What Teachers Want: Closing the Gap Between Edtech Products and Classroom Teachers

EducationToday’s classroom is unlike any we’ve seen in the past. From flipped learning to individualized instruction to digital technology, education has come a long way from the traditional models that many of us were used to.

Perhaps the greatest influence on education today is technology. Most teachers enthusiastically embraced digital instructional tools, recognizing the potential of technology to not only help reach meet the educational needs of all students, but also as a means of enhancing instruction and creating more collaborative and interactive experiences to engage students. In fact, more than 90 percent of teachers report using some type of digital tool to enhance their classroom activities and guide instruction.

Still, despite the number of educators who have embraced technology, many of them aren’t happy with the resources available to them. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of access: 57 percent of teachers say that they do not have access to digital materials and resources that align with curriculum standards. Among those teachers who do have access to digital resources, the majority — more than 60 percent — say that they aren’t happy with the effectiveness of the resources they have.

Clearly, there is a disconnect between what educational technology companies are producing and what teachers actually want for their students. Often, this stems from a lack of understanding on the part of edtech developers of what teachers really want, something that’s being rectified by the growing number of educational resource producers requiring at least some staff to hold an educational technology degree or have experience as a teacher. In the meantime, it’s also important for product developers to understand what teachers want from their technology resources.

Curriculum Alignment

Most teachers rank curriculum alignment at the top of their list of “wants” for educational technology products. They want products that closely align with the state and federal standards and support the other classroom activities. This may be challenging, given the different standards in different states, but an edtech company that wishes to be successful must do more than simply change the marketing messages for each state, and truly focus on aligning the technology with state standards.

Provide Data

Modern education is data driven. Teachers need access to the data from the technology product so they can easily and effectively track and report student progress and achievement. Data needs to be shown in meaningful and varied ways, and also be easily transferrable between systems so that teachers and their administrators can easily gauge progress and evaluate their progress toward specific goals.

Provide Meaningful Instruction

One complaint many teachers have about many digital resources is that they don’t actually transform learning in any meaningful way, but rather simply convert existing (and successful) methods and material into a digital form. Educators are looking for digital resources that offer something new and different, and aren’t trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Edtech developers need to look at existing resources, and identify ways that they can add to them to make the learning experience more meaningful and engaging.

Fill the Gaps

Currently, teachers report that there is a lack of resources available in the STEM subjects at the higher levels, as well as in the lower levels of English Language Arts. That is a good place to start when developing resources, but teachers are also looking for materials that engage learning on multiple levels and don’t necessarily follow strict lines of division between subjects. More and more, teachers are seeing their role as one of facilitator, helping their students make connections by establishing a multidisciplinary learning environment.

Understand Limitations

Not all school districts have reliable broadband internet access or computers and tablets for every student, and not all students have access to a computer, tablet, or the internet at home. When developing resources, it’s important to keep these limitations in mind, and focus on creating resources that can will still be useful even when offline.

Educational technology will continue to grow in importance in our schools, and teachers, by and large, are excited about and willing to use technology in their classrooms. However, as an edtech developer, you must be aware of what teachers actually need and want, and work toward closing the gap between what already exists and what is the ideal. When you do, your products will improve and your business will grow.

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