Maslow's hierarchy edtech

5 ways to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to edtech for better outcomes

As schools look to modernize teaching and personalize learning, a student-centered approach to implementations through Maslow's theory could lead to better outcomes.

According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, all humans have the same fundamental needs (food, clothing and shelter), and these needs must be met before an individual is motivated to look beyond these basic needs. This motivational theory is commonly referred to as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This concept derives out of the belief that constant betterment can only be achieved when certain needs are mastered. The layers of Maslow’s theory include:

  • Physiological (basic) needs: food, water, warmth, rest
  • Safety needs: security, safety
  • Love needs: intimate relationships, friends
  • Esteem needs: feeling of accomplishment
  • Self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential

To not overcomplicate Maslow’s philosophy, it’s as simple as saying one must satisfy lower level needs before progressing to higher levels. Seems straightforward. It’s impossible to achieve your full potential when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Hunger will inevitably win out and become the sole focus and desire.

Applying Maslow’s Theory beyond Human Behavior and Survival

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can serve as an analogy for what is possible with instructionally-designed technology, and why I think the Apple iOS ecosystem helps with moving past the basic needs to enabling the ability to thrive and transform learning. It should come as no surprise that education technology has revolutionized and changed the way teachers teach and students learn.

But, it may be surprising to some that not all technology is created equal, and in many ways, the technology and software you choose, directly applies to the level obtained and the speed in which students, teachers, IT and schools ascend Maslow’s pyramid.

With new innovations, devices continue to go beyond “basic level” education tools. Student-centered application of technology is the gateway to educational transformation.

As institutions look to modernize teaching and personalize learning, a student-centered approach to implementations are a mechanism to turn classrooms into interactive environments and provide individualized learning paths.

But first things first. Before transformation, you must master the basics.

1. Device Deployment = Basic Needs

Device deployment is the first basic need of any school looking to leverage education technology. If schools are unable to procure devices and if IT is unable to get these devices into the hands of students and educators, there is no moving forward.

If device deployment is accomplished, IT must next master device configurations to ensure each device has the right settings needed for each individual. And device deployments and configurations would serve little purpose to IT if they were unable to accurately inventory each device. Taking a deeper dive into your environment to see the number of devices deployed, software on each and any other pertinent information is essential.

Deployment, and all that encompasses, is the lowest layer of the pyramid and the building blocks for any school looking at offering significant quantities of devices to students and teachers.

(Next page: 3 more ways to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to edtech)

2. Communication = Safety Needs

Once deployment needs are met and devices are in the hands of students and teachers, IT must enable basic communication technologies for each device. This includes access to email, Wi-Fi and VPN settings—all without adding unnecessary bloat (add-ons or third-party software).

Beyond basic communications functions, apps must be made available and installed for an additional layer of connectivity. For example, learning management systems (LMS) enable communication beyond classroom walls and empower students with the learning resources they need while at home or in the community. However, how do we ensure access off-campus for those without ubiquitous internet connections? Limited offline ability does not provide the same experience for all students. Technology that has full functionality offline is a necessity not yet realized for all students.

While basic, being able to mass customize a user’s experience is not omnipresent among technology offerings. Apple’s iOS ecosystem offers the potential for those choosing it to achieve and thrive beyond basic needs. I will stop short of saying you cannot do so with other platforms; however, I would challenge anyone suggesting you can to be very specific in their explanation.

3. Productivity = Love Needs

Communication is simply a stepping-stone for what is possible with technology. Communication that encourages higher-level thinking and problem solving is where dramatic learning happens. Paired with a classroom management app (such as Apple’s Classroom app), teachers are better equipped to facilitate productive learning experiences and maximize the value of precious classroom time.

Apps that go beyond connectivity and help individualize and expand learning must be deployed to students to maximize education.

With over 170,000 education apps in the App Store specifically designed for iPad, Apple has the strongest education app ecosystem for students on any grade level, age or learning style.

In addition to a wide variety of education apps, students enjoy a whole new learning experience through interactive iBooks.

4. Transformation = Esteem and Self-Actualization Needs

For the ultimate learning experience, IT and educators must transform what is possible in education. The most innovative institutions are not only investing in iPad devices; they are pairing innovative teaching methods such as blended learning (a mix of technology and traditional learning) or flipped classrooms (teaching is done at home and exercises during class time) with education apps (productivity layer). The results are greater student engagement, addressing the needs of all students and delivering on the goal of academic success.

While this level of thinking may seem like a pipedream or unattainable to some given budget constraints or lack of technology experience, the reality is, there are tools available to help you achieve each layer of Maslow’s hierarchy.

5. Let Mobile Device Management (MDM) Be Your Stepladder

MDM is Apple’s framework for managing iOS. To effectively manage iOS devices and unleash their full potential, schools require an equally powerful MDM solution. From deploying new devices and gathering inventory, to configuring settings, managing apps or wiping data, MDM provides a complete toolset to address large-scale deployments and ensure security.

Plus, it is flexible enough to allow for transcendent learning through the transformative teaching methods we previously discussed.

Pro tip: Rely on MDM tools that fully understand your educational technology ecosystem. If you’ve heeded the advice of many, and chosen Apple as your primary learning tool, you’d be best served by choosing a management tool that’s been with Apple every step of the way and supports new education features the moment they become available.

Maslow was certainly onto something with his hierarchy of needs, and his philosophy provides a good reminder for all of us not to rest on our laurels. There is always another layer to achieve and more ways to help our students and educators succeed.

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