How has COVID-19 most changed the work educators do?
That's the question that Matthew Mugo Fields, EVP and General Manager for Supplemental Intervention Solutions at HMH, posed to a panel of five education leaders at the annual ASU+GSV Summit. The conference, hosted by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley Ventures, was held virtually this year and convened more than 32,000 leaders in the fields of education and technology from 135 countries to address this year's theme: "The Dawn of the Age of Digital Learning."
The October 1 panel included the following education experts:
- Thomas Mahoney, superintendent, Oregon Community Unit School District
- Sonja Santelises, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools
- Heidi Perry, co-founder and COO, Writable
- Bart Epstein, CEO, EdTech Evidence Exchange
In their responses to Fields's question on how COVID-19 has impacted their work, the panelists addressed five key themes.
1. Integration of EdTech Into Learning
During the panel, Epstein said, "I'd say the most consequential change has been the realization that tech has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have in ways that we never anticipated or wanted." This is happening, he said, during a time when the amount of support teachers need is skyrocketing and the resources available to them has plummeted.
Santelises said technology has traditionally been used in her district to collect information about students and consequently to drive instruction. That need for data has become even more essential with remote learning.
"For us it's been, how do we leverage technology in ways we hadn't thought of before, ... and actually make teachers' loads easier, make school leaders' loads easier," she said. "But trying to do that in the current situation means a greater reliance on tech."
For Writable, this has meant adapting the software to meet teachers' needs in real time, Perry said. Software changes have increased so that the technology can "fit in with how [educators] live, work, and breathe" during the pandemic.
"I'd say we're extremely focused on meeting districts where they are... Everyone's at a different spot; that's become insanely clear," she said. "There's not even three shades of gray of customers."
2. Differentiation and Personalization in Instruction
Epstein also noted during the panel, "[COVID] presents an unprecedented need for differentiation and personalization in ways that are just not feasible for a single human to do without technology."
Santelises said the greater use of technology allows teachers to manage information from "multiple vantage points" and then utilize data to address students' specific needs. This results in greater educational equity because data provides insight into students' learning and can help shed light on who is struggling.
"You want [teachers] to turn that around and actually create an individualized or tailored experience for kids," she said.
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