Technology and training were the buzz words of the day as a panel of thought leaders gathered at the Milken Institute Global Conference to discuss “Creating the Classroom of the 21st Century.” Intelligent investment in technology, whatever that might be, is only the first step in optimizing the classroom of the future. Panelists stressed that teaching teachers best practices on how to utilize technology is an equally vital, and sometimes forgotten, step in modernizing the classroom.
Ron Packard, chairman and founder of K12, highlighted a need to improve overall infrastructure ahead of launching high-tech education tools. “When we went into Philadelphia to put some technology into classrooms, they had less power going into some of their 100-year-old schools than most people having going into their house. If you plugged two computers in in two classrooms, you blew a fuse,” Packard said.
Robert Neu, superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools in Washington state, said the continuing eduction of teachers is a critical component of any system upgrade. “We need to design a system that is going to give our teachers data in real time, while the learning is occurring. Not afterward, because then it is just an autopsy.” Teachers would then be able to can make daily assessments and collaborate with peers to develop best practices.
Judy Elliott, chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, pointed out the role students can play in adopting technology. “We underestimate the power of just putting technology in a kid’s hand.” Elliott said teachers need to remain engaged with applications, or students will surpass their technological awareness. “We have students teaching teachers how to do applications,” Elliott said.