Author Archives: maggieearheart

Is educational technology worth the hype or not?

When I started working as a middle school math and science core teacher fifteen years ago, not many of us had computers in our classrooms, for that matter not many of us had cell phones. In fact it was a time when only 36% of American households owned a cell phone (The Wall Street Journal, 2009) and only 26% of American families had personal computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001), and those that did used them for business purposes primarily.


Times have changed, I now work at an elementary site. And 91% of American households have cell phones (Rainie, 2013), with over 75% of Americans owning personal computers (File, 2013). As educators we have an obligation to teach children to be computer literate, to be knowledgeable and critical consumers of online information and media, as well as to prepare them to be responsible digital citizens.


In my mind the poignant question is not “is it worth the hype?” but rather, “why would we not want to incorporate technology into our classrooms and schools?” I do believe that technology needs to be brought into our educational institutions responsibly and consistently in order to meet the needs of the current generation and future generations.


How can we as educators help to facilitate these changes? Well, luckily there are many websites and blogs geared towards making the task of integrating technology easier for the administrator, educator and parent, such as Edutopia. The ongoing discussions at these websites are very useful. Some schools are integrating technology in very innovative ways utilizing SmartBoards, iPads, Chromebooks, and students computers while using Open Educatioanl Resources, as well as implementing educational programs aimed at helping students work individually at their own level in math and/or reading. Some particularly popular programs in our district are Successmaker and IXL.


How can we do this with the least amount of strain fiscally? The financial piece is a very real obstacle for many school districts across America that are already cash poor. At my own school the Parent Teacher Association is currently footing the bill for much of the equipment and upkeep, and a partnership between teachers and the PTA has been established to assist when technical difficulties arise. Another solution is the use of personal devices which the students bring in.


There may be a lot of  hype regarding technology, but it is worth the investment for the future.


U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. (2001). Home computers and internet use in the united states: august 2000. Retrieved from:


Rainie, Lee. (2013). Cell phone ownership hits 91% of adults. Retrieved from:


The Wall Street Journal. (2009). Cellphone ownership soared since 1998. Retrieved from:


File, Thom. (2013). Computer and internet use in the united states: population characteristics. Retrieved from:


Ed Tech Blog:

Educational Technology Blog Review

January 20, 2014

The blog Edutopia (, sponsored by The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), “GLEF is dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.” The topics that are offered on Edutopia run the gamut from those directed to administrators, education trends, new teacher support, and parent partnerships. It provides a thoughtful platform for “researchers, teacher leaders and curriculum experts” in the field to share their expertise and for all to “join the conversation” and add their own insight.

As in any blog there are those select few who use the forum to espouse their own agendas. Although I must say I did find this to be exception, rather than the rule, as most of the participants have a genuine concern for the topic.

Edutopia is an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in education. Followers are able to find information on current issues and relevant topics in education today, as well as access lessons. To quote from the website: “Through Edutopia’s vibrant community of change-makers in education, GLEF spreads the word about ideal, interactive learning environments and enables others to adapt these successes locally.”

Mastery Connect Review


The Good: Mastery Connect is a web based software system which allows teachers to “effectively assess core standards, monitor student performance, and report student mastery to parents and administrators.” This program can be used across many subjects and is available for Title I funding. Mastery Connect allows users to share ideas with learning communities in their district as well as the other 10,000 districts in the network. It permits users to quickly and easily create or access assessments aligned to the Common Core or state standards, store resource pins and retrieve “additional resource tools to help teach and understand the standards. Mastery Connect was designed with Response to Intervention in mind [and] identify[ing] students for tiered interventions has never been easier.” This program provides immediate feedback on assessments to allow teachers to conduct ongoing diagnostics. The free resources available include: Team Data Collaboration Tools & Reporting, Assessment Privacy Controls, Student Reports, Parent Reporting, and Curriculum Maps. (

The Bad: Access to all available features of Mastery Connect requires a subscription to the Premium package for $159 per year or $6 per student per year. Free package does not allow short answer questions, only bubble sheet, and the number of questions are limited. In order to access features of the program that grade assessments instantly, additional technology is required.

The Bottom line: Mastery Connect was created by an educator to assist other educators in creating formative assessments to monitor student progress and to report those findings. This innovative, user friendly program can be a quick and powerful tool when considering the competition of other assessment apps available to teachers.