4 Lessons from K-12 Ed Tech Failures of 2014

School districts are learning the hard way what it takes to teach students in the Digital Age. But these lessons provide valuable insight for school administrators as they plan for 2015 and beyond.

Let’s take a look at four lessons from 2014 that came out of general failures in K-12 education technology.

1. Plan for digital initiatives centered around the learner, not the device
Too often, a mobile device takes center stage in digital learning initiatives. While school districts spend most of their time planning the hardware and infrastructure they need, they often forget about a long-term plan that includes professional development, data privacy and instruction, among other things, said Thomas Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance for Excellent Education.  “Some of the biggest failures occur when we’re device-focused instead of learner-focused,” Murray said.

2. Bring all learning initiatives under the umbrella of digital transformation
Part of the problem with being device or tool-focused is that school districts end up segmented in many different silos. A literacy initiative uses one tool. A math initiative uses another. And a 1-1 initiatives uses yet another tool.   That creates a major headache for administrators who are managing a bunch of different tools and devices, not to mention it leads to an uncoordinated learning effort. In this Digital Age, digital transformation should be the umbrella that everything else comes under. If an initiative doesn’t fit under that umbrella, it might not be worth doing, said Lenny Schad, chief technology information officer at Houston Independent School District.  He stressed that a digital initiative will not happen quickly and will require administrators to set realistic expectations over multiple years instead of cramming everything in the first year. With one umbrella, school districts can coordinate their efforts and make sure they’re focused on helping students learn.

3. Put privacy protections in place for student data
School districts across the country have entered into education technology contracts with vendors without fully understanding the terms that govern the student data that the companies collect. And that’s caused quite a stir among privacy advocates and parents.
A bankruptcy case involving ConnectED brought this issue to the forefront as the company sold off student data during the bankruptcy process. The Federal Trade Commission got involved, and school districts had to wait for the buyers to get the data in their hands before their requests to destroy their student data were granted.

4. Find sustainable ways to fund digital projects
As school districts buy more and more mobile devices, they’re using one-off bonds, grants and other funding sources to purchase this technology. But they don’t always stop to think about how they’re going to replace those devices when they need to be switched out in three or four years.  Now many school districts are facing budget crunches as they try to figure out how to keep their technology up to date. The lesson here is that school districts should make sure they can sustain a digital learning initiative long-term before they jump in, Murray said.

Read the entire article by Tanya Roscorla on the Center for Digital Education at http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/4-Lessons-from-K-12-Ed-Tech-Failures-of-2014.html

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