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Why edtech will never replace the need for great teachers

If you spend a lot of time at education conferences, it’s easy to get caught up in the promise and potential of technology. There isn’t a vendor out there that doesn’t want you to believe their latest solution is poised to put students on the academic fast track to classroom success.

By now, most of us know better. While technology is an incredible accelerator, it’s little more than an empty vessel minus the underpinnings of proven pedagogy and enthusiastic teachers.

What good is a multi-million-dollar tablet initiative if educators don’t have the software and professional development to confidently use those tools in the classroom? The same goes for the use of technology at home. If parents aren’t comfortable using new technology, be it hardware or software, to help their children, are the tools really worth the investment?

For a lot of schools, the secret to a successful technology integration starts early—in implementation.

Bring users in early
“Here’s the honest truth: The only people who can harness the true power of technology in education are teachers,” writes 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Ashley Lamb-Sinclair in EdSurge. “In order for the transformation that technology could have for our students to actually occur, teachers—and students—need to be the creators of those technologies.”

Lamb-Sinclair, a self-proclaimed “teacher who hates technology,” was invited to brainstorm new education technologies with Redesign Challenge, a workshop of technologists and teachers, in Washington, D.C.

While there, she worked with designers to create the educational professional development platform Curio. Lamb-Sinclair says the workshop opened her eyes to the inherent value of educational technology in classroom, with a caveat: The users of that technology—mainly teachers and students—had to be actively involved in its implementation. “Educational technology is often just something else we have to juggle,” writes Lamb-Sinclair, “rather than something that we can help create in order to ease our burdens.”

When brainstorming ways to ensure that students and teachers fully embrace your next big-ticket technology initiative, keep this in mind:

Engage early
Engage staff and community members ahead of critical technology decisions. Make sure your community is involved in the process. Use their feedback to better gauge the needs of teachers and students. While they might not be able to help you develop new technologies, you can give students and teachers a voice about what technologies to adopt.

Engage often
Maintain an open dialogue as your next technology rollout progresses. Remember: teachers know students best. Constant collaboration ensures that all your stakeholders have an opportunity to learn from each other.

Engage everyone  
When it comes to tech adoption, there’s a tendency to want to listen to “the experts.” But a successful school technology implementation requires that you listen to different perspectives. Lamb-Sinclair felt empowered by administrators who understood her aversion to technology, but valued her experience as a teacher. The best technology solutions work because of the people and experiences that support them.

Looking to launch a new technology initiative in your school or district? Do you have a system and process for engaging your school community during the implementation process? Tell us in the comments.

Want an easy way to invite staff and student feedback? Here’s one solution that might work.