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Innovative Technology in Education

Posted by Joe Dunnigan on Oct 16, 2015 4:54:42 PM

Recently I had the privilege of attending TEDx Fargo. There were many great speakers on a number of subjects; the discussions that really stuck with me centered around education. We heard presentations from Dr. Anne Blackhurst, president of MSUM; Kayla Delzer, a second grade teacher in West Fargo; Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist focusing on education; and many others. Their message was clear: we need to innovate and be creative to solve the many problems in education that are facing us today. That message stuck with me, and I want to know how I can use my skills in software development to help make a difference.

We are all affected by the quality and methods of our current education systems, and I've had many personal experiences with this in the past few years. I have three kids currently in grade school, and I see the impact of education initiatives, both local and government mandated, every day. I also get to see first hand how technology is being used to help improve the learning process.  
I have also had a number of opportunities of late to see first hand how technology is being taught and applied in our local colleges. We were recently interviewing for a software development position, and had a handful of candidates from the local university system. I was surpised that these candidates, at least one of which were completing a masters degree, had few skills that I thought could be applied to the business software development processes that we are using in our daily work. On the other hand, I had the privilege of presenting for a college Javascript/HTML coding class last fall, and was impressed at the subject matter the students were being exposed to, and was excited to share how we do our work and what technologies are in demand in our business. Those two cases were from different university systems, which I think highlights a progressive nature at some schools, and a traditional approach at others.

Using technology as a tool to educate and teaching technology as a career may appear to be two different subjects, but I don't think that is always the case. Using technology on a daily basis and understanding the tools at one's disposal are very empowering. I also agree with current initiatives to add computer programming as a core competency in primary schools. Computer programming if nothing else teaches critical and logical thinking skills that are a valuable asset in today's workforce. Many of us will have the opportunity to work together with software developers at some point in our career, and as a software developer, I can say that if the people on the other side of the table have a better understanding of how it works, we all win.

And now I have to look at how I can help. What can I do to make an impact? At Network Center, Inc. we are seeing increased potential and existing business with local area schools. I've even spoken with local churches looking to improve their education methods and toolsets. Many discussions center around integration - how can we take existing systems and get them to work together, or share data between systems in order to improve business processes? 

At my kids' school, they have been integrating Chromebooks into the classroom for a few years now. The kids even have Google accounts where they receive and turn in assignments. I'm still trying to wrap my head around some of that. We're looking at the same kind of classroom management in some other locations. Recently I've been researching Google Classroom, a suite of tools that is available to Google Apps for Education subscribers (the service is free for education and non-profit institutions). Google Classroom allows educators to manage classes, class rosters, assignments, and more. They also offer an API, which allows developers like myself to extend the functionality and integrate external systems. We could explore using this to automate classroom and roster creation, connect teachers and parents, and remove technology roadblocks that exist today. I would also love it if we could cut down on the amount of paper that is sent home every day!

Education is so important to us, and when I find ways to use my skills and knowledge to improve the way our kids are taught and how our colleges prepare the next generation of our workforce, I jump at the chance and am thankful for it. Please consider us for your next technology initiative, we'd love to help!

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Topics: technology in education

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