A Q&A about why tech alone won’t save education

Q: What are some of the largest problems/challenges plaguing educators today?

A: Fundamentally, the biggest problem in education is how we train, recruit, and pay teachers. Teaching should be celebrated, and the best and the brightest should be attracted to education as one of the most noble and well paid professions.

When we look at the education system, our teachers face challenges at every level. Districts have budget constraints, staffing and training gaps, and poor salary compensation. Classroom-level concerns include a lack of material resources in certain regions and figuring out how to make our classrooms more equitable so that underprivileged students can be successful. Equally complicated to solve are student-level challenges, like figuring out how to personalize learning to each individual, maintaining their focus and motivation in our busy, hyper-connected world, facilitating continued learning for all ages and determining how to prepare our kids for the automated future workplace.

Q: Why does the misconception exist that tech can fix and save education?

A: Google, Apple, and Facebook are investing over $250B in the global edtech industry. We’re amidst all this Silicon Valley edtech innovation–developments like Apple’s Schoolwork app and Google Grasshopper (helping adults learn how to code) are exciting to see. However, tech won’t fix all the problems in education, it’s only part of the answer, not the answer in-and-of-itself.

Just like any other exciting innovation–smart cars in the automotive field or immunotherapy breakthroughs in healthcare–we’re taking major stock that new technologies can erase and replace all historical issues within an industry. Unfortunately, you can’t build a perfectly stable house on top of a cracked foundation. Edtech plays a critical role in enhancing the learning experience, but schools and educators need to be invested in too. We also need to take a fresh look at what we’re teaching in addition to how we teach it.

Q: How can we bridge the gap between human capital (the teachers on the ground everyday) and edtech?

A: The fact of the matter is: technology alone isn’t the answer. We’ve become so enchanted by the innovation illusion, we’ve lost sight of the fact that technology is only as effective as the person wielding it. It’s vital that we fortify the foundation–the teachers on the front lines every single day. The obvious first step is ensuring teachers are properly compensated. We’ve seen our fair share of teacher strikes over the past year, in search for rightful higher wages and improved classroom conditions.

Without the proper financial support, teachers are inevitably less able to invest their time and resources into greater methods of teaching, including the adoption of technologies. Nearly 2,000 students were surveyed about their thoughts on the recent U.S. teacher strikes. When asked where they would direct funds if their schools had more money, almost three in four (72 percent) students would put it towards their teachers’ salaries, indicating an overall understanding, and sense of empathy, for keeping educators properly compensated.

Q: How do we educate our educators so they can keep up with the rapidly changing pace of edtech?

A: As members of the tech industry, it’s on us to provide educators with tangible help, like ensuring affordable access to the subscriptions, apps and devices they need to effectively teach our digitally-savvy youth. Beyond just providing teachers with access to these tools, we need to teach them how to use them. Training programs, conferences, webinars and boot camps will boost teachers’ confidence and keep them competitive in the digital learning age.

The global economy will be propelled by advancements in technology, and it is critical that classrooms keep pace. As the landscape changes, we must ensure we’re educating our students to be prepared for the tech-centric world they are entering. At the same time, we can take advantage of these technological advances to help educate the educators. For example, artificial intelligence-powered software will be able to create specific content for individual students, so they can master subjects more effectively. As AI and machine learning change how we approach student learning and measure success, teachers have a right to feel confident about navigating the technologies that will help them personalize their teaching to each student and help them find efficiencies for administrative tasks as well.

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