Packing up my third grade classroom at the end of June, I had only a limited perspective of the education reform movement and the education technology world — that of an educator and Teach For America corps member. Now that my summer at Kinvolved is coming to a close, I feel as though I have gained a more textured view, and a little bit more perspective.
There are three key takeaways that for me, as a new teacher, were revelations about how I could fit this month-long trip into the world of EduTech into my classroom.
1. No two schools are alike.
As an educator, I spend a significant bulk of my time within the four walls of my school. Excepting the occasional professional development session or meeting, I don’t visit other school sites during the school year. At Kinvolved this summer, we visited many different kinds of schools. And, at the helm of each of these sites, was a different principal, a different administration, with a different staff, and a different student body.
Though these schools commonly served diverse students from urban, low-income communities, in alignment with Kinvolved’s mission, these schools ranged in every other possible way. They catered to different age groups. They are specialized in different subjects. No school buildings, even, are alike enough to be indistinguishable from one another.
But still, when people talk about education technology, or about the education movement, they lump these schools together as one entity.
In school reform and education technology, I think this means that these services need to be tested for malleability. Anyone, with any needs, should be able to gain from social and technology services. In my own classroom, I am beginning to recognize that there’s not one “way to teach.” Different teachers, and different schools, create different points of access for students.
2. Technology should be accessible to all teachers — not just the tech geeks, or even the moderately savvy.
When my school’s technology coordinator stepped out last year, I took over a few of her responsibilities. A lot of the time, this meant I was referred to other teachers who needed help installing a program or reading an unreadable file. Just because a teacher isn’t the most tech savvy doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be able to easily access to a tool.
This summer, we attended a panel where one panelist mentioned he didn’t like trainings for teachers who didn’t know how to turn on their iPads. One of the things I appreciate about Kinvolved is, they will teach you to do something as simple as how to turn on your iPad if you need them to. I think all tech companies (and many of them do) should have this attitude about their customers. We’re providing a tool, and a service, but we can’t do anything to create change if teachers can’t use our product.
Now, when I seek out tools for my classroom that’s the first thing I’m looking for: tools that prioritize teachers and students, and not applications that seem designed for a business and not a classroom.
3. Education innovation is happening.
In my first year as a teacher, it was surprisingly easy to feel disconnected from the education reform movement. My students sometimes seem to be completely disconnected from the media’s abstractions about national youth, which can make it feel easily to be disillusioned by the influx of initiatives and unsure about my role in the movement.
Working with Kinvolved this summer, I attended meetings and panel events, and learned about the work of lots of committed organizations, all the while working with a team of very passionate people. I met principals who, like mine, were committed to their kids and to the educational mantras they had posted around their offices. I learned about organizations like Good Shepherd Services, and The Children’s Aid Society. I got to explore education communities outside of my own school in a way I hadn’t fully been able to since before I started teaching.
Their commitment really informed my sense of the education reform community, and reinvigorated my faith in the eventual success of its mission. And the re-exposure to that sort of commitment and vigilance is something I will carry into the fall.
Contributor: Michele Narov is Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She is responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.