“Getting the Max Ed-Tech Learning Boom for the Bucks”: What are the Questions? - Don Rawitsch Part 1

DonRawitschToday’s RE@L Guest Blogger is Don Rawitsch, a key member of our RE@L Team.

You might know him better as the father of the MECC “Oregon Trail” simulation learning games and arguably the most popular of all time.   OnTheTrail1

Today, Don speaks to the finely-tuned balancing act that teachers face day in and day out and year in and year out. He identifies the current problems faced and, in a later blog, offers some ideas for workable solutions to these problems. Today, we will present Don Blog One: “The Problems” and soon after we will present his ideas in Don Blog Two: “The Solutions.”  Accordingly, here’s his RE@L Guest Blog, Part One:



“Getting Maximum Payoff from School Technology Applications”

Don Rawitsch, Sr. VP for Product Development – STEM Investigations, RE@L

Part 1

“Successful learning in school environments is subject to the timely integration of several components.  Missing one or more of these components, or failing to implement them at the opportune time can lead to missed opportunities for student learning, especially when technology is involved. This is happening far too often.

Following are the key components and some of their critical pitfalls:

•   Curriculum, the learning roadmap to what we want students to learn and when, is too often prescribed to teachers without their adequate buy-in or preparation.

•   Instructional Plan, delineating the key activities that will lead to learning, is sometimes left to individual teachers to figure out on their own without adequate resources and time.

•   Assessment, determining if the learning has taken place often doesn’t match the purpose of the instruction that has been implemented. Here we have one more reason why we wring our hands over the maddening “one size fits all” testing for entire grade levels of students.

•   Technology bears both the blessing and the curse of always improving, meaning there often is not enough of the latest products for all students to use adequately and properly at a given time. We are further hampered by that fact that our current technology is hard to maintain over the years, as new software and hardware are released

•   Implementation, the strategic plan for carrying out the instruction, requires coordination and discipline across a district or school staff that may not get the attention required to insure all students get the optimal benefit from the planned activities.

•   Teacher Preparedness, especially with new and more complex technologies involved, may not receive adequate attention given the typical shortage of training and prep time in teaching schedules. that we find in our schools.

•   Student Preparedness can be misjudged because a) we assume knowledge and skill background that many don’t have; b) we ignore some of the useful background skills students do have (e.g. tech savvy); or c) we assume students will learn what they are not interested in. History proves otherwise.

When one or more of the above conditions exist, we risk lowering the probability of learning success across all students.  Our schools might have acquired more tech tools but not the learning payoff they had planned.

Some of the measures that can be taken to avoid these pitfalls fall squarely on the local school and district.  Clarifying the curriculum, providing technology, understanding student preparedness, and preparing teachers require plans specifically tailored to each learning environment.  The other three components, however, can be greatly facilitated by products from innovative educational publishers.”

====RE@L Logo 60pxEditors Note: We apologize for stopping here in Don’s Guest Blog, Part One, especially given his assertion above that “innovative educational publishers” can make a big difference and RE@L is a leader among them. So, stay tuned to our RE@L Blog for Don’s Guest Blog, Part Two and some very helpful suggestions.


Don really enjoys working with and listening to comments and questions from teachers everywhere. If you have any input, please enter it in the Comments below. We will try to include them in Don Rawitsch, Blog Part Two.

The link to Don Rawitsch’s Blog Part Two can be found at the link below:


Stay tuned to RE@L!






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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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