Student as Customer

At Leadership Public Schools in Oakland, Calif., teachers, students and technologists worked together to create software called ExitTicket for mobile devices that helps teachers and students gauge how well students are absorbing lessons. If the kids aren't getting it, teachers can stop a class and go over the material again -- before anyone goes home and struggles over the homework.

Educators at Aspire Public Schools have recently spun out a startup company called Schoolzilla that creates a data management that pulls together assessment and operational data so teachers have a snapshot of what's going on. And at Summit Public Schools, educators have reached out to work with entrepreneurs to understand how to best employ technology to help their students.

Educators are not only using technology; they're helping to build it. Over the past 2.5 years, entrepreneurs have launched hundreds of startups devoted to building education technology (or edtech). Rather than slowing, that startup fever will likely increase: Over the past year, more than a dozen "incubators," have popped up, each nurturing at least six and often more edtech startups. 

Having educators involved in starting edtech companies is key to ensuring that the evolving technology solves real problems for schools. Even so with this onslaught of technology, how are educators to know what might help their students? How can school leaders and educators make good choices?

Questions that educators must ask are these:
1. What are my students' needs and goals?
2. What kind of teaching model should the tools support? What other needs do teachers have?
3. How much do my students (or teachers) need to connect with others outside the school?
4. What are the professional needs of teachers?
5. What is my tolerance for experimenting with technology?
6. Does it 'work'? 

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