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TechCHAT: Core Curriculum and Credit Recovery VP Deborah Rayow

The TechCHAT series invites educators and others from across the country and around the world to share how they’re using technology to enhance instruction and student learning. 

Edgenuity is an EdTech company that offers products ranging from blended learning, common-core-aligned curriculums to instructional models. Education World recently spoke with Deborah Rayow, Vice President of Core Curriculum and Credit Recovery Solutions at Edgenuity about balance and usefulness while using EdTech in the classroom. 


According to a 2013 report by Speak Up, an initiative of the non-profit Project Tomorrow, more than 40 percent of high school principals are now offering online classes for students in math, science, history and English/language arts. What online learning technologies are crucial to enhancing the teacher’s role in this context, and how are traditional methods of teaching factored into the experience?

Most schools are now moving to a blended learning model, which combines the best of online learning and the best of face-to-face instruction. Principals are thinking more deeply about exactly what technology does well and exactly what their teachers do well. The traditional job of basic content delivery and assessment is being handled by the technology. Teachers are being asked to develop the 21st century skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Critical online technologies fall into a few categories. You also need great instruction and assessment resources, so teachers can feel confident that what their students are doing online is a valuable investment of their time. You also need great data and reporting features, so teachers know how to group students, what standards students need to work on, who’s struggling and who’s not. And you need customization elements, so teachers don’t feel they’re giving up control of their content—rather they feel like they have a technology-enhanced teaching assistant.
Some traditional methods of teaching may fall by the wayside. I don’t think we’ll see a lot of teachers continuing to do a lot of whole-class lecture, for example. But most evidence tells us that isn’t very effective in a traditional classroom anyway. Other traditional methods—small-group re-teaching and intervention, facilitating great discussions, project-based learning—will be just as important in the blended learning classroom as they are in a traditional one (and perhaps even more so).

Describe some of the process for developing and releasing EdTech tools based on educator need and classroom usefulness.

The most effective tools are the ones based on what educators actually need—not what Silicon Valley thinks will be cool. We take in requests from educators every day, and our product managers identify trends and propose solutions for the most common needs. Then we develop prototypes and put our ideas in front of educators to get feedback. Once we release new tools into our platform, we’ve already had a lot of input from our users, so we can be pretty confident that the tools will be both useful and usable.

What trends will we see in EdTech and online learning within the next two to five years?

We’re seeing people looking for a balance of adaptivity and assignability. In other words, they want technology to personalize the learning experience for students as much as possible. But they also recognize that technology has limitations about what it can surmise about a student. (How often have Netflix and Amazon recommended something to you that was totally off the mark?) So they want teachers to maintain a fair amount of control about what they assign to individual students as well.
We’re also seeing more interest in customization, personalization, flexibility, and interoperability. Teachers want all the technology they have to work together seamlessly, and they want the ability to make the system their own. They want to add their own content, add great content they find on the web, and share content with other educators. And they want data dashboards that give them actionable, standards-based data on everything students know and don’t know.

List some of your favorite EdTech tools that educators can utilize for free. List some of your favorite EdTech tools that educators can utilize at a low price point. What’s good about these tools and why?

I love tools students can use to create. Great instructional content generally isn’t free (and free instructional content generally isn’t great). But there are a lot of free and low-cost tools that let students synthesize and present their learning and thinking. Here are three of my favorites:
1.       VoiceThread: This tool allows students to insert a recording of them into an interactive thread, providing a way for students to more easily connect with classmates. For students who lean towards auditory learning, this tool is very beneficial.
2.       ThingLink: Students can build interactive images and videos when creating presentations, allowing students to put “hotspots” onto the media, which can then extend learning.
3.       MindMeister: This online tool allows students to create collaborative mind maps that can be used in a number of ways in the classroom.



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor
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