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Guest blog by Eileen Rudden, Ann Koufman-Frederick, and Martin Geoghegan

Teachers are looking for more integration among the technology products they use in the classroom. This is the conversation we heard from three different groups of teachers who met with LearnLaunch and MASCD at the largest annual gathering of educators interested in technology in New England, the MASSCUE conference.

LearnLaunch sponsors an Innovation Space for edtech entrepreneurs at the conference, which hosts 1800 educators. MASCD and LearnLaunch sponsored a workshop to listen to “teacher voice” on what they are looking for from edtech.

As you might expect, many of the participants are early adopters of technology, and they are relied on by others in their schools to try out and pioneer new software

Assessment took up a lot of the discussion, primarily because the teachers are seeking to differentiate instruction, and see assessment as a key to understanding what students have learned and need to learn.  Several were looking to provide assignments to students that could be graded automatically so they could respond more quickly to student’s needs. They complained about early entrants into this space, where an extra space can result in incorrect grading. And they expressed a desire for help with English Language Arts grading, beyond plagiarism checks.  The demand to construct digital portfolios of student work is also growing.

Many of the teachers were frustrated by the lack of a predictable source of funding for the software, causing them to seek free software first, or to work software to the end of free trial periods, try to recruit other colleagues and bring the principal and rest of the school along.  This is a challenge for time-pressed teachers. Yet School-wide adoptions, or district-wide adoptions are desired, because as digital tools use grows, it is inappropriate to ask students to use different generic software tools (like an LMS) in different classes. It was estimated by some that only 10% of teachers use an LMS, even though this could be a mechanism for more consistency for students between classrooms.

As Chromebooks have been widely adopted, more educators have moved to the Google suite, including Google Classrooms and were actively investigating Google add-ins.

They also look to understand how instructional technology is aligned with the curriculums and pedagogy they are pursuing. They talked about how they want the products to have more meaningful curriculum ties that smoothly translate into lessons.

As teachers actually start adopting software, the requirement to create a more planned digital learning environment is growing stronger. “The wild west of education software”   may gradually change to interconnected offerings linked by the IMS standards, or software suites. Entrepreneurs will be need to make savvy investment decisions on what platforms to integrate with (beyond single sign-on and rosters) and how to align their go-to-market with emerging platforms. And school systems will move to create lists of preferred instructional technology.

Eileen Rudden is a co-founder of LearnLaunch. Martin Geoghegan is the President of the Massachusetts ASCD (MASCD) and Principal of John T Nichols Middles School in Middleborough, MA. Ann Koufman-Frederick serves on the board of MASCD and LearnLaunch Institute.