Technology in Education: Challenges & Opportunities

In my roles as parent of grade schooler and blogger (and also with my education-related clients in my periphery), it was truly fascinating to speak on the Microsoft/Parade tech and education panel last week. We covered a lot of topics, but there were four conversational threads related to tech/education challenges and opportunities that I wanted to share, particularly as we gear up for (or already have started) a new school year:

1. Bridging the digital divide...together. Fellow panelist (and North Attleboro principal) Danielle Klingaman shared that approximately 70% of her staff is on the tech bandwagon and 30% are not. I’ve definitely experienced a range of tech-savviness from Laurel’s teachers. And while perhaps it's easier to bellyache or try to twist the arm of the 30%, I feel very strongly that it’s more productive to bridge the digital divide together. As a parent, you can't force your teacher to set up a blog with classroom updates, but perhaps you could encourage him/her to send a weekly email update. And perhaps this change could be facilitated by you volunteering to collect emails and set up the email list for your teacher. Baby steps are better than no steps!

2. The need to be and for the future. I was struck by the comment by panel moderator Maggie Murphy (Editor-in-Chief of Parade) that the current generation of students is being trained for jobs that don’t exist. I’ve definitely learned through my social media work how important it is to be nimble, and during the panel I was reminded how important it is to teach kids to be nimble and flexible, whether it's related to technology or social situations.

3. The need for free or inexpensive tools. Not surprisingly, access is a big issue -- both from a tech advancement perspective in the schools, as well as on the access side for parents. Did you know about free tools such as OneNote, OneDrive, and Office Online? Hooray for free tools! I actually recently downloaded OneNote and am looking forward to exploring it; I'm always keen on finding ways to be better organized!

4. The importance of safe search. We talked in the panel about Bing, and I am so, so keen on this search engine! Search is HUGE for Laurel when she’s researching projects for school, and not only is it awesome to be able to have safe, ad-free search through Bing, but by searching via Bing you can earn credits to get free Surface tablets for your classroom. So awesome. Hop on over to Bing to register and switch your broswer to start logging credits! 

Image credit: 1) Christine Koh; 2) @kristinmlibby via Instagram