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CoSN ’23: How Can Ed Tech ‘Reinvent’ Education?

Speaking at the annual CoSN conference Monday, education author Michael Horn outlined the ways that schools can use technology to rethink instruction and create a “mastery-based” learning model.

Michael Horn standing and speaking into a headset microphone while looking off to his right.
Michael Horn speaks Monday at the annual CoSN conference in Austin, Texas.
Image courtesy of CoSN (screenshot)
With a plethora of ed-tech tools at their disposal to enhance instruction and combat learning loss, educators must now use them to create a “mastery-based” learning model, according to Michael Horn, an education author, co-founder and fellow at the nonprofit think tank Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.

Speaking Monday in a keynote address to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) 2023 conference in Austin, Texas, Horn said that schools need to allow for “more nimbleness to try things” to make the most out of ed-tech tools. When it comes to tech adoption, he said, much of the goal should be to personalize instruction to make it more flexible and responsive to students’ individual academic strengths and weaknesses — a major focus in his recent book, From Reopen to Reinvent.

“I think in the future, we’re going to have a much more pluralistic set of school options and opportunities for families,” he said. “I think one of the challenges districts have had is that they’ve tried to take a one-size-fits-all mentality to serving students out of this pandemic, when we’ve always known that no student will learn in the same way and the same pace.”

Horn said in the coming years, schools may want to rethink how they administer assessments, and for what purpose. He said schools could embrace elements of “competency-based learning,” similar to the program at Western Governors University, where students can obtain degrees in a fraction of the usual time if they demonstrate mastery of skills fast enough.

“The notion of moving to a system in which students can set goals for their learning, plan how they’re going to get there, do the learning, show evidence of it and then reflect on that experience and start to develop agency … if we’re serious about that, I would argue we cannot do it unless we move to a mastery-based model,” he said.

In addition to rethinking the student experience, he said, education systems may need to “rethink the teacher experience” amid efforts to combat the ongoing K-12 teacher shortage.

He said schools should look to use tools like ChatGPT in creative ways to assist with lesson planning, as well as platforms to streamline assessments, grading and other functions to free up teachers to give students more one-on-one support and feedback.

“We know there’s a shortage of substitutes and a declining teacher pipeline,” he said. “We’ve in essence built a profession that asks our teachers to be superheroes. … They can’t be layering on one more thing on top of their busy lives and what they’re trying to do.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.