Educators Look for “Integrated Ala Carte”

Educators Look for “Integrated Ala Carte”

School technology leaders increasingly report that they have infrastructure in place and student devices deployed, but they are still working on ways to use that technology to improve classroom instruction.

Jim Batson, director of technology at the 1,500 student Fenton (IL) Community High School, expressed frustration at having so many good, but disparate resources available. “We feel like a whole bunch of balls are coming at us—bing, bing, bing,” he said, suggesting vendors need to collaborate more.

Donna Williamson, technology director at the Mountain View (AL) schools, said many feel they are on the cusp of a transition to “integrated ala carte.” Schools need products that integrate, not just integrated data, so they can plug in the pieces they need, she said.

Batson also said instructional coaches are needed to leverage available resources and to set expectations for teaching and learning. And to complement the work of instructional coaches, educators said they want professional development that is instruction-specific, rather than product-specific. More than needing to know everything about the product, teachers need examples of how it works, Batson said.

It is time to differentiate learning for staff, as well as students, according to Williamson. Applications that have been most successful come with a customer rep who is knowledgeable about the product and former teachers who know the classroom and can provide training.

Robert Gilmore, director of technology at Hillside (IL) SD 93, which serves 500 K-8 children, said that when a vendor stays involved in the process from the top down, that will improve what happens with product use. A chat button is huge for a teacher who is in a bind in 15-minute planning session and cannot submit a ticket and hear back at the end of the day, he added.

Batson, Gilmore and Williamson spoke at an event sponsored by the Education Technology Industry Network at the June ISTE conference in Chicago.

For more information about the changing nature of technology in K-12 classrooms, check out Simba Information’s report, K-12 Deployment Patterns and Purchasing Plans for Computing/Display Devices 2017.