#BackToSchool for Sprungs: Where Will Tech Take Education in 2015-2016

| Aimee Sprung

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This month is ‘back to school’ for many of us in New England. To celebrate the 2015 school year, we are bringing you a #BacktoSchool series, right here on the MSNE blog! From how technology is transforming the classroom to not-to-miss events at your local Microsoft Store, we’re tackling this exciting time from all angles. Hold on to you backpacks!
~Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

Back to school is a big deal in my house.  Not only are my sons – Alex & Noah – starting fourth and second grades (respectively), but my husband is a principal of not one but two Elementary Schools in Reading, MA.  He’s up for the challenge, but getting the school year under way is a major rhythm of our lives.

So as the school year begins, I am hopeful that we’ll see major advancements in K12 education this year.  Education stands to gain so much through advances in technology, and while inserting technology into schools can be hard I think the 2015-2016 school year is well positioned to make big strides in a few key areas.  By the end of this school year, I think we’ll see significant impact and advances in the following areas:

  1. Student Data Privacy – As students are given more access to technology in schools, administrators are paying more attention to the data and information that is available about how students use technology and what they are doing with it.  As this data becomes easier to mine through amazing advances in big data tools, parents, teachers and administrators are asking tough questions – who has access to this data? And what are they allowed to do with it? This year, we are going to see school systems begin to pay more attention to the security of this data and work to ensure greater student privacy.
  1. Devices – It is amazing to see the improved access to laptops, iPads, Chromebooks and Surfaces throughout each school I visit.  Thanks to improved access to low cost, high performance laptops and tablets students across all grades K-12 now have access to devices.  As more classrooms add enough devices for each student to have their own and teachers become more adept at integrating them into lessons, more learning can be customized to the needs of each student through learning management systems.
  1. Computer Science Education – Thanks to CS Education Week and code.org’s Hour of Code, most students and teachers are aware of coding and programming as a key skill for the future.  This year, we must translate that awareness to action in the form of after school programming, weekend or vacation camps and where possible in-school curriculum.
  1. Assessments – Massachusetts is working to migrate from MCAS to PARCC.  It is a tough transition and I admire each principal and teacher who jumped in and helped students try out this new system.  With at least a year of PARCC under our belts, most school systems will be able to improve the experience for students this year and we can begin to think about assessments as a tool to improve student learning, rather than a burden.  Increased access to technology, and tools like learning management systems, teachers will have a constant view of how each student is learning through ongoing monitoring. Read more about these assessments here.

This time of year is always bittersweet – It is sad to see the summer fade away, but I’m excited to start a new year with new teachers and new learning to be done.  I look forward to seeing how the Massachusetts education ecosystem evolves this year.

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