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Imagine K12 teams hear from Diane Tavenner of Summit Public Schools.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with educators and read a few interesting articles about vendors in education. This latest post from Silicon Valley Business Journal goes into some depth about how businesses are hoping to profit from the Common Core. Karen Lein of Imagine K12 states, “The advent of Common Core is a change for schools, and change is great for startups.” Karen’s point is well taken, and I have personal knowledge that Imagine K12 has some of the best educators in the world working on technology solutions for classroom teachers.

Yet while change is happening all around us in education, I believe that we need to focus on the fact that true change in education must come from within. Through my involvement with our district’s 1:1 student computing initiative over the last three years from early planning to full implementation, I’ve seen this concept in action. No vendor can come in and put a solution in place that will bring about change. Some vendor solutions are more effective and easier to deploy than others (read the article), but Rajen Sheth, Director of Google’s Chromebooks in Education team, hits the nail on the head in this statement, “When you start with goals and think about how you’re going to re-orient your teaching model to utilize technology in the classroom, it works much better. When you just throw devices in the classroom and teachers don’t know what to do with them, they either become a distraction or just end up not being used.”

Joel Handler is modest when he talks about the 1:1 initaiative in Hillsborough Township, NJ that he oversees. I’ve seen his team in action and had conversations with them about their project goals. As a team, they’re constantly engaged in evaluation of their initiative and putting all the right conditions in place for teachers to be successful. Districts and schools like ours learn from each other. Change like this has to come from within. Vendors, no matter how in tune they are with educators, can’t bring about the good results that we’re seeing with our 1:1 initiatives. Success depends on the teachers who are in the classroom every day using technology in transformative ways. They can’t learn those skills from an outside professional development provider. They learn from collaborating with each other and working with district personnel who understand their needs and concerns.

That being said, there are many startups run by passionate educators who want to help teachers make a difference in education. In my recent visit to Imagine K12, I met Justin Mann and Anton Troynikov of Geddit as well as Quim Sabrià of EdPuzzle. Both teams are passionate about their products and eager to receive feedback from classroom teachers. Through their personal experience as educators, they know the challenges that classroom teachers face and want to provide teachers with quality products and support. Our teachers are assisting them in refining their products, and we look forward to all the enhancements that are coming our way.

My advice to all the new education startups is this: Don’t become too far removed from the classroom that you forget about the challenges and joys of being a teacher. Visit classrooms, talk with students and teachers, and continue to focus on student learning. Applaud the teachers who are seeing improved results through transformative technologies and work closely with schools and districts to support their initiatives. We’re in this together and your success depends on our success.

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