#103 – Digital Education: Skills and Leadership

Unpacking Education August 3, 2022 38 min

A recent article from Education Week provides survey information showing that 1-to-1 initiatives (one device for each student) grew rapidly due to pandemic needs. Before the pandemic, the percentage of surveyed high schools and middle schools with 1-to-1 device access for students was 65% and 66%, respectively. One year into the pandemic, those rates within surveyed schools rose to 90% for each. Elementary schools went from 42% to 84%. As the number of devices increased and the need presented itself, teachers grew as well. Through their active use of technology during distance and hybrid learning, their technology competencies improved, opening new doors of possibilities for entire schools and districts.

In this episode, we explore how schools might take advantage of both increased access to devices as well as the increased technology skill levels of teachers and students. We are joined by Dr. David Wicks, an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Seattle Pacific University. We explore current technology trends as well as his unique program at Seattle Pacific.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Just because you purchase the latest technology doesn’t mean everyone will use it correctly or productively.

Eric Sheninger, author of Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:

Learning First, Tools Second

When integrating technology successfully into your classroom, it’s important to identify your why first. Begin with an educational need or purpose that technology can help you achieve. What standards are you targeting? What goals do you want to achieve? Then, ask yourself: Are there technology tools that can better help me and my students achieve those goals? If the answer is yes, ask what instructional practices you can effectively pair with that device or program to maximize learning. This “learning first, tools second” approach will increase the odds of academic success in your classroom.

Listen to this episode to hear the perspective of Dr. David Wicks as he shares what he is seeing at the university level when working with pre-service teachers as well as education veterans. Our conversation ranges from integration best practices to technology trends. Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

  • The Program: Dr. Wicks describes a unique program he has designed and implemented at his university. It’s an inquiry-based course that is “designed to be a personalized learning experience.” This model can also serve as a great option for professional learning in K–12 schools.
  • Two Trends: Dr. Wicks is seeing two trends in educational technology. One is that some teachers are using technology less. These teachers might say, “There was way too much screen time, and now we’re not going to have any screen time.” On the flip side, others are seeing new opportunities because of increased skill levels and greater access. These teachers are asking two important questions: “What do we want to keep?” and “What worked?”
  • More Trends: For teachers who are embracing the possibilities of a tech-infused classroom, blended learning strategies have been popular. Effective professional development is essential when adopting any of these practices at a systems level. Dr. Wicks adds that these are the places we need to “lock in and have strong professional learning and really focus on what are the best practices in those areas.”
  • Screen Time: We need to be careful about what research and information we are using to make educational decisions. For example, many of the studies regarding screen time were based on passive TV viewing. This is considerably different from active engagement on a computer, which can involve collaboration, problem-solving, communication, and creation.
  • New Opportunities: One-to-one devices and Internet access open up many instructional options for teachers. For instance, teachers can easily bring in a virtual guest speaker, and they can have students work in groups, recording information on collaborative documents.
  • Sustainable Training: Professional learning is very important in adopting new practices. However, we need to make sure this training includes all stakeholders, is relevant, and is ongoing.
  • Research With Robots: Dr. Wicks describes a recent doctoral study using robots in class to provide remote learners with increased agency and social connection. The robots were iPads on wheels. He described the positive behaviors of students engaging through the robotic iPads. “They didn’t shut their cameras off because they felt like they were really there, and they wanted to be seen and they wanted to be heard.” These remote students had more agency and felt more included.
  • Adult Learning Theory: When we provide professional learning opportunities to teachers and staff, we need to remember what works with adult learners. It needs to be relevant, engaging, active, integrated into teaching experiences, flexible, ongoing, and responsive to feedback.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your teaching team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • How was technology used during hybrid or remote learning?
  • What remote learning strategies are worth keeping? What worked?
  • How are teachers using technology since they’ve returned to the classroom? What trends are you seeing in your district?
  • Can current technology integration practices be improved? Explain.
  • What are some of the most successful technology integration practices you’ve seen?
  • How does your district or school currently provide professional learning to teachers and staff? How might this be improved?