Putting the Power of Learning in Students’ Hands
In this Q&A, Dina Ghobashy, senior global strategy lead for education leadership at Microsoft, provides best practices for ensuring device programs make a meaningful difference in improving student outcomes.
Now that most students are back in the classroom full time, what role will devices play in the learning experience?
Devices and access to content empower students to own their learning and to be more active in their education. Teachers can leverage these devices as well, to augment their ability to reach every student and give them what they need, when they need it. Not all students can keep up with every lesson the teacher is providing, so they fall behind. Technology and blended learning in particular allow students to go at their own pace, catch up and even go further than what they could have accomplished otherwise.
What should school leaders look for in devices to make the most of blended learning?
For the best results and for equity purposes, you want a device that doesn’t limit how students use it. For example, you need a device that is equally useful whether they’re connected to the internet or working offline. You also want a device that is [designed] for education, meaning it has built-in accessibility tools; it’s rugged; and it allows students to create — not just consume — content.
How can schools get the most impact from their one-to-one device programs?
Leaders and teachers often think that all devices are the same, so they choose the cheapest device. That approach has trade-offs that impact student learning. When you set out with the goal to improve student learning and student outcomes, all device decisions need to be driven by that goal. Many one-to-one programs fall short of aspirations because schools start with the technology first. You need to start by thinking about teachers and students first — what they’ll use these technologies for and the experience you want them to have.
You also need to consider how you’re going to support teachers. That includes providing ongoing training and pacing the introduction of new initiatives. The key is to build a strong foundation, so you develop a culture that allows for organic growth and innovation.
What’s your advice for IT leaders and other district-level folks as they look to the future?
There’s never been a better time to invest in developing the capacity of teachers and leaders to make the most of technology in order to improve student outcomes. To manage change effectively, program leaders need to build a role-diverse team, set the vision and then constantly communicate why they’re doing what they’re doing. They need to celebrate successes and measure progress as they go. Most of all, they need to keep doing the work. It’s about following through and making constant progress until you start to reap the results. Technology alone is not going to make a difference, but passionate, committed leaders absolutely will.