In my last post I was exploring whether introducing technology into some of the NGO schools in India can help close the achievement gaps with our most disadvantaged students. I was interested to read another study today based in Los Angeles where in 2013 students were given tablet computers equipped with digital curriculum. This area also had a high number of disadvantaged students, with 76% of the receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
Although it seemed that this initiative was likely to bring about a huge leap into the digital age, the reality was not so positive. Looking back, it’s clear to see that what went wrong was that teachers were not well trained on how to use the tablets: in fact the school district had simply purchased a lot of expensive new technology without any clear plan for how to use it. I’ve written about this a lot before on this blog. Training teachers and giving them time to use the tools themselves is vital for success – the focus of the roll out has to be preparing teachers to use the new technology and supporting them through implementation.
There’s a happy end to this story however. Two years ago, the district adopted the new ISTE Standards for Students where the focus has been on competencies for students to be successful in a digital world. ISTE’s CEO Richard Culatta writes, “The standards provide a pathway to create global citizens who will live in a world where all their work, much of their civic engagement and a huge part of their personal experiences are going to happen in digital spaces.”
So the secret to student success is teacher success! If teachers are not using technology successfully, how will they help students to be prepared for today’s digital world? It’s also worth considering the advice given in the infographic below. Successful teachers start with the WHY rather than just jumping onboard with the “latest and greatest” new tools, they embrace change and they share their learning with others. There are a huge amount of educators who will be happy to help and give advice if you reach out. Supporting teachers to be comfortable with using technology themselves is one effective way to help bridge the attainment gap.