On June 30th, ClassIn’s Thoughtful Leadership webinar series took a holistic view on how to integrate innovative technologies in schools. Moderated by the series host Lingyue Zheng, the panel included distinguished scholars Adrian Lim, Director for Education Services at Methodist Church and Edizon Fermin, Vice President of Academic Affairs at National Teachers College.
Drawing from years of teaching and research experiences, panelists addressed a wide range of questions, including why it is necessary to adopt EdTech, especially ones that suit your institution’s needs? What are the actionable guidelines for tech integration in schools? How to work with policymakers and industry partners?
Spark Joy for Teachers and Students with Innovative Technologies
A Firm Stand for Education Technology in Personalized Learning
“I want to start from pre-Covid on how this whole thing stitches together,” Adrian Lim opened the event with a look back on shifting views toward EdTech. Specifically, a 2015 OECD report found that the use of ICTs did not lead to better student performance.
“Can you imagine? With millions of dollars that have been invested to see a conclusion like that…Teachers and those who were trying innovative technologies were disappointed with this report,” Lim said.
However, the moment of doubt didn’t last long. One year later in 2016, Dr. Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills of OECD, expressed strong faith in digital tools for making learning more engaging and cooperative.
“Now that’s pre-Covid. Knowing what we know now, to say not to invest in ICT is not something anyone would agree given the last two years we’ve been through,” Lim reflected. He went on to quote a U.S. News article on the digital revolution: “I want to state my personal view that students can make big academic gains if enrolled in schools that offer personalized ways of learning, especially if teachers have access to effective technology and digital tools that make personal learning possible.”
Sometimes Technology Integration in Schools Doesn’t Work Out. Why?
Reining in the concept of personalized learning, Lim shared a visionary experiment he did with a team of teachers in 2015. The school adopted a system where a large amount of data can be organized into student profiles and drive more informed and accurate decisions.
“We wanted to see if Alan is a skillful communicator, an objective the school has for all its children,” Lim gave an example. On an individual level, the dashboard showed which specific areas Alan could work on to meet the criteria for a skilled communicator. For the whole class, the teacher could also see how many and which students needed more help.
“It looks really nice, but let me tell you in spite of visioning, the product, and all that, the project failed. It was a very painful lesson for me. And I will tell you the reason why it failed: it was too ambitious for a school to set up its own system,” Lim explained.
For Lim, there are two major takeaways from this project when it comes to EdTech integrations.
Schools rapidly accumulate different types of data, a great percentage of which are no longer valuable. Over time, schools cannot handle a large amount of data, and data analysis could easily become “garbage in garbage out”.
Teachers’ working hours
Teachers are juggling too many things. A big project asked a lot from teachers, who were already dealing with a crazy workload.
How to Successfully Integrate Technologies: The EdTech Genome Report
Setting eyes on more recent findings, Lim shared that “I had the opportunity to take part in a report that came out last year called the EdTech Genome Project.” The project was launched by the University of Virginia in 2018, consulting with close to 1,000 teachers and partnering with researchers, industry representatives, and policymakers.
In particular, Lim highlighted 10 context variables outlined in the report–a framework with action steps for effective selection and implementation of technologies in schools.
1. Vision for teaching and learning
2. Staff culture
3. Teacher beliefs and knowledge
4. Competing priorities
5. Teacher agency
6. Infrastructure and operations
7. Selection processes
8. Strategic leadership support
9. Implementation systems and processes
10. Professional learning
“I can imagine today, if I were to run the project again, I would use this lens,” Lim reflected.
Wrapping up his presentation, Lim brought the focus back to those who matter the most in education. “What we call the great EdTech frontier lies not in new devices or applications, but in the way teachers and students are using technologies to enhance learning,” Lim reminded the audience.
"What we call the great EdTech frontier lies not in new devices or applications, but in the way teachers and students are using technologies to enhance learning,” Adrian Lim, Director for Education Services at Methodist Church
Focusing on Shared Value: Strong Partnerships for Student Success
How to Define Shared value?
“Now, allow me to share with you first our definition of shared value,” Edizon Fermin set the scene for his presentation. “In our ecosystem, we wish to look at shared value as solving big social problems at scale and on a profitable basis by leveraging innovation and unique resources.”
As the Vice President of Academic Affairs at National Teachers College (NTC), Fermin introduced that his school is a part of iPeople, a Yuchengco-Ayala partnership that brings together distinguished institutions and over 54K students from kindergarten to Ph.D. in the Philippines.
The vision of iPeople is to become the biggest and best performing Philippine education system by 2030–“We expanded this definition [of best performing] to be producing graduates with the best outcomes in employability, entrepreneurship, and applied research,” Fermin explained.
Three Steps to Identify, Implement, and Maximize Innovative Technologies in Schools
“There are three things I would share with you along the lines of shared value because I guess it’s the most important, critical decision we have in institutions at this time,” Fermin emphasized.
Reconceive products and markets
Before diving into the application of technology, Fermin encouraged everyone to find out what students really need. He pointed out that “There are three words that circled during our market intelligence exercise. Our students from kindergarten to graduate school said that it is boring, ineffective, and frustrating.”
Take graduate school learners as an example, it is important to understand the student body and their learning experience. For instance, 9 in 10 grad school students are working, and many of them have a long commute and suffer from slow mobile internet in distance learning.
“So what we did was to focus on the customer experience, not just the technical platform,” Fermin highlighted how NTC made remote education fun, flexible, and frustration-free with shorter lectures and less synchronicity.
“Shortly after we introduced this, we won a much difficult-to-get distinction of the Innovation Excellence Award on operating the NTC Graduate School Distance Education program on low tech. It’s not even high tech, but it was high experience,” Fermin maintained.
Redefine productivity in the value chain
No matter what the technology is, one thing that cannot be overlooked is the cooperation with teachers. Fermin stressed that “We relied on internal expertise, and that made a huge difference because we were affirming the faculties who had advanced technological competencies.”
Driving his point home with concrete statistics, Fermin showed that in transitioning teachers to digital learning, they accumulated 720 training hours per faculty for a total of 169 faculty members from K to graduate school.
Build supportive industry clusters
“What we did was to connect with industry leaders,” Fermin described an employment-oriented and tightly integrated industry-academy ecosystem.
With industry-specific pipelines and partners, students are equipped with practical experiences that will launch them into career tracks. “I’m very proud to tell you that we even increased our enrollment in the pandemic,” Fermin shared.
“We have departed from looking at tech integration as an end. we no longer look at it just to introduce knowledge, skills, and attitudes about technology that could make our students proficiency- competence-, and performance-driven,” Fermin concluded. “We have shifted towards using tech as a means. We used whatever technology that is affordable and accessible to increase resilience, responsibility, and reasoning for learners, but more importantly for teachers. And that led them to exercise a lot of creativity, critical thinking, and connectedness.”
"We have shifted towards using tech as a means. We used whatever technology that is affordable and accessible to increase resilience, responsibility, and reasoning for learners, but more importantly for teachers. And that led them to exercise a lot of creativity, critical thinking, and connectedness,"---Edizon Fermin, Vice President for Academic Affairs at National Teachers College
Fermin ended his presentation with an inspiring note on community. “Lookback, our appreciation of shared value helped us establish NTC and its partners as a part of a community of practitioners. And this community of practice helped us understand that we can learn through, from, with, and for community using appropriate technologies using our realities,” Fermin stated.
Q&A: Gen Z Students, Industry Resources, and Pre-Employment Programs
“I grew up and studied in a very conventional education environment before going to college, and I do believe parents and educators have very different expectations for their kids. I have one question for Adrian–I’m wondering what your expectation is for this generation of kids from an educator’s perspective,” audience member Echo took the stage.
“I love that question,” Lim answered with a big smile. “We all know Jack Ma right, so one of the most interesting things he said…is that just stay in the middle because the people who are number one and number two don’t have time to learn other things. So I tell my son, I don’t expect you to be number one, number two, or number three in school, but stay in the middle. In the meantime, with the time you have, learn as many skills as you can.”
Lim extended the answer to the wider audience and our generation of students. “The skillsets required are changing every day, and with Covid, you see how industries move in and move out. So agility and being nimble for this generation is so important,” he stressed.
Similarly, addressing a question that came up in the live stream about the most-needed resources for the better overall educational outcomes, Fermin also landed on the importance of being practical for the job market. “A lot of things we are teaching in the classroom are suddenly becoming irrelevant, and we don’t want to produce irrelevant graduates. If you can introduce an industry advisory board in your respective institution…now more than ever, a work-oriented and future-proof system should be our priority,” Fermin suggested.
"Now more than ever, a work-oriented and future-proof system should be our priority,"---Edizon Fermin, Vice President for Academic Affairs at National Teachers College
Expressing great interest in the industry-academy ecosystem in Fermin’s presentation, audience member Hoang Anh asked how to practically achieve such a target.
Fermin built on the pre-employment programs (General, Tech, and Education) at NTC for college seniors to explain that “these are the key partners who are core deliverers of curriculums, but that does not prevent our students from entering other industries of the same nature…So if you ask me how many partners are there in operation, we have over a hundred.”
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