Tips for Designing a Future-Focused EdTech Mindset

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As of March 29, 2020, school closures due to COVID-19 have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week. In a recent edWebinar sponsored by NetRef, Dr. Justin Aglio, Director of Academic Achievement and District Innovation, Montour School District, PA, expressed that while we have prepared for school closures due to weather and disasters, school districts have found themselves in an unprecedented reality.

While educators and support staff are trying to ensure a continuity of learning for their students during school closures, school and district leaders have an opportunity to design a positive future. Aglio recommends that districts align every action and decision regarding remote and virtual learning to their mission, vision, and core values. In the Montour School District, they are designing a positive future for Montour schools aligning every action and decision to their three core values: curricula, educational technology, professional development.

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Adopt and Adapt

As recent as three months ago, school districts had robust, successful adapt and adopt methods for new curricula and programming, which included the collaborative process of assessment, observation, and reflection. However, due to the current school closure situation, most school districts are forced to use an adopt and adapt method for online and remote learning software and curricula. Aglio points out that school districts must implement the same collaborative process for the acquisition of educational programs and curricula no matter whether stakeholders are meeting in person in a school conference room or online in a Zoom or Google meeting room.

The New August

Aglio recommends that teachers and school leaders take a step back and consider March as the new August focusing on the start of the school year expectations, curricula, scope and sequence, and relationship building. He prescribes five tips for designing a student-centered, future-focused edtech mindset. Ensure equity for all students, especially students with disabilities, low-income students, and ELL students through digital resources such as Google sites and Classrooms, television options such as PBS, and communication tools such as Google phone, and snail mail. Develop a clear game plan, including clear, precise, and accessible communication options that support the entire school community. Build a healthy community through a focus on learning for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and school board members while creating a sense of belonging that sends a voice that we are all in this together. Continue to provide and use quality district vetted resources and not fall in the trap of “trying” new educational resources. Lastly, school leaders should reflect every day to assess current practices that connect all stakeholders, especially our students.

This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by NetRef.

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This article was modified and published by eSchool News.

About the Presenter

Dr. Justin Aglio currently serves as Director of Academic Achievement and District Innovation for Montour School District, PA. He is a former classroom teacher and award-winning principal. In addition to his duties at Montour, he is a Visiting LearnLab Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute in the School of Computer Science; a Getting Smart Columnist; an Adjunct STEM Professor at the California University of Pennsylvania; a Future Ready Schools Thought Leader; and was selected as a participant in the 2015 Presidential Maker Roundtable discussion at the White House. Dr. Aglio and his thoughts on equity, leadership, STEM, artificial intelligence, personalized learning, and innovation have been featured in such publications as Forbes, EdSurge, Education Week, Getting Smart, American School Board Journal, AASA, and many more. Dr. Aglio has been a keynote speaker and presenter at a variety of conferences across the country including ASCD, ISTE, FETC, PLearn, OETC, AIM Institute for Learning and Research, and MASS Customization Mid-Atlantic Summit.

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NETREFEasy to use and integrate, NetRef is a classroom management solution that helps teachers and students stay focused on learning by managing access to the internet and apps on any device, including student-owned smartphones. Now operating in schools in 26 states, NetRef enables schools to maximize their EdTech investments by providing insight into the use of digital learning tools and by empowering teachers to keep students on task when using devices. Learn more at