Students first. Technology second.

Students first. Technology second.

Classrooms today feature interactive whiteboards, audio and video systems, and computers, smart technological advances that can provide engaging learning experiences for students. But that’s not the whole picture.

No amount of AI technology can replace the interaction between a student and educator, someone who can meet students’ developmental needs, listen to them, and consider the factors that impact their experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Recognizing students’ needs beyond test scores and academic achievements so they can better discover their place in the world is the foundation of the whole student education, a research-backed approach to student success.

Schools across the country have adopted this approach, a system that views students from a holistic perspective. It considers the student’s entire day, not just a particular class or subject, and includes mental and physical well-being.

“As teachers, we look at whether we are helping them learn how to problem solve and teaching them those executive functioning skills that they need to be successful outside of school,” said Donovan Kerns, school technology coordinator and academic team coach and former teacher at Royal Spring Middle School in Georgetown, Kentucky.

For example, while rote memorization is practiced less in schools nowadays, teachers must use updated tactics to ensure students are learning meaningfully.

“Teachers now have to think beyond just the questions that we can ask on Google,” Kerns said, “because in the real world, students are going to have Google and we have to teach more than just the knowledge (simple facts) to help them become effective and successful citizens and members of our community.”

For instance, Kerns said that as a teacher at Royal Spring Middle School, if he asked his students how religion impacted ancient Egypt, he knew they could copy and paste information they found on the internet.

To get around that, he would ask them to explain what they wrote.

“If they couldn't tell me about it in person, then I knew they hadn't mastered the content," Kerns said. “The same is going to be very true with AI (artificial intelligence). If I can't tell that they've mastered the content obviously, there's more they need to do.”

"We have to teach more than just the knowledge (simple facts) to help them become effective and successful citizens.”

That’s where a connection with a teacher is going to play a huge role in expanding a student’s knowledge. Technology can get a student so far, but a teacher can get them to the finish line.

“Like the old argument always is, is technology replacing or enhancing?” Kerns said. “And I would say that if you're doing it well, and doing it correctly, then technology is enhancing what you're asking your students to do.”

Kerns’ views on the importance of using technology to foster connections and build skills are shared by educators across the country, as evidenced by the results of a Gradient Learning Poll. In the survey, 70% of teachers said that effective use of technology within learning is important for students’ future success and that digital tools help provide students the opportunities to develop self-directed skills.

In his role as a tech coordinator, Kerns said it’s his job to encourage teachers to use technology better to create the whole student. Because despite the ever-advancing technology, students rely on teachers to guide the learning that rounds out their education. With Gradient Learning, the teacher continues to be the heart of the classroom.