Recent news reports have focused on Pittsburgh Public Schools’ investment in educational technology, or “Ed Tech,” and questioned the value of such programs. As an educator, I always tend to view these situations as an opportunity to share knowledge in an effort to create better awareness.
Ed Tech is a broad term that we use to describe tools that school districts use to teach and assess students. They also create a learning environment that keeps pace with our technology-driven world.
Technology is as essential to the education of today’s student as notebooks, pencils, and books have been to previous generations. In a world where students will be expected to use technology to find unfamiliar locations, look up information, or work with other people, we must prepare them accordingly.
We also use Ed Tech to evaluate how well the District is doing its job: it helps us objectively measure not only what a student knows, but also how they learn, where they struggle, and how to better reach them. It allows us to connect the third grader with the tools to become a more confident reader and the high schooler to locate scholarships. It has the potential to help bridge the achievement gap between the haves and the have nots.
None of this is to say that all technology is perfect, or is worth what it costs to purchase and implement. As with any product or service, before we invest in an Ed Tech contract, we must carefully evaluate how it meets our students’ needs and whether it delivers on its promises. We must determine whether it is affordable and if so, whether it will add true value to the education we are responsible for providing.
It is critical that taxpayers understand that Pittsburgh Public Schools’ procurement process for contract approval, including our Ed Tech contracts, align with the Pennsylvania state code as well as federal grants guidance. We are mindful of the fact that we are spending taxpayer dollars and strive to invest only in the technology that offers the highest return on investment.
As Superintendent, I strive for transparency, accountability, and — most of all — meaningful, relevant, and continuous improvement for all our District’s students. I will continue to pursue the best possible tools for implementing this philosophy and fostering an education that will carry our children into the world fully equipped to contribute, participate, and lead.