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Why this middle county of North Carolina is reconsidering its approach to Edtech procurement

Why this middle county of North Carolina is reconsidering its approach to Edtech procurement

Caldwell County Schools is a high school district in northwestern North Carolina. Dr. Katrina McElen, assistant head of educational program services, oversees the curriculum for approximately 10,500 students. Although edtech is clearly not within her remit, she works hand in hand with the district technology department because, as she says, “nowadays it’s hard to do much without some form of technology in the classroom”.

Here she explains how Course of the mind helps your district strategically incorporate learning technology into its curriculum.

EdSurge: What made you enroll in Run a learning science course?

McElen: In fact, our director of innovation has found a course of reason. So I looked at the program and considered where we are, what skills we have, what our needs are. And that was in line with what we were trying to do to improve our services to students.

We were hoping to learn not only about the educational sciences, but also about edtech and what to look for when you look at edtech – to be more aware of all these different products and companies. We are grateful for ESSER funds; they definitely helped us bridge the gap and purchase a lot of devices and software that we may not have been able to. But it is difficult to understand and understand what is best for our students. We want to make sure we are good stewards.

We just try to be attentive, methodical and analytical in why we choose what we choose, making sure it fits well. We need to really combine curriculum and technology to make sure we get software that works for our area and achieves what we want to achieve. We also need to make sure it meets the technological requirements.

How would you describe your district’s approach to edtech procurement before enrolling in this course?

We tried to be strategic. There are some procedures before schools can go out and just buy anything. He must go through the approval procedure. So we’ve created something, but we’re still working on it to some degree.

And we made some concessions that we buy certain programs for everyone in the area to create some common ground. Some of these solutions were based on our experience during COVID – what was used, how effective it was, by reviewing usage reports and then cost. Although ESSER funds have helped, there is still no unlimited budget. And then we need to think about sustainability in the long run; if ESSER funds are not available, what can we afford as an area without sacrificing others? We are here in the area, 60 percent economically unprofitable. So we try to look at capital. Of course, we want to make sure we don’t take advantage of one population or one area over another.

Something that is holding us back here in Caldwell County is geography. Not all of our homes have internet and even have the ability to get internet because of where we are. They may not necessarily even receive a cell phone signal or Wi-Fi to be able to connect to the device. This is not the fault of parents, families or society. There are only areas in the state where there can be no internet.

Can you share your most significant takeaways from the course?

There are many education courses to become a teacher, but I don’t know anyone who has ever broken science for me before. When I took this course, we started to really understand how the brain works – storage processes and how you can hold only so much information, and then how it is transferred from working memory to long-term memory, and things like that. It’s nice to understand, for example, why it’s a good idea for you to share the information you give to your students. Don’t overload your students. Don’t overload yourself.

In education it is so often a question of strategy, but sometimes it is necessary to know the study of strategy. “That’s why you organize your class this way” or “That’s why you pass this concept this way.” It kind of brought back to me the science of teaching. There is art in this, but I think knowing the science behind it helps.

What was enjoyable about this course was that it was backed by research. You have this knowledge and you will be able – with some of the exercises you are asked to – to apply in real life. “How does this work for you?” and “What would you do from there?” This is what we want our students to do; we want them to take their knowledge and apply it. You will learn much more by doing than just sitting and listening. And I think this course just repeated some of those things.

How will this help you improve your edtech procurement process?

Now we have all this knowledge and a place to go back and link. So some of the next steps for us as a district will be to take that knowledge and incorporate it into something we can share with all of our teachers to help them understand that there is a rhyme and a reason why you do certain things, or why some strategies work better than others.

I think we all look at cost and that’s a factor in our decisions. But does this tool really meet the needs of all our students? How accessible is it to a student with visual or hearing impairment? Will it meet the needs of our English learners? When we think about affordability and usability, we don’t necessarily jump on all these different sides. The course brought some of these things to the fore. Talking about these issues and listening to perspectives from other areas was also a valuable part of what we did.

Let’s discuss your Course of Mind learning experience. What do you hope to achieve with this support?

We look forward to the opportunity to work with someone one on one – with an outsider with different views, with a different perspective, with experience and knowledge in the field of edtech and procurement. Because there are a lot of companies that do basically the same thing. And how do you weed out and make sure you find the right options to choose from? I think having an external lens can help us become a better area, make better decisions. And if they see something with flaws, I expect them to tell us.

We are working on consistency. So, for me, it’s a fine-tuning of that process, coming up with a column, and then understanding that goes with it. We need help in making this conversation and finding a way to make those decisions. We really try to do what is in the best interest of all our students. Let’s make it easier for parents, students, and everyone else to embark on this one technology, whatever it is, to get us moving in the right direction. I hope to have some conversations to help us understand and make sure we make the best decision for our students and our faculty.

This program is worth the effort. You receive such valuable information and understanding that you do not receive through a traditional educational program. And then being able to take what we’ve learned here and turn it into something we can share with teachers in our areas – I think everyone can get away with something from this course.

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