing their day-to-day resources.

This phenomenon that we're talking about is what we call EdTech Entropy. It's a gradual decline into technology disorder.

Your K-12 Technology Eco-System

So here on Future Friday we're inviting you to take a big step back from your overflowing technology toolbox and to start to think broader about your entire technology ecosystem, AKA your platform.

So, I'm here to tell you that there is a furious space race happening right now among your ed tech providers to become your unified K-12 platform.

So, in the same way that your grade book and your scheduling programs and your attendance programs all used to be individual things, but now they've become assimilated into your student information system.

If you look out in the marketplace right now. You'll see that the same thing is starting to happen with things like Learning Management Systems, staff evaluation, assessment....it's all starting to become a part of one ecosystem.

Why is this happening?  Because it makes a huge difference!

So, it solves a lot of the problems that we talked about having one system instead of a dozen.

  • Frees teacher time from having to navigate between these different programs.
  • Improves the experience of your students and parents for the same reason.
  • Reduces the time wasted on redundant programs.
  • Reduces the possibility that your technology will bounce out of your district because of low adoption.
  • Dramatically improves integration of data across systems.

If you pay close attention to what's going on in the education technology world right now.

 You'll see a bunch of venture capital backed companies that are spending huge amounts of money to go purchase all of these different programs and start to put them together into some semblance of a platform.

On the other side of things, you'll find feisty independent providers who are stock piling development talent in order to organically grow their platforms.

In OnCourse's case, for example, things like the OnCourse Classroom LMS. Or things like OnCourse Analytics Data Visualization which we talked about last week. Or full staff evaluation capabilities.

Getting your SIS Aligned with Your District Goals

When we're thinking about renovating the Grand Central Station that is your student information system. It's going to strike some fear into your heart.

But the real reality of the situation is you're going to be on a journey for five to six years with this provider.  So, if they're not going where you want to go that's going to cause big problems for you.

So, for example, if you want to install one-to-one devices at your school district.  Or if you're really serious about going data-driven in the classroom. Or if you're considering all the Future Ready initiatives that are going on right now.

If your platform provider is not innovating to help support those goals, You're going to end up right back into the position of this ed tech entropy and trying to plug in tools to help where your core platform is not helping.

So, here's the whole point.

Right now, your SIS, when we're thinking about it just as a data tool, takes up about 20% of your portfolio with your grading, attendance and that kind of thing.

80% then is all of the other specialized tools you're trying to integrate.

Either now or in the next year or two that platform is going to end up being 80% of your technology portfolio. The other 20% is going to end up being the other specialized for specific purposes.

So, more than ever it's of critical importance to really understand how your longterm goals are lining up with your provider's long-term goals.

To help you to really understand that, we've been doing webinars over the course of January called "Five Things Extraordinary School Districts Demand from Their Student Information System".

It's going to give you some practical questions to ask your providers and it's sews up a bunch of best practices from school districts doing extraordinary things.

Want to watch the full webinar?  Click the link below.

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