About 26 minutes into his weekly podcast with Audrey Watters, Steve Hargadon asks the astute question: Are there times when we’re tricked into thinking that technology is going to solve problems that are not easy to solve? As much as we want to believe, the perfect tech tool is not going to be developed that will solve all of our education problems. Why not?

Because changing teacher practice is hard work; changing practice on a school level is even more difficult.  Education companies that promise to solve all student achievement problems without consistent change in practice truly don’t understand what it takes to transform a school.  Fundamentally, they don’t understand what makes great teaching.  If the public believes that technology can bypass a teacher or make learning “teacher-proof,” then we’re devaluing the incredibly difficult craft of teaching and of leading a school.

It takes years to become a good teacher, even more years to become a great teacher.  Every classroom is different, every child is different. Teachers must plan for and adapt to the changing needs of students, often on the spot when a lesson takes an unexpected turn. Technology cannot replace this accumulated wisdom.

So, What Can We Expect Technology to Solve?

Technology can offer solutions to time-intensive processes that are less about teaching and more about administrative tasks. Technology can provide easier access to a wider range of resources, including human resources. Data that can be used to drive instruction can be collected and displayed more efficiently with tech tools. Technology can provide tools to help facilitate tasks.

While I was turning over these ideas in my head, the podcast conversation turned to innovative approaches to professional development, my deep passion. Steve Hargadon shared that he loves the idea of teachers filming themselves, but recognized that this could only really work well in a focused community, such as a school, that would provide safety and the time to do this. (Our research shows this to be true; in fact, most teachers are very uncomfortable with seeing themselves on camera.)

As I was nodding my head in agreement, Audrey advocated for technology to help shift professional development from lecture style to more hands-on, and then—pleasantly surprising– she mentioned LessonCast as one edtech company innovating professional learning.  She nailed our belief that professional learning must be consistent, job-embedded, tied to clear initiatives, and chunked so as not to become overwhelming.

Audrey also shared one of our secret learnings: the process of creating a lessoncast is a form of professional development in itself because what makes great teachers and great instructional leaders includes time for thoughtful reflection and collaboration.  Creating a lessoncast fosters reflection, and sharing a lessoncast provides a compact focus for collaboration with meaningful conversations about how strategies can be adapted for the specific needs of each set of students.

Technology becomes transformative , not when it replaces the work and the relationship building, but when it facilitates what we already know to be good practice.