Earlier this week, Michael Feldstein posted a thoughtful essay, “Student-Centered Educational Software,” on his e-Literate blog. Its argument resonated with our Motivis Learning team, especially the admonition to “reclaim the buzz phrase ‘student-centered’” to describe an institutional “focus on data-informed and research-grounded teaching excellence.”

“Student-centered” (in this refreshingly non-jargonized sense) is something of a mantra at Motivis. We design, build, and evaluate our products according to a straightforward standard: do they improve and enrich the learning experience for students and those who guide, mentor, and support them? It’s easy to pay lip service to that standard, as a depressing abundance of ed tech and institutional marketing slogans demonstrate. What too often gets lost, as Mr. Feldstein’s blog reminds us, is that a genuine focus on students necessitates empowering teachers. Even given the best of intentions, just caring about students is not the same as facilitating a truly effective learning experience for each and every one of them.

To meet this standard, our learning relationship management (LRM) tools are built around, and judged against, three core beliefs:

  • Faith that students will be active, engaged, and self-motivated advocates in pursuing their educational goals when given the right resources, support, and information to make good decisions.
  • The central and essential role of teachers who—if given the right information about their students at the right time, along with flexible tools that enable rather than burden their teaching—can guide students through highly personalized and relevant experiences that keep them engaged and prepare them to learn for a lifetime. No student thrives without great teachers. No technology can replace those great teachers. We see our job as helping those teachers do their jobs and reach more students.
  • Finally, the vital importance of nurturing and supporting communities that connect students, teachers, mentors, employers, and others in ongoing and meaningful ways.

Data—reliable, comprehensive, timely, and accessible—is the linchpin for empowering teachers and students to solve challenges and make better decisions along the way. Using data more effectively, and putting it in the right hands at the right time, makes genuine personalization and student-centered learning feasible. This isn’t a quest for the silver bullet to fix education’s woes; it’s about taking what we’ve long known about wellbeing and lifetime learning and placing it at the core of the tools we provide for teachers and students.