Renee Springer helps teachers create their own engaging classrooms in the cloud. As the Director of Business Development at Haiku Learning, she works to bring K-12 digital education to life.
Renee Springer’s journey to working in the Educational Technology Field is a little unorthodox. She started out as an English major with a writing minor at a small liberal arts school. She became introduced to educational technology in the K-12 setting when she interned at a small technology company as a writer and editor for the company called Lightsky. After six years, she decided to step back from the technology world and branch out on her own to test out her own ideas. She founded Imago Inc. to develop content and social media strategies. Her experience with Imago led her to becoming involved in the newly formed company called Haiku Learning. She started to write content and create training videos for new customers on how to use technology for Haiku Learning. Renee continues her journey in the educational field working at Haiku Learning as the Director of Business Development.
Learning in the Cloud
Haiku Learning is a Learning Management System built specifically and exclusively for the K-12 setting, using cloud-based tools to create digital learning. “Our focus is on the needs for K-12 classroom teachers and students and how they can present technology in such a way that it looks really easy to use. Haiku Learning wants to be the most approachable digital learning platform available. Haiku is a tool that is a central hub for teachers, to keep themselves and student’s content organized.”
The Best of the Web in One Place
Haiku Learning takes in a lot of interactive content from different web services and gives easy access to these resources. In order to create an online learning environment that will benefit teachers and students, they have a specific goal in mind. “We always keep in mind as we create online learning spaces, our goal of 80%. Our goal tells us that we want to build a system that is easy to use and 80% of the people who use the tool will use it and the other 20% is the fluff stuff or tools that people don’t use. We are trying to keep it stream-lined and hide or disable the tools that they do not use to make it less cluttered and more useful. We also have an extreme interest in the approachability and usability of the product. We want to bring the best of the web into one space when the teacher is ready to use them.”
One of the key features that sets Haiku apart is its approach to grading. In addition to “Traditional” Grading, Haiku uses Standards-Based Grading, which is based off of concepts that you want students to learn and master. “The whole concept of Standards-Based grading was hard to grasp at first. I am not a teacher, and my image of grading was that you have a product, and the teacher gives an A, B, C, or D — that is how grading usually works. So I’m trying to wrap my mind around Standards-Based Grading, and I asked myself, what would I teach? Well, I like to play basketball and if I had to teach a kid how to play basketball, I would never say you’re a C player. No, I would say we are going to work on dribbling, jump shots and then we are going to work on passing. And every time we are assessing that then I’m going to say you did better today than yesterday. You were really using great form. But, you know yesterday you did a little better; not so great today.”
“Thinking that way made me understand a bit more about that’s what the standards are and what you assess on the scale can be a bit subjective. No, I’m not working with Common Core, or school districts or state level but just to conceptually understand that’s where it would apply; if I did teach an English class. What if I’m grading the paper? I would look at grammar as one metric and maybe look at form as something different. Would I penalize someone at the beginning of the semester for not knowing what they are supposed to know at the end of the semester? No, so that’s my calculation method.”
Adapting in a Swirling Storm
Discovering how blended learning skills can be incorporated into the work environment requires you to be adaptable. “I was in a 2nd grade classroom and there was an interaction there that it felt like the technology wasn’t an isolating device as you feared it would be. This is a way to share and conceptually show what students are manipulating on the devices that they wouldn’t have had the same ability to do, had we just been having a conversation.
The most important skill for people going into or who are already involved in the Educational Technology field is adaptability. “There are so many new pieces of technology coming that it’s really letting the storm kind of swirl around you and hold your center and remember, okay here is really what I set out to do and be open to the possibilities. Hold steady, read the landscape and just know there is a place for everybody in it.”
The future of education in the next few years “is about finding the players out there that really do have an interest in making lives easier. The teachers and schools have so much more voice and their concerns and their needs can be heard and addressed so much faster. I think we are only going to see more and more of companies busting their tails to make sure what their companies have are adaptable.”