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Effective EdTech Developers Listen to Educators

Monica Burns is fresh off ISTE 2018 and ramping up for FETC 2019 in Orlando

At ISTE 2018 at the end of June in Chicago this year, one of the things that Dr. Monica Burns got really excited about was all the different open-ended creation tools available that were giving kids the skill-sets and tools to learn and express themselves in the classroom. She will be presenting at FETC 2019 conference from January 27th through the 30th 2019 in Orlando. When I sat down to talk with her recently, as always technology in the classroom was foremost on her mind. We talked about how EdTech content gets created by developers, and then how it gets discovered and implemented by educators in the classroom.

A rapid increase in iPads and Chromebooks in schools has given rise to a growing debate over the balance and purpose of EdTech in the hands of students. With so many different programs and apps and curriculums available for tablets and smartphones, teachers and parents are hard-pressed to properly evaluate and try out the latest of the best and brightest. But the students have the advantage of being a generation that grew up with technology and having it already incorporated into their lives. They are familiar with the digital word and have been reading, learning, and having debates across platforms and crossing boundaries in ways unimagined a few short decades ago. By expanding the conversations with students, parents and educators are becoming better-educated and asking more meaningful questions.

“People are getting smarter with their questions when it comes to evaluating their decisions on curriculum and education,” Monica says. “I think that there are some companies that do a really good job at sharing user cases and collecting user stories showing different ways that a tool could be used to really impact teaching and learning.”

Monica sees better curriculums and modules on the horizon because content creators are actually listening to teachers and parents, but that’s not everyone in the playing field. “I think there are other vendors and other companies that need to play catch-up and need to be a little bit better listeners,” Monica says. “Especially when it comes to what people are not just asking for, but what they’re asking about.”

In her new book Tasks Before Apps, Monica says it’s really about putting learning goals front and center and saying, “What is it that we want students to know and be able to do? Then, how can they be able to apply that learning, to show the world that they know how to do?” Because as she notes, like it or not, some of the decisions that are going to be made and some of the factors going into those decisions are based upon the fact that they need to be tested and assessed. It’s critical that platforms and digital curriculum comply with state standards in assessment.

That’s where the student and educator’s creativity becomes crucial. Monica says, “What digital tools that are available are going to help get them there?” She says she hears from teachers about new education apps like Flipgrid that they’re excited about and what they’re doing to help empower students as creators in the classroom. But we have to keep asking the obvious and hard questions, Monica cautions. “What is the reality,” she asks? “Is it that we’re sitting and we’re testing in front of these devices more than anyone like a child should be doing? Or are there more innovative opportunities for students to be creative, to solve problems, and to make a product that shows what they know and could be shared with the world?”

About Dr. Monica Burns

Dr. Monica Burns is a curriculum and educational technology consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator and founder of ClassTechTips.com. As a classroom teacher, Monica used one-to-one technology to create engaging, standards-based lessons for students. Monica has presented to teachers, administrators and tech enthusiasts at numerous national and international conferences including SXSWedu, ISTE, and EduTECH. She is a webinar host for SimpleK12 and a regular contributor to Edutopia. Monica is the author of Tasks Before Apps: Designing Rigorous Learning in a Tech-Rich Classroom (ASCD), #FormativeTech: Meaningful, Sustainable, and Scannable Formative Assessment with Technology (Corwin), Deeper Learning with QR Codes and Augmented Reality (Corwin), and co-author of Taming the Wild Text (Shell).

Monica visits schools across the country to work with PreK-20 teachers to make technology integration exciting and accessible. She also provides support to organizations using technology to reach children and families in need. Her mission is to help educators place tasks before apps and promote deeper learning with technology. You can find out more about working with Monica, and her books and resources by visiting ClassTechTips.com. Follow Monica Burns on Twitter.


FETC Future of Education Technology Conference logo Monica Burns will be a featured presenter at FETC 2019, January 27-30 in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together thousands of educators and technology leaders for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices and pressing issues. Registration is now open.

Author Further Reading

This post includes mentions of a partner of MindRocket Media Group the parent company of edCircuit

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