Wendy Kopp on Technology in the Classroom

Wendy Kopp: Well so first of all I think education must be the only sector that hasn’t already been completely revolutionized by technology.  I think about even how we do our work within Teach for America or Teach for All now versus ten years ago and it’s completely and totally different just based on the power of technology.  So there is no doubt - I mean we’re not leveraging technology in the way that we absolutely must if we’re gonna insure that kids truly attain an excellent education given how far we need to go in that pursuit from where we are right now.  And I think there’s so much that technology can do.  We should be thinking about how to use the gaming technology that is so addictive for kids to good end for educational purposes.


We can with - we should be able to do so much to get our teachers and our parents and our kids all clear on where kids are relative to where they’re supposed to be based on rigorous standards so that – I mean the most powerful way to motivate a kid is to tell them here’s where you are against where you’re supposed to be.  Like they become obsessed with getting where they’re supposed to be.  Parents are dying for that information.  Teachers themselves would benefit a lot from better information on that score.  And if we could get that information in the hands of all those folks at the same time right there we would  we would improve a lot.  We should be individualizing instruction utilizing that data to actually give teachers the tools necessary to meet the needs of a very diverse group of kids which exists in every class.

So there’s just, there’s so much we need technology to do.  At the same time I’ve been somewhat disconcerted by some of the discussion that goes on around technology and education because it almost - and this seems extreme but I’ve sat in rooms full of folks who think that we could give kids tablets and that’s it.  Like they’re gonna teach themselves.  And I think in the end, especially when you’re working with the most marginalized kids, the kids who are facing so many extra challenges, who don’t have safety nets.  They have the opposite of safety nets around them.  I don’t think we’re gonna be able to replace just the kind of importance and power of personal relationships.  Whenever we’ve seen the kids in the most disadvantaged context truly excel always it’s been in classrooms and in whole schools where there is a clear vision of where the kids have the potential to be, where there are people working incredibly hard to convince the kids that they can succeed if they work hard enough and that it will make a difference in their lives.

There’s so much that goes into building a culture of achievement.  And there’s a lot that goes on that could be better done with technology as well.  You know, like if the teachers and the principals in those schools had access to really great technology they could no doubt speed up learning.  What we need is all of that together. Technology alone won’t be the panacea.  But if we can bring it to bear within a context of all the foundations that are important for quality education it could be a huge accelerator. 


Wendy Kopp, the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, and the founder and chair of Teach For America, says that classrooms need to use data to help students achieve their potential.

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