A Parent's Guide to All That 'Ed Tech' In Your Kid's Classroom

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These kids have some questions. Us too.

This story is part of New Tech City's series on education and technology.

A challenge for you: Ask a 4-year-old about their day in school. Ask what they did, who they played with, what they learned. When you're done with your little interview, see what you've learned  and whether you have any idea why they were doing what they were doing. 

Quick case in point:

Most parents are sending their kids into classrooms that function radically differently from the ones they attended themselves, and many of you have told us you're overwhelmed.

So, to that end, we brought Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s lead education blogger and author of "The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be," and Adriene Hill, senior reporter for Marketplace’s LearningCurve project on education and technology, together to tell us what, exactly, happens in the schools of our 21st century children — and they gave us some good questions designed to cut through the buzzwords popping up everywhere:

Want an old-fashioned paper print out? We've got one for you here.

If your school says... 

"We're raising money so we can put a tablet in the hands of every kid."

    • What training and development resources are you providing to teachers so they can use the devices effectively?
    • What percentage of the money you're raising will go toward evaluating the outcomes of the new systems?
    • Where are you getting the curriculum? 
    • What do we know about how successful this curriculum has been in the past?
    • Who's reading the privacy policies on the apps my kids will be using?
    • What percentage of the money you're raising will go toward evaluating the outcomes of the new systems?

"We’re moving toward a blended learning model."

    • Walk me through what my kid’s day will look like.
    • How will expectations of my child change?
    • How will expectations of me as a parent change?
    • How will I be able to know what’s going on?
    • How will you use information collected outside of the classroom?

"We want to experiment with a flipped classroom."

    • How are you going to use your in class time if you use video lectures as homework?
    • What are you going to assign out of class? 
    • What software and/or connectivity do I need at home to make sure my kids can complete assignments?

"We think games are the way forward. We’re going to be using lots of games."

    • What kind of games? What’s the actual engagement for kids? 
    • What concepts are the games trying to evoke? What are the higher-order skills involved (memorization, delivering content, higher order skills)?
    • What if my kid doesn't like games?

"We’re partnering with Google to get coding into our schools so kids can make, and not just use, tech."

    • Which teachers will be working on this? What’s their background? Why are they interested?
    • Why is this right for my kid and this school?
    • What will coding classes do in terms of critical thinking skills that, say, a cooking class wouldn't?

If you want a vocabulary lesson to get started, we've made a glossary of useful ed tech terms.

Let us know if you have more suggestions on Twitter or Facebook.

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