Lessons from Adversity:
A Quest for Enduring EdTech Practices

Written by Leslie Kiel
Professional Development Specialist
Five Star Technology Solutions

If you’ve read or watched enough classic tales, you’re familiar with the hero’s journey: a common narrative structure shared by cultures worldwide. There’s the initial call to adventure. Tests ensue, allies align, and enemies are fought. A supreme ordeal is faced. We’ve seen it play out over millennia, from The Odyssey, to King Arthur, to Star Wars, and Harry Potter. And while no prospective educator went into teaching in search of this type of storybook glory, we’ve unknowingly found ourselves on our own hero’s journey.

Find it hard to envision yourself amongst the likes of Luke Skywalker? Take stock of the past few years: Have you experienced a call to action that disrupted the status quo? Have you faced challenges that caused fear, doubt, or angst? Were skills tested and obstacles encountered that caused you to gain a deeper insight into your character? Congratulations! You, and all the boots-on-the-ground stakeholders in education, are the protagonists in a hero’s journey.

Like many heroes before you, you may even find yourself and your district at a turning point. A lot has been learned over the past few years of education, but the question remains: Which tools or mindsets are worth carrying forward in this educational journey? These four practices are ones you’ll want to keep in your district’s utility belt:

1. Student-led Learning

Chances are when you think back to your own education, the learning experiences you recall don’t include a lecture. More than likely, you were doing—creating, exploring, building, investigating. Giving learners that agency isn’t just fun; it’s memorable. Whether your district leans into the flipped classroom model, inquiry-based learning, or passion projects, strategically putting students in the driver’s seat of their own learning is a pandemic-inspired trend that is worth embracing for the long haul. Start small by giving students ownership of project progress using the new Google Docs dropdown feature. They’ll not only build autonomy, they’ll also hone digital skills that will eventually transfer easily to the workplace.

Are you an educator in Indiana? Find resources like the Google Docs Dropdown in the Indiana Learning Lab!

2. Intentional Collaboration

The ability to collaborate is consistently at the top of workplace skills lists, but the pandemic and digital teaching shined a light on some hard truths: collaborative skills take intentional scaffolding and are by no means innate. According to Google for Education’s Future of the Classroom Global Report, over 90% of CEOs globally say strengthening their organization’s soft skills, especially in conjunction with digital skills, is imperative. What does that mean for our schools? It’s not going to be enough to amp up rigorous content if interpersonal skills are left as an afterthought. How are your schools building the foundation for these interpersonal skills? What does it look like when learners in your district are intentionally collaborating? Provide teachers the opportunity to build knowledge themselves in order to implement practices that foster digital collaboration with their students.

3. Data Literacy

As ISTE notes, data literacy is becoming an essential skill, and it’s so much more than the math or STEM skills that your district is likely already embracing. Data literacy includes collecting, organizing, visualizing, analyzing, interpreting, and sharing data, but it’s also about making sense of the story data can tell. Students who are truly data literate will not only interpret what data explicitly says but also be able to infer what’s implied. In a culture where keyboard warriors and armchair experts are a dime a dozen, equipping our students to think for themselves and discern fact from fiction is critical. Sensational headlines and exaggerated narratives may be here to stay, but data-literate and empowered students will know how to navigate through. Springboard learners into the world of data by investigating tools like Google Trends, or get your district wholly inspired by analyzing data to help solve problems.

4. Rethinking Learning Models

Because we had no choice during the height of the pandemic, we rethought the way teaching and learning looked. As many of us return to face-to-face teaching, we have the opportunity to explore possibilities that were once unthinkable: can we offer new courses to different schools in our district through a hybrid learning model? Can we harness edtech to engage guardians and community members in ways previously intimidating? Continuing to ask “why not?” is a practice that will keep our students and teachers innovating and willing to seek alternative solutions to complex problems.

In the end, the most momentous point in any hero’s journey is the potential transformation, the ultimate overcoming of the trials and tribulations encountered during the quest. Educators are at their transformational crossroads—will they take the best of what’s been learned during pandemic-teaching and continue to think innovatively? Will district leaders be ready to help them face what’s next?

Luckily, no hero goes it alone. Five Star is ready to be the guide that comes alongside you and your district. Whether you’re looking for professional development, cybersecurity solutions, interactive data dashboards (or so much more), bring us along. Let’s tackle the next leg of the journey together.

Looking for an EdTech partner? Explore what Five Star Technology Solutions has to offer at fivestartech.com, or schedule a virtual meeting with one of our K-12 EdTech Experts!