Ed-Tech Publishing Group Wrestles With Shift to “Student-Centered” Learning

Associate Editor

Philadelphia

Preparing for a K-12 future that is more “student-centered” will change the role of almost everyone involved in education–and companies are among those trying to figure out just how to respond.

What will students come to expect as they learn in ways that are relevant to them, and take greater responsibility for their learning? How will teachers’ practice change to “guide” student learning, rather than leading it every step of the way? And how can education businesses provide instructional material that supports these changes in the classroom, and beyond?

“Make no mistake: Student-centered learning is disruptive,” said Jeff Livingston, president and CEO of EdSolutions, Inc., who was the keynote speaker at an ed-tech meeting that was a run-up to the 2017 Content in Context Conference, organized by the Association of American Publishers’ PreK-12 Learning Group. About 40 organizations from the U.S., South Africa, and Sweden attended the pre-conference here yesterday and tried to imagine what the future of classroom instruction will look like.

“How do we acknowledge what is coming without going broke waiting for it to come?” asked Livingston, who spent more than a decade as a senior executive at McGraw-Hill Education before leaving to start his own company. Another challenge: “How do we recognize that our existing revenue streams are vulnerable without throwing them away reaching for revenue streams that are not there yet?”

Although Livingston said he couldn’t give attendees an exact blueprint for responding to the new environment, he did elaborate on the wrong way, which he said is “to do what you always did, but only more so.” Old assumptions will be called into question, as a teacher-centered and curriculum-centered world is likely to be organized differently, with the student learner making more choices.

“The decision maker is changing as to what is happening in classroom and how,” said Livingston, and with that, K-12 purchasing decisions will change. “The notion that discrete units of knowledge are packaged for delivery to an industrialized system” by decision makers in a hierarchical classroom system will be part of this transformation, he said.

Technology for Student-Centered Ed-Tech

The shift will require companies to move “from simplicity to elegance” for this technology-intensive endeavor, said Michael Jay, president of Educational Systemics who framed the morning’s discussion. Educators will need help sorting through newly available information, because “millions of years of evolution have not prepared us to read streams of data,” he said.

At the same time, “good educators develop intuition about their students’ academic and social issues,” said Jay, and companies will need to understand how to replicate that intuition via technology to support students and educators as professionals.

Finding ways to keep current on the latest research will be essential. “If you don’t have somebody who’s well-versed in staying up on research, find somebody who is,” said Jay.

Among the components of technology that will be key: interoperability for assessments, learning analytics, mapping educational requirements, using instructional metadata and tracking paradata that can be used to make inferences about student learning. The technology will need to sort out how learning is tracked and reported to monitor student progress, and how learners themselves are managed as they and their teachers interact with the ed-tech they use.

Whatever the technology required to drive student-centered learning, Livingston advised that companies be prepared to offer an array of options to schools, and by extension to students.

“If students are really at the center, they will make big changes often and be upset when they don’t have real choice,” he said. “Think of that as a strategic business initiative.”


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