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Technology Solutions Help Educators Focus on Students’ Needs

By February 14, 2019 No Comments

NJEdge Partners with Google for Education and Mend the Gap

Each child walking through a teacher’s door comes in with different needs. A great teacher works hard to reach these diverse boys and girls, often burning the candle at both ends. These educators make themselves available to their students by coming to school early or by staying late.

The problem is there’s only so much time in a day to teach and build relationships, while also sifting through procedures and practices. Educators often spend considerable time searching for the right differentiated instruction or individualized experiences for those they’ve been gifted with for the year.

It’s interesting to see what happens when a teacher streamlines this process and is able to make decisions for their students’ learning based on current data. The information could literally save the life of a student.

Closing these information loopholes is why Mend the Gap is partnering with NJEdge to become a Google for Education partner and help K-12 educational leaders and teachers gain access to software solutions that provide individualized learning experiences for their students.

“This solution is a good fit for NJEdge because the organization has a long history of supporting critical school initiatives. Partnering with Google allows NJEdge to provide a service that’s in very high demand throughout New Jersey and throughout the country,” said Todd Hoffman, Founder of Mend the Gap.

Becoming an education partner with Google provides NJEdge with another ability to support schools that are either thinking about a transition to the Google ecosystem, in the midst of a transition, or already made the transition. A solidified partnership allows NJEdge to serve as a central source for licensing hardware, Chromebooks, tablets and training, and implementation services. Conversely, this partnership helps K-12 schools and educators gain the tools and skills they need to care and teach their students more effectively.

Mend the Gap

Mend the Gap has a passion for helping educators, as their goal is to support marginalized students throughout the country by helping teachers change unconscious (or conscious) behavior through effective data visualization.

The program provides teachers with a research-based process that leverages Harvard’s Implicit Bias project and metacognition to reconcile students’ needs with real-time results. Through the process, they can ask questions such as, “How are my actions unconsciously limiting student success?” and “How can changes encourage success?”

Another goal of Mend the Gap is to close the racial achievement gap often experienced in schools. Hoffman has found when strategic bias reduction practices are combined with real-time data visualizations and intervention prescriptions, schools are able to streamline student support and improve learning outcomes.

“K-12 schools, teachers, and educators so often have to wear multiple hats and make a conscious decision to spend their entire careers serving their students and families,” Hoffman said. “They are truly committed to helping students become successful and the result often means burning the candle at both ends to find ways to differentiate instruction while simultaneously trying to provide individualized learning experiences for students. I think the work that I do is really designed to help these teachers and administrators eliminate some of the time-consuming obligations that take them away from their students.”

Hoffman also believes some of the best ways vendors and higher education can support K-12 schools is by finding which ways teachers focus on supporting students rather than focusing on procedures and practices.

“Often, data collection can be time-consuming but it’s also so beneficial,” he said. “At the same time, getting the information takes these educators away from face time with students or families. Technology can eliminate that time, but also provide solutions that benefit students.”

Another solution Hoffman has seen work to solve this problem is a partnership between higher education and K-12. Researchers come in and focus on a particular program or pilot useful tools in schools to see if the introduction of those resources can help solve some problems often found in education.

“Taking this approach helps both parties and a relationship is built from there,” he said. “Finding some key stakeholders to build a long-term relationship is a key part of the success.”

Relationship building is an area Hoffman knows well as Mend the Gap has three ongoing projects around the country. They are with “Al for Good” in Silicon Valley, “NJEdge” in New Jersey, and “Connecting” in Denver. Each project’s purpose is to build continuity, collaboration, and relationships with vendors and schools, specifically the K-12 spectrum.

Hoffman has also worked with several colleges in developing a program for connecting graduate students with K-12 schools. For instance, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has created an annual program and consulting service through their information science department. The grad students provide free consulting services to nonprofits and collaborate with Pittsburgh K-12 schools, as many times these organizations don’t have the resources or tools. The program benefits both parties, as the graduate student becomes the consultant to the K-12 school. The student is required to fulfill numerous requirements towards graduation, while also servicing the needs of a K-12 organization and helping to push forward the goals of the district.

“Many times K-12 school projects sit on the back burner because so many educators wear multiple hats and don’t have the time or capacity to complete a significant technological system,” Hoffman said. “These types of collaborations become a great way to engage college students, while building a sense of mutual goals and meeting those mutual goals between both organizations.”

Partners with Google for Education

Google is a large company and plays an important role in all facets of education around the world. They desire trusted partners to help support their work at a more localized level, and this is where NJEdge provides assistance.

Schools become a huge benefactor of this collaboration, because it makes it easier to understand and implement new platforms like G-Suite. Schools are also switching to Chromebooks and the larger Google ecosystem, because of the affordability factor and ease of management for IT departments. The system also provides access to a number of highly valuable instructional school tools such as Docs, Google Classroom, Gmail, etc.

“Google for Education is really a good fit for NJEdge because they have a long history of supporting critical school initiatives, and by partnering with Google, they are able to provide a service that’s in very high demand throughout the state, and really, throughout the country,” Hoffman said.

He went on to say how NJEdge will be able to streamline the process for a school, once they make a switch to a Google platform, as well as provide ongoing support for licensing and the devices. This streamlining of services saves schools money and eliminates some of the frustration often felt during an implementation process.

“Schools deal with budgets and various initiatives, so if they aren’t able to implement a change within a time window, they may have to wait a few years to make it happen,” Hoffman said. “This partnership provides a huge opportunity for schools and eliminates many of those worries.”

K-12 Schools and NJEdge

Over the past year, NJEdge has continued to focus on higher education initiatives, but has also been working towards developing a relationship with K-12 education. On July 1, 2018, NJEdge partnered with New Jersey School Board Association, offering VMWare virtualization software licensing and EdgeSecure managed cybersecurity services on a shared-service basis to New Jersey’s public schools. The partnership with Google for Education is another powerful tool for K-20 schools, whether it’s for an elementary or university.

Hoffman says these relationships are extremely valuable to K-12 education and one he understands firsthand. Before founding Mend the Gap, Hoffman spent considerable time navigating the technology process as a consultant in numerous districts across the country and as an IT director at one school. Technology solutions didn’t just happen, whether time was spent searching for the right product or swapping email providers – everything took time.

“Implementing solutions in the K-12 environment takes a tremendous amount of work. Finding the right people to help answer your questions can be challenging, particularly in education where there are state-specific requirements and regulations for purchasing,” he said. “So often, you need a number of different quotes approved by the state, and it becomes another hurdle to clear that requires a lot of work. I would’ve loved to have had a resource like NJEdge when I was working as a tech director because they have the expertise and the capacity to help administrators and educators understand how and why to move forward with an initiative.”

Hoffman also said during implementations of this nature it helps to have an organization like NJEdge to weed out the confusion and guide a school through the process, especially with something like a move towards a Google platform. For instance, if a school switches to the Google ecosystem, they need licenses and technical assistance moving towards Gmail, Docs, and potentially Google Classroom.

“There’s a lot of initial need for technical help but then there is also an educational need, implementation, ongoing support, and having all of this under one roof with NJEdge is a huge benefit and a huge value,” he said.

The partnership and collaboration between NJEdge, Google, and Mend the Gap provide technology solutions for K-12 school systems, streamlining the process and allowing educational leaders and teachers to focus on the real reason they enter the classroom every day – the ability to change the lives of their students.

For more information on NJEdge’s technology solutions, visit njedge.net/solutions. If you are in need of Hoffman’s consulting services, contact him via mendthegap.ai.