Back to eSchool

With schools starting this week there is excitement all around with students, teachers and parents. And for the first time my back to school excitement is not just because of I am parent of a fifth grader but also because I am an EdTech professional and I can see technology trying to make an impact right here right now.

Three incidents worth noting this week which contributed to this excitement:

(1) The West Windsor Plainsboro school district rolled out Chromebooks across all 5th and 6th Grade classes. The orientation program was well managed and thought through too address all concerns students and parents would have when introducing 1:1 learning. The rationale behind using Chromebooks over other devises was very clearly laid out and I could see Google penetrating the education market in a very strong way. Key drivers for 1:1 learning initiative revolve around preparing kids for 21st century learning skills, increasing collaboration, supporting curriculum (not changing it) and not to forget PARCC (the online standardized test which replaces the paper and pencil based NJ ASK). There were genuine concerns around the fact that kids would forget writing by hand which is an important and skill and taking notes by hand results in long term memorization and learning which won’t be the case with taking notes on devises. Well, the only way to address this is to have a balance of traditional and technology based teaching learning methods and a lot depends on the teachers too. However, I am convinced this 1:1 learning initiative will be that one important step towards improving the learning outcomes and better preparing the kids for times to come.

(2) You know technology is really impacting learning when it aids the psychomotor domain! I was thrilled when the Martial Arts academy, where my son is getting trained for his black belt, announced that they are going the Khan Academy way. Now their website will have have video lessons for all categories and all stages of Martial Arts. Lagging behind your peers? lacking in confidence? out on vacation for a couple of months?, log on to your account and go through the video lessons and come prepared better for the class. And this is just a beginning!

(3) I am sure you will agree that today there is limited control the schools have on how and when kids learn. During one of the evening tea discussions with friends, I got to know how these days parents are preparing their kids for the next school year by making them attend full time tutorials in the summer vacation — yes, right here in NJ. Imagine the teacher’s predicament when they begin a school session. Their class is going to be a mix of students at varying levels of knowledge and understanding — students who have completed the entire curriculum during summer vacations, students who enjoyed their vacation and are excited to begin the new year, and students who have gifted IQ and they have scanned Google to know about things which are much more complex than what their curriculum asks them to study. How is the teacher expected to teach effectively to such a class and at the same time maintain the motivation and excitement levels of students? Where is that adaptive solution which will deliver to this problem?

As school starts students are wondering — will my Chromebook help me learn better? will I get good grades? will i achieve the outcomes? And as Dorris Day would have said — Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be, The future’s not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera….Well, its not so simple anymore and there are people out there already working on predictive analytics!! At the end of the day I am glad I am a part of the EdTech initiative that believes in the right use of Technology to improve learning and each year, each new innovation is a step forward as we ourselves learn along the way.

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