Oregon edtech leader talks about developing K-12 content for the digital age

Carla Wade speaks for many educators when she insists, “We can’t keep teaching students the way we’re [used to] teaching – in a digital age.”

Wade, a former middle school science teacher who leads digital innovation initiatives for the Oregon Department of Education, was referring to the use of traditional educational materials and methods in many classrooms throughout her state and across the country and how those methods have become largely outmoded.

But putting teachers and administrators in a room to develop open educational resources from digital content, that often results in just another series of PDF documents, isn’t enough, she says.

“What I want to see, and the question I keep asking folks,” in championing the need for better digital content, she says, “is when are we going to bring together the graphic designers, the coders, the gamers, the students, the teachers, the curriculum specialists, and the content experts, put them in a room and use the power of the digital tools at our fingertips to engage kids in exciting learning opportunities and personalized learning?”

“We have to make that shift and help students be prepared for the world they’re going to live in, not the one we grew up in,” she says.

Speaking to EdScoop at the recent State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) leadership summit , Wade also highlighted efforts Oregon is making to help advance the skills educators need to make that shift.

One of the things she’s proudest of, she says, is the Oregon EdTech Professional Development Cadre, now in its 15th year, which focuses on three objectives: Effective integration of technology into content instruction; emerging technologies – understanding what’s coming down the pike; and effective professional development. But the group also helps spread that learning across the state.

“We build a network of education technology folks, who can be math teachers, IT specialists, curriculum specialists – we’ve even had school district superintendents – and they take what they’ve learned at Cadre and have regional cadres. So it’s a way to build their capacity locally,” she says.

Wade also highlights in the interview efforts the Oregon Department of Education is making to streamline edtech purchasing initiatives.

“We just finished an agreement with the learning management system, Canvas, so that any school district or education service can purchase Canvas at the state-contract price, which made it easier and more cost effective for all of our districts,” she tells EdScoop.

She also pointed to recent gains by the state to provide online course content through a national content repository and implementing EdReady, a program for assessing students’ readiness for college level math.

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