In our commitment to bringing practitioner voice into SEERNet, we have formed the first SEERNet practitioner advisory board. The board will engage with SEERNet members in ongoing conversations about what is meaningful and relevant to the field and how to disseminate findings in ways that lead to digital learning platforms being widely and well used and having a positive impact.
The board convened for the first time in January. As part of that meeting, we asked board members to share their perspectives on digital learning platform use in the classroom, including challenges, opportunities, and gaps in how they are used and by whom.
We asked what makes a Digital Learning Platform [DLP] effective and worth using, and how do you know? Paul Strode, a high school teacher, explained, “We need to keep the students’ learning experience at the front of this conversation. We’re here because we want to improve teaching and learning and the experience of the student. If it doesn’t improve the student experience and student learning, then it’s not worth doing.” Other advisors agreed that seeing that impact was a key factor in teacher buy-in and appropriate use.
Advisors also spoke about fidelity of implementation. Jenna Zacamy, a researcher from Empirical Education on the SEERNet leadership team explained, “in some ways, for a researcher, having variability in implementation is what you want. But in other ways, if you have teachers who haven’t been trained properly and aren’t able to implement it, what conclusions are you actually drawing?” Chad Sorrells, a math and technology coordinator, shared an experience where ineffective use led to the removal of a program: “We had teachers that did not use [the DLP] correctly in the past, and it became villainized in my district. They’re getting rid of it. It is really a wonderful platform for providing students personalized learning.” The advisors shared the importance of training, expectation setting, and coaching in effective implementation.
Ryan Estrellado, Director of Data Programs for California’s Cradle to Career program, offered another perspective: “We see this in technology all the time. Platforms are designed to solve certain problems and then users use them to solve other problems that are more meaningful to them. Even ones that are designed for different things, with the right kinds of practical application, can become really meaningful in a personal way, even in ways that the designers hadn’t intended.”
In forming the board, we sought practitioners with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. The six person board brings both content and context expertise, with a combined 146 years of experience in education. Dr. Cheryl Robertson, middle school science teacher, shared why she agreed to serve on the board: “I have 30 years of experience in middle school classrooms, and I want to give back to the profession I have loved so much for so many years.”
Our board members are:
In the months, and hopefully years, to come, the board will become an integral part of the SEERNet team, serving not only to provide insight into the classroom, but also as a sounding board for SEERNet’s DLPs and researchers, and partner DLPs, potentially helping DLPs broaden their impacts in ways they didn’t initially imagine.
To learn more about our approach to practitioner engagement, read Practitioners at the Center: Catalyzing Research on Problems of Practice in Realistic Settings.