Dallas, Texas – New technologies like generative AI can help K-12 schools achieve excellence if teachers know how to use them and navigate the challenges, write authors in the latest issue of The Learning Professional.

The Learning Professional‘s new issue examines how digital technologies are transforming the learning experience and teaching practice in K-12. It reports that high-quality educator professional learning strategies like coaching and teacher collaboration – stalwart strategies that help teachers hone their practices – are vital for ensuring technology works for schools and students. The issue takes a look at the 2024 U.S. educational technology policy guide – updated for the first time in 10 years – and features an interview with the director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab about what educators should know about AI.

In Focus, Zac Chase unpacks recommendations from the new National Educational Technology Plan (NETP). The U.S. policy guide describes how three types of “digital divides” limit the transformational potential of educational technology to support teaching and learning. Chase drills down on overcoming gaps in teachers’ capacity to use technology in truly meaningful ways that benefit students, pointing out that it’s not just about having the tools in the classroom but about making good use of them. Learning Forward was a member of the consortium that developed the 2024 NETP, partnering with the U.S. Department of Education to conduct interviews with hundreds of educators to inform the plan. Our front row seat to the nation’s changing K-12 education policy gave us unique insight into what educators say they need to be successful with technology integration, said Melinda George, Learning Forward’s Chief Policy Officer. “What educators told us is that the most important factor in succeeding with technology is professional learning for teachers,” George said.

What educators told us is that the most important factor in succeeding with technology is professional learning for teachers. Click To Tweet

Another article shows how the district educational technology team in Denver (Colorado) Public Schools is providing teachers with sustained, in-depth learning about technology integration that goes beyond large-scale workshops. With a heavy emphasis on coaching cycles, the professional learning is offered in units that allow teachers to earn credits toward license renewal and salary advancement. As a result, teachers are improving their instruction so students can learn more.

In a featured interview about AI, Justin Reich, director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, says educators should be less concerned about students cheating and more concerned about them “bypassing cognition,” or missing learning opportunities. He says both issues can be addressed through adapting activities and rethinking assignments to make sure students still have to think. Schools also need to address concerns over the increasing disparities that AI technology could bring, he says, pointing out that just because ChatGPT is free doesn’t mean it’s going to be used effectively and equitably by all: “Educators in underresourced schools tell me they would love to spend a day learning how to incorporate ChatGPT, but it’s too far down their list of priorities and urgent issues.”

In Voices, Learning Forward President and CEO Frederick Brown writes that professional learning needs to keep up with evolving classroom technologies. As an increasing number of curriculum materials are digital, assessments are computerized, and instruction incorporates technology tools, job-embedded professional learning needs to incorporate the same tools that teachers will be using with students, he says, adding that single-session workshops are not an effective way to integrate new technology.

With more than half of new teachers reporting they feel uncomfortable using technology in the classroom (ISTE, 2023), Data Points highlights a timely analysis of the education reform movement that reinforces the positive impact of new teacher mentoring and defines characteristics of educators who make effective mentors to help novice teachers gain instructional skill and classroom confidence. Among them are the ability to make their thinking processes explicit and having adequate time to be well-prepared and do the work.

For many schools, it’s a big shift to systematically build teacher expertise to not only navigate the potential and pitfalls of evolving technology, but to incorporate technology into their classes in ways that really make a difference for student learning, according to The Learning Professional editor-in-chief, Suzanne Bouffard. “This issue can help educators deepen their understanding of digital learning and access resources and advice to foster new opportunities in their instructional practices.”

The Learning Professional is Learning Forward’s flagship journal on K-12 educator professional learning research and innovative practices. In every issue, The Learning Professional explores today’s most consequential educator professional learning issues, interprets new research in order to advance better decision-making, examines policy that guides practice, and shares practical examples from schools and districts putting innovative learning agendas into practice in ways that respond to their unique contexts. The Learning Professional editors accept and generate articles from practitioners, education researchers, teacher leaders and learning teams, district administrators and principals that showcase professional learning best practices and demonstrate fidelity to Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning (updated 2022). The magazine is published six times a year. Full access to every article is a Learning Forward member benefit.

Media notes

Media Contact: Gail Paul, gail.paul@learningforward.org, (513) 379-8153

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The majority of articles in the digital issue are accessible to members-only. Contact us for media access to the content.

About Learning Forward

Learning Forward leads the field in making clear connections between high-quality professional learning and student achievement. As a champion for highly effective professional learning and a catalyst for change, Learning Forward demonstrates evidence and research that inform professional learning decisions. We produce, synthesize, and curate key research and reports that inform best practices. A membership association, Learning Forward provides a combination of publicly available and members-only content and professional services that assist classroom, school, and system leaders in solving their unique problems of practice. Information about the organization, including Standards for Professional Learning, membership, services, and products, is available at www.learningforward.org.