How has the Pandemic Changed EdTech? - SULS0155In this episode, Kasey interviews Doug Roberts, CEO, and Founder of the Institute for Education Innovation.

Together, Kasey and Doug discuss a lot of important topics, including the current state of educational leadership, how leaders can connect and access essential solutions, how the pandemic has changed edtech, learning loss, teacher retention, mental health and SEL, and getting teachers the respect and pay they deserve.

Listen in on this critical conversation!

Doug began his career as a high school history teacher, who fell in love with analyzing primary sources and sharing that with students. While looking for a way to supplement his income, Doug took a summer job working with a friend of a friend who had begun an online school in 2001. He moved onto an early LMS which was a launching point for him to recognize his talent for helping edtech companies expand.

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After years of meeting superintendents and working with technology vendors, Doug discovered that the two groups needed a solution for meeting each other. He solved this problem by listening to each group and providing them with what they needed, which was communication. That model became the Institute for Education Innovation. Superintendents are able to connect with IEI to share their greatest needs and then be connected with the companies that offer those solutions. 

A Mass Exodus of Educators

The world of education is hemorrhaging its greatest talent. From superintendents who are chased away by communities to teachers folding under the pressure of the current reality in schools. Losing this much talent leaves a major gap for leaders in the educational system. 

Doug shares that in many districts and communities a priority is not set for superintendents to learn and grow as leaders. Essentially, they have demonized learning for those who hold the highest leadership positions. Spending the money for leadership to learn from other leaders allows for growth to take place. It’s also important for colleagues across state lines to interact and learn from each other.  

Gaps in Education Exposed

One important factor brought on by the pandemic was the knowledge that many students were not being served. For example, the pandemic exposed the urban and rural pockets of children who do not have access to internet services. 

Related: 5 Shifts We Need in Education Now!

Doug also points out the lack of women and people of color who are represented in leadership positions making major educational decisions for districts. When comparing the percentage of students to those who represent them in leadership positions the gaps are large. Roughly 20% of the superintendents are women, yet the percentage of female teachers is a massive majority. 

Doug quotes a study that indicated 91% of the female superintendents surveyed expressed that they held that position of leadership based on the mentoring they received. This data should propel the current leadership to go looking for those women and teachers of color who have the skills to lead and provide them with mentorship. 

Studies show that children do better in school when they see themselves represented in the leadership of their school. With a 50% students of color population and 51% of all students being female, there should absolutely be more women and people of color serving in leadership capacities.  

Teacher Challenges

At the onset of the pandemic parents quickly learned some of the difficulties teachers deal with on a daily basis. Teachers gained the much-deserved respect that has always been due to them. This respect has now faded and teachers have been placed back in the line of fire with parents and communities censoring books and materials. 

Related: Must-Have Tips and Tools for Pandemic Teaching

If stepping into a leadership position has ever been an aspiration of yours, now is the time to step up and take hold of that dream. Even if you may not currently pose the proper credentials speak up and reach out, those details will sort themselves out. 

A number of education companies are also looking to hire former educators to come work for them. While this is extremely problematic for the current teacher shortage, these positions are available and possibly more appealing. However, working in the private sector could be too much of a difference and an extreme lifestyle change. 

Is Learning Loss a Myth?

Kasey brings up the topic of how this concept of “learning loss” is being coined by the media and talked about in many keynote speeches. Teachers are finding this offensive and dismissive of the hard work done throughout the pandemic. Doug shares that the reality is learning loss has been taking place all along, pandemic or no pandemic. Students who do not have resources at home or proper care are always at risk of learning loss. 

Learning loss has always been placed on the shoulders of teachers rather than looking at the root causes of the problem. Doug shares that the districts he works with are looking for the right blend of resources to provide educators solutions for the learning loss that has happened with individual students. 

Doug makes the point that it’s also incredibly important for educators to help students heal from the trauma of these past few years. It’s also important for leadership in education to help their educators heal their trauma as well. Prioritizing true methods of rest and healing opportunities over special treatment that masks as a reward. A jeans pass and food are not rewards that match the work. The same can be said for a day off not being the same as a raise. 

Teachers deserve to be treated as professionals. Teachers deserve to be paid for the job they do. Teachers deserve greater respect. There are places where these topics are being discussed and changes are being made. Sharing and learning from other educators is the best thing educators can do for each other. Be part of the conversation or start the conversation.  

About Doug Roberts

Doug has worked with leading ed-tech entrepreneurs and district administrators for almost 20 years, developing partnerships that improve outcomes for students and help nascent organizations get their “sea legs.”

As Founder and President of Educational Solutions Consulting, Doug found that there was a piece of the puzzle missing, a barrier between those who run school districts and those who start companies to help school districts. He partnered with some of the nation’s most innovative educational leaders to form IEI to bridge that gap.

A Princeton graduate, Doug is a former public high school social studies teacher and ed-tech business development executive who earned his Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.


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