How COVID-19 has changed what’s needed in ed tech
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Schools around the world quickly pivoted to online learning when COVID-19 struck. Distance learning remains the key strategy to maintain instructional continuity in the face of massive uncertainties. K-12 school leaders are continuing to provide the best instruction platforms to avert public health risks. However, many experts feel that the pandemic has changed the nature of K-12 education forever.
Digital transformation is not new to the education sector, and thanks to that, pivoting fast was not an impossible task. However, distance learning during the pandemic has revealed several longstanding concerns. It shows a glaring divide in America's schools.
Let's take a closer look at the issues that can be addressed with technology.
Digital inequity is a matter of concern in education circles. Admittedly, online learning has helped millions of students and schools during the pandemic, but not every student. Economically disadvantaged students have suffered and were unable to attend school online due to a host of challenges. They lack dedicated devices or internet access at home, which has led to immense knowledge and homework gaps.
Many students in low-income communities have received limited or no instruction over the past few months. At the same time, their counterparts in more privileged districts have continued to make academic progress.
Lower-income and rural communities who lack high-speed internet access are scrambling to address this issue. Social media is full of posts showing students going to extraordinary lengths to access a Wi-Fi connection. We have seen vulnerable K-12 students sitting on the stoops of closed schools and libraries and in the parking lots of fast-food restaurants to access the Internet.
When challenges like these prevent them from attending classes or turning in assignments, they face penalties and disciplinary actions. It has added to their mental health issues, leading to absenteeism.
Digital equity can no longer be pushed to the sidelines. Technology is the key resource for addressing these challenges and making a lasting impact on student learning.
A recent survey states that 9 in 10 educators believe that the need for technology in schools will increase in the next three years. Eighty-two percent of teachers and administrators also believe that students need more personalized, individualized instruction to mitigate the disparate impacts of the crisis on the learning experience.
However, educators can't fight the crisis alone. The need of the hour is to understand what technologies work in what contexts so that schools can provide equitable and individualized instruction in the coming months.
Federal, state, and local policymakers must work together with schools and tech companies to address these digital disparities. Well-chosen thoughtfully implemented education technology will be the best way to move forward.
Lawmakers need to work with schools and districts to create a framework for better ed-tech decision-making. They have to opt for effective strategies to support teachers’ use of ed-tech as a tool for learning and technology that will facilitate better peer-to-peer learning.
Other takeaways from the report:
- 27% of teachers reported participating in a formal professional development session for technology-based remote instruction;
- Teachers reported that their ability to use technology has advanced during the school closures;
- Online instruction is improving with fewer glitches; and
- 1-to-1 computing opportunities are expanding.
Fiscal forecasts show that the recession will have severe implications for America's public schools. The $13.5 billion that Congress recently provided will only go a short way before it runs out. Several states may have to cut budgets between 5 to 20%, and low-income districts will suffer even more. What this means is that mitigating the digital disparities through EdTech solutions will be a major challenge.
According to LearnLaunch, ed tech currently accounts for less than 5% of the $1.6 trillion spent on education in the U.S. each year. With this in mind, the education industry is exploring how to use technology to improve the learning experience.
Online in the future
COVID-19 has paved the way for new ideas and new technologies that will endure in the future. Educators are considering the most effective ways to teach students at home. As a result of that need, there are emerging support systems driven by artificial intelligence.
These are designed to engage students, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and deliver personalized individual instruction. Adaptive learning technologies have the power to revolutionize education.
Modernized K-12 education will rely heavily on automation and artificial intelligence. Educators and policymakers need to create equitable funding models that can offer advanced technology to meet students' needs.
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