Redefining Education in the K-12 Setting

The ongoing pandemic has forced a reckoning in education on three fronts: equity, teacher retention, and technology. We must address all three of these areas as we redefine education – and we must redefine education if we want to continue meeting student, teacher, and community needs. We’ve discussed equity and retention in previous blogs, so we’ll focus mostly on using technology to redefine K-12 education here.

Why Equity Is Necessary for Redefining Education

In order for education to serve our communities, the issue of equity must be addressed. Not only should broadband be accessible to every home, and devices be made available to every student, but we must also address digital competency. Improving digital competency may seem like an odd thing to worry about within this digital native generation, but when more than 10 million US students are still without adequate internet at home, their ability to achieve digitally competency is compromised. This often extends to their parents as well, which gives local schools a perfect opportunity to provide adult education programs.

Teacher Retention Is Crucial to Student Academic Success

Teachers are more stressed than ever. But they’re not quitting in droves – yet. The Great Resignation that has impacted most other industries has yet to materialize in education, likely because the very people who choose to become educators tend to lean in and try to do more, until they burn out completely.  But you can still retain top educators and prevent them from not just leaving your school, but from leaving the profession as well.

To prevent the Great Resignation from affecting schools, districts need to recognize that teachers want what everyone else is looking for: professional support and development, a voice in the direction of their careers, and flexibility. These expectations will likely vary from one school district to another, but things like job sharing and matching the right teachers to in-class and online teaching opportunities will be critical. And using technology to empower teachers will be essential.

Technology Is the Future of Education

Technology will be a part of the future of education in ways we can’t even predict yet. While edtech and new technologies might have been temporary stopgap measures in the beginning of the pandemic, they are now the new norm for many schools, whether education is being delivered in-person, online, or in hybrid environments.

Lumen Touch All-in-One Management Solution

Our approach moves away from legacy systems such as SISs and towards the new world of student and enterprise management, with a strong focus on individual plans of study, project-based learning, and predictive analytics on a single secure platform.

We are one of the few companies that offer an all-in-one solution, which includes:

  • a comprehensive SIS (Bright STUDENT)
  • a special education product (Bright SPED)
  • full library and inventory management (Bright RESOURCE)
  • a student college and career management system (Bright SUCCESS)
  • an early education system (Bright STEPS)
  • a full health management system (Bright CARE)
  • a professional development management system (Bright PATH)
  • a full data management and dashboarding product (Bright INSIGHT)
  • Medicaid billing (Bright MEDICAID)
  • a full communication and learning system that incorporates social media and the ability to translate dialogue in over 70 languages (Bright SPACE)

More recently, we added a cybersecurity and auditing service module, and COVID-19 tracking and contact tracing modules.

Infrastructure Is Part of the Tech Solution

From cloud hosting to comprehensive learning management systems, the IT infrastructure of every school needs to be modernized. Infrastructure in K-12 schools should support learning, professional development, classroom management, health and safety, SEL and SPED, and communication and engagement. It should be developed to accommodate a wide variety of learning modes – online, in person, and hybrid. Robust and comprehensive cloud-based infrastructure in the K-12 education environment ensures that students, teachers, parents, and administrators have the ability to improve engagement, enhance communication, foster collaboration, and open worlds of opportunity in learning.

Lumen Touch is at the innovative forefront of developing the kind of technology that truly benefits teachers, students, and school districts. We have been providing our integrated all-in-one management technology to school districts for 18 years. To learn more about our solution, get in touch.

Teacher Retention: Keeping Valued Educators in the Profession

There is a teacher retention crisis. This situation is not one that is new, and it is not entirely due to the pandemic. In fact, in the two years before the pandemic, 55% of teachers were leaving after only two years in the profession because of stress and low pay. And at present, 92% of teachers surveyed by EdWeek say the stress has only become worse since the pandemic.

Why Teachers Are Leaving

The top reason that teachers are leaving the profession is stress. And teachers are more than twice as likely to leave as a result of stress than they are for low pay or any other reason. Other struggles at the top of the list include poor school management, lack of respect, lack of voice in the direction of education, and overwhelming duties. The stories of what teachers are enduring are heartbreaking and frustrating. TALIS 2018, a major international survey of more than 260,000 teachers and 15,000 school leaders, found that only about one-third of them feel appreciated.

What Teachers Need Now

Teachers are spending an average of 70-80 hours a week working – and less than half of that time is spent with the students. The biggest change that must happen to improve retention is to remove the burden of such an unbalanced workload. Reducing the workload and number of hours required to do their job is the first step. Increasing pay is the next. But teachers – the actual education experts to whom we entrust our children – should also have input on safety policies, and most certainly should have a voice in the direction of the curriculum and how resources are allocated.

TALIS 2018 identified many other ways to support teachers, including these policy goals:

  • provide novice teachers and newly appointed school leaders with tailor-made support
  • make the most of teachers’ time to support quality teaching and the use of effective teaching practices
  • foster a school and classroom climate conducive to student learning and well-being
  • develop a collaborative culture within schools
  • foster mentoring and peer feedback as key attributes of professional work
  • make the most of school leaders’ time to foster instructional leadership
  • improve working conditions

How EdTech Can Improve Teacher Retention

EdTech can play a significant role in improving teacher retention. Not only can automated grading and testing reduce the workload with which teachers are burdened, but it can also make it easier for teachers to engage with students and spend one-on-one time with those in need. As well, teachers can enjoy the ability to personalize education to meet the students’ individual needs.

Lumen™ Touch Empowers Teachers

Bright LEARNING™ is a powerful resource that puts teachers back in control of achieving standards, by aligning student achievement and standards-based grading. This resource provides teachers with a “command center” from which they can map standards to curriculum, assess students, and evaluate progress easily and simply. With an integrated gradebook and lesson planner, teachers save time, aggravation, and stress while better meeting mandates – and having more class time to truly engage with students on a more personal level.

At Lumen Touch, we know that there are no simple answers to solving the big challenges that face educators. But there are systems you can implement that can make a difference. Bright LEARNING is one such system. To learn more, get in touch.

Leveling the Playing Field: Education Equity

The pandemic has affected us all, from school districts to educators to those of us who serve the education industry. And without a doubt, students have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. But the impact was uneven. A large study has confirmed that which most educators have probably noted anecdotally: marginalized students and impoverished students were impacted far more severely by losing access to the classroom.

Key Findings: Addressing the Digital Divide

Oxford University Press (OUP) published a report, Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide, which “captures the views of 1,557 school and English-language teachers from 92 countries.” One of the key findings was that across the globe, “limited digital skills” are virtually as significant of a problem as is the lack of physical access to technology.

According to the report, 68% of students had poor digital access – either no access to internet or to an internet-abled device. But 56% of the teachers surveyed reported that a lack of digital competency was a barrier for themselves and students.  And 58% of disadvantaged students received less support at home, in part because their parents also lacked the digital competency to provide support.

The Future of Education Requires Digital Competency and Digital Equity

Those students who lack both the means to access digital devices and learn how to effectively use them for education are being left behind. If we truly want to advance education in ways that prepare students not just for the future workplace but to adequately function in an increasingly digital world, we must focus on improving digital skills while addressing equity issues.

  • Broadband should be like any other utility and delivered seamlessly to every home
  • Schools should work to provide approved devices to every child
  • Schools should work with their communities to offer adult education programs to help improve parents’ digital skills
  • Education policies should be overhauled in recognition of the new realities of teaching and learning

OUP Recommendations

The world of education continues to undergo significant digital transformation, and yet so many learners are being left behind because of the digital divide. As our research shows, it isn’t just about ensuring people have access to the relevant devices, or improving connectivity; unless we fill skills gaps and make sure teachers, learners, and parents know how to use digital tools effectively, the digital divide will only continue to grow. ~ Nigel Portwood, CEO, Oxford University Press.

With a call for immediate action from governments around the world, OUP has appealed for:

  • A greater focus on independent learning
  • Building digital competency skills
  • Targeting resources at both ends of the digital divide

Read the full OUP report here.

The Future of Teaching

Every day, we see stories about teachers who are hanging on by a thread, and we hear stories from teachers who can confirm the same and who are, worse yet, actively seeking other opportunities and will leave their careers in education. It’s not that they don’t want to be teachers, but the challenges of these past few years – on top of the many other pressures teachers face in the classrooms – have become insurmountable for some. We need to look at both how to better support educators and reduce attrition as well as look at how the education system can change to accommodate the drop in availability.

Teacher Shortages Are Growing

Throughout the country, the number of people entering the teaching profession is dropping significantly. According to the National Center for Education, education majors accounted for more than 10% of the degree candidates in 1990-1991. That number fell to 4.2% in the 2018-2019 school year. The pandemic has reduced those numbers even further. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are teacher shortages in nearly every state for nearly every subject. A quickly generated report on general math resulted in a nine page list of teacher shortages from Wyoming to Puerto Rico.

Supporting Teachers More Effectively

Teacher turnover is damaging to students. According to research by Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, and Jeffrey C. Schiman, the following impacts occur:

  • Teacher turnover negatively affects achievement despite adverse selection of leavers.
  • Experience loss and grade reassignment account for the negative turnover effects.
  • Negative turnover effects are concentrated in lower-achievement schools.

Reducing teacher attrition, then, has a direct impact on student success.

There are a number of ways we can support our teachers more effectively:

Invest in educators. Increase salaries and offer additional pay when they’re forced to manage both in-class and online students. Pay off their student loans. Cover the costs of all of their supplies; don’t make them beg the internet community to “clear the lists.”

Listen to educators. Listen to your teachers – at the school level, the district level, the state level, and the federal level. Put teachers on the committees that make decisions about policy, health, safety, and, yes, curriculum.

Provide tools for educators. Invest in technology that makes it easier for teachers to do their jobs. This means that at the state and national levels, governments need to free their budgets to invest in equity – broadband for every household, for example. At the district level, districts need to invest in smart technology that makes it easier for teachers to manage not just their teaching responsibilities but all of the other tasks they have, such as SPED reporting and SEL.

Addressing the Tech Skills Gap

There’s a huge tech skills gap. Our partners at Global Grid for Learning have identified some of the risks of not addressing this gap and the threat it represents to our economic stability:

  • Our ability to compete globally could be threatened.
  • Ransomware and phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, resulting in the need for technically capable workers to thwart the threats to our schools, infrastructures, and businesses.
  • As AI, AR, and VR become commonplace in retail, education, healthcare, and other industries, the demand for technically proficient workers will continue to grow.

Radically Alter the Education System

It’s time for an academic overhaul. We’ve been using the same basic education system for more than a century, and we’re not keeping up. Larry Ferlazzo explores this in his two-part series on Futures Thinking. We need to change how we assess, what we teach, and how we prepare students for the workforce of the future. Lumen™ Touch is at the forefront of the education revolution. What do you want to see for the future of teaching?

Assessments, Learning Loss, and the Future of Learning

A lot of people in the education industry are talking about how the pandemic fundamentally changed education, simply because it was being delivered through a different medium.

We disagree.

If the means by which we expect students to learn is not allowed to change, then change doesn’t happen just because we vary the medium through which education is delivered. In fact, most educators, often bound by the curriculum requirements of their districts, are still teaching the same subjects in the same way with the same assessments. Just because they’re doing it online instead of in person doesn’t mean anything has fundamentally changed – and fundamental changes to education are what we really need.

We Need to Stop Focusing on Failure

If a student is excelling in music and art while failing math and science, then that doesn’t mean they’re failing as a student. It means they demonstrate exceptional skill in areas that can lead to innovation. In order to foster the true passion and talent in every student, we need to make a fundamental change in how we assess success. This point has been brought to bear on how we evaluate learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Dr. Yong Zhao explains during an interview with Dr. Wendy Oliver, published on EdisonLearning:

The pandemic has created a very unhappy environment for a lot of children. They’re isolated, they’re not going to school, and they’re not talking to friends. But at the same time, we probably should pay attention to see how they have grown. Human beings learn from experiences. These experiences have changed our children in different ways. Perhaps now they are better at handling adverse situations. They are now better at making friends online, which is essential in today’s life. Maybe your children are becoming more independent in learning? These are the types of things he stresses we really need to focus on.

Right Now, We Assess Failure and Focus on Failure

From early on in our students’ educational journeys, we focus on measuring failure. We conduct spelling and math tests and mark what they get wrong. We focus on how far beneath the average they are and we assume that wherever they are at that moment academically is where they will remain. This places an undue burden on the students and the teachers when they are forced to approach education in this way. Instead, we should be focused on the successes and strengths students have. When we focus on successes and strengths and take the time to understand a student’s passions and interests, we can find ways to improve their subject matter expertise by teaching through their passions.

Every Student Deserves to Have an IEP

Right now, the only students who qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) are those students who have a disability that is recognized by the federal government. But shouldn’t every student have an individualized learning plan that is customized to meet their needs and help them achieve the best outcome?

We must be particularly cautious as we come out of the pandemic, as there is a push to assess students and determine what they’ve lost by learning from home. Brian Moon explores this in terms of the unbounded concern over learning loss. He points out that part of the problem stems from education focusing on the wrong question: “How do we help students perform better on standardized tests?” By doing this, we are forcing teachers to teach to the test and focus on teaching what students need to know to pass tests instead of engaging their minds.

Moon suggests a new question: “How do we use assessment to accelerate, deepen, and showcase individual student learning?”

How Do We Use Assessment to Accelerate, Deepen, and Showcase Individual Student Learning?

That is the question that needs to be explored as we redefine education in the twenty-first century. But in doing so, let’s focus on Moon’s point:

We need not categorize students as deficient in order to justify improving the efficiency, depth, and meaning of their learning experiences. Assessment scores are finite, but learning is limitless. When we center student growth – rather than points or percentiles – as the goal of education, we expand the possibilities for how schools can provide value.

The Future of Learning

The future of learning should be individualized. Assessments should not be used to penalize students but rather to help encourage learning. And what students learn should be modernized and revolutionized so that the students moving through the education system today are prepared to live, work, and engage in the society of tomorrow. Learn more about how Lumen Touch is contributing to the future of learning.

Are Virtual Classrooms the Future of Learning?

Students may be returning to the classroom in the fall, but technology has certainly changed not just our ability to deliver instruction but also the innovation surrounding effective education. Virtual classrooms will not go away. The possibilities are limitless! Here are some great examples of how technology is creating optimal learning experiences:

UCI Professor Goes Virtual

Grown tired of Zoom, Christina Lopes, a professor at University of California, Irvine (UCI), developed a virtual space for her students to obtain hands-on experience in her course, How Computers Work. According to a Newswise article, she helped to create a new program called OpenSimulator. Instead of sitting in a classroom learning from a textbook, students are able to see the code come to life.

Virtual Innovation Is Disrupting Every Industry

From virtual meetings, where the CEO of a company appears as a hologram in various locations around the world, to tradeshows where buyers are able to examine virtual versions of the equipment they are interested in buying, virtual and augmented reality are changing how we perceive the world and how we interact with one another. Virtual environments are enhancing virtually every industry, and education is no exception. Virtual classrooms can help educators meet the needs of more students. What started as a way to reach students when schools closed during the pandemic has revolutionized education in a way that can hopefully continue even as students return to the classroom.

Virtual Classrooms Help Bring Education into the Future

We know that a radical revolution in education is necessary in order to prepare students for the future of work. Teaching to the test and basing student advancement on their ability to regurgitate facts is no longer enough to prepare students for the workforce of the future. Virtual classrooms allow students to accelerate their tech skills, improve their soft skills, and learn how to leverage technology for their benefit.

Virtual Learning and Classrooms Can Co-Exist

No matter how students receive instruction, educators are paramount to the overall success and progress a student makes. Virtual classrooms may never fully replace in-person instruction. But virtual classrooms can be used to enhance the in-classroom experience, by allowing students to pursue individualized and customized areas of learning, thereby giving every student the opportunity to have a richer education. Virtual classrooms can also allow two teachers from different districts, states, or even countries to collaborate to deliver a richer, more diverse curriculum.

Virtual education is not the enemy of the classroom – it is an enhancement to it. And for students who have difficulty being in school every day, either due to illness, disability, or the circumstances of their home life, it can bring additional equity to your district.

Preparing Students for the Future Means Radically Changing Education

“Technology is neither the problem nor the solution, it’s just a tool. In the end, these are all human problems that need human-focused solutions.“ 

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

In March 2018, Vivienne Ming gave a speech at the SingularityU Czech Summit about the future of education and how to robot-proof kids. Fast-forward three years and her words are just as prophetic, if not more so, given the huge shift to virtual and hybrid learning we’ve experienced due to the pandemic.

Resolving Inequities

One of the reasons Lumen™ Touch talks so often about inequity in education is that it really does have an impact on the success of the student. When we can resolve inequities, such as access to the internet, access to a computer, and easy access to libraries, the gap is reduced. Ming explains that there is no bigger impact on children’s minds than their experiences within the home, so the other thing we must tackle to give our students a better future is to address economic barriers at home: access to jobs, transportation, mental health, and medical care. This allows parents to provide the kind of role modeling that students need to start with a stronger foundation.

The Connection Between Education, Workforce, Health, and Inclusion

Ming’s research discovered that people who came from a higher socioeconomic status were 10 times more likely to have patents attributed to them as kids who performed similarly but came from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. When we consider what that means in terms of, as Ming describes it, the massive economic, cultural, and innovative potential that is being squandered, we can clearly see the need to address inequities in education, to take advantage of that potential.

How do we do that?

We level the playing field by providing access to edtech, AI, and other technologies, so that each student has the opportunity to develop, achieve, and contribute.

“In the future 10-15 years from now, there’s only going to be one job description: adaptive, creative problem solver.”

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

Window of Opportunity: Radically Changing Education Can Happen Now

Between the ages of five and eight, a child’s brain is most impacted by things like childhood household stress and childhood isolation. The trauma of those stresses decreases a child’s ability to develop working memory. Using literacy and numeracy, working memory can also be improved. Ming also discovered, through the course of her work, that grades don’t predict success. She goes further, however, insisting that education should be about helping each individual have a happy, healthy, productive life – not just philosophically but in an objective and measurable way.

How Can Radically Changing Education Help All Students?

According to Ming, we must recognize the trap of assuming that who a student is during one parent-teacher conference is not who that student will always be. So, if we learn to give students what they need in the moment, we can maximize their long-term outcomes. And this approach works whether a student is in elementary school or high school or college. It’s about putting emotional intelligence into education.

“If we keep building them for a world that’s not existing 10 years from now, then we will end up with a society in which a tiny sliver of people will be ready to compete.”

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

Watch her presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y5dhBdg48M

What to Expect in the Next School Year

The school year is winding up, and while there will be celebrations and goodbyes and acknowledgements of completing another academic year, most school administrators and IT directors have already turned their attentions to next year. Budgets are being planned, and for the most part, we are all expecting to have most instruction occur in-person.

COVID-19 Has Forever Changed Education

We are seeing signs of permanent changes in education as a result of the experiences we’ve all had during the pandemic. Technology is not going away. In fact, the success of edtech has been so profound that some school districts are recognizing the value that remote learning provides in other circumstances. For example, the New York City public school system has cancelled snow days for the 2021-2022 school year, citing the benefit of remote learning.

Learning Analytics Will Be More Effectively Leveraged

Being able to deliver instruction, manage testing, and analyze data has been strengthened in the past year, and reliance on that data will be used to improve the delivery of education to all students. Because educators will continue to use edtech solutions and learning platforms to deliver some in-class instruction, they’ll be able to swiftly adjust to the needs of the students in their classrooms, using the more immediate feedback from the data.

Health Monitoring and Vaccine Tracking Will Remain Essential

Already, governors are announcing that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a requirement to return to school, placing pressure on schools to be able to track and monitor student health more carefully. In addition, because there will continue to be outbreaks of COVID-19, particularly in those areas that have not yet achieved herd immunity, the ability to conduct health checks and contact tracing will remain essential.

Student Data Security Will Take a Front Seat

Speaking of student data, student data security will be priority number one for school administrators and school IT leaders. From the incorporation of blockchain technology to the use of a private, secure platform through which edtech solutions are obtained, such as Bright PASSPORT, there will be a much more formal effort to ensure that whatever edtech is used by schools is properly vetted, securely obtained, and approved for use.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Lumen™ Touch can help you meet the rapidly changing needs of your district, get in touch.

Going Back to School Shouldn’t Mean Going Back to What Was

The pandemic has been a tragedy of grand proportions, and we do not want to take lightly the impact it has had on people throughout the country and around the world. However, we believe strongly in finding the positive and the hope in any circumstance – and in celebrating the resiliency and the innovative nature of people under pressure. We want to celebrate the scientists who are guiding us through the pandemic with rapidly developed vaccines and treatments. And of course, because of the industry we are in, we are elated with the progress we’ve seen in edtech and the nearly overnight transformation it has had on education – which is why it is all the more important that going back to school does not mean falling back into pre-pandemic patterns of providing education.

Edtech Should Be Here to Stay

Edtech has often been haphazardly incorporated into curricula, almost as a forced segment instead of a method for enabling teachers to better engage and encourage students. Having been thrust into online education, edtech and tech solutions took a front seat for many schools for the first time. But that technology, which may have been hastily thrown together to meet an urgent need, can now be properly integrated into varied curricula permanently.

Moving Education Forward

Hybrid learning, exposing students to the technology in which they will need to be savvy for success in the work environment, and giving educators tools that make it easier for them to be effective and engaging without being bogged down in the minutiae of paperwork should be priorities. Learning systems that allow teachers to automate lessons and grading practices, so that they can focus on individualized attention to students, should be the norm, not just a pandemic response.

Back to School Does Not Have to Mean Back to What Was

We will be announcing some new collaborations and innovations throughout the year, but the main motivation will be to continue pushing education into the 21st century. As school districts begin discussing the resumption of full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is for back to school to become a euphemism for back to what many consider to be normal.

In an education system that literally has not been updated in over a century, the changes that have happened because we have had to adapt must be sustained. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.

Hindsight 2020: A Year Filled with Hope

Do you remember what you were doing a year ago today? You might have been sending the kids off to school, driving to work, or shopping for Christmas presents. You most likely weren’t running back in to grab your mask, transforming your dining room into a work-study area for your kids, or angling your laptop just right for the light and background in your bedroom to hop on yet another zoom call. A lot can change in a year. And from our perspective, it’s a year that points to the endurance of spirit, the kindness of strangers, and the ability to transform challenge into progress.

We Will Endure

We’ve worked through challenges to overcome everything from zoom bombs to Wi-Fi inequity. Along the way, we’ve learned that teachers are wonderfully committed beyond all expectation to caring for their students – and that they can get pretty creative in finding ways to do just that – like the teacher laying on the side of the road recording an ant hill for his students using a GoPro. Or the teacher who used his stimulus check to pay his students’ utility bills. Or all of the teachers who showed up this fall – in person, online, and both – still ready to give their students 100% every day.

We Are All Innovators

The saying necessity is the mother of invention has never been more accurate. From parking buses in neighborhoods to deliver WiFi to rolling out new technology to make it easier for schools to safely track and monitor student heatlh, innovative solutions have been in abundance to help students, teachers, parents, and schools have a successful year. Nowhere has that innovation been more apparent than from the scientists who have rapidly developed multiple viable vaccines.  

Hope Is Eternal

Throughout this year, amidst the tears, frustration, and loss, there has been an underlying feeling of hope. From a renewed appreciation for the essential workers in our communities to empty pet shelters across the country, good things happened in 2020. Here are some of the highlights:

Vaccines are being distributed as we speak. Our ability to endure, innovate, and maintain hope will see us through to a BRIGHTer 2021.