Pandemic Gave Teachers New Insight into Ed Tech. Now, it May Be the Next Big Thing in 2022 — and Beyond
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The early days of the pandemic in 2020 brought education technology into the spotlight. However, experts claim that not every teacher recognized the value of this technology at the time. Now, with a new perspective, school districts and teachers are taking a fresh look at educational technology, paving the way for a new future in the classroom.
"People are beginning to realize that educational technology is no longer a separate category, and that almost everything students do involves some form of technology," says Bart Epstein, CEO of the EdTech Evidence Exchange. "As a result, educators are seeking more information about which tools students are using, how frequently they engage with them, and their levels of success."
Ryan Baker, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, explains that during the pandemic, school districts adopted a wide range of tools and platforms. Some of these platforms greatly enhanced the learning experience for students and provided valuable data for teachers. However, there were also poor platforms that proved to be a waste of time, unpleasant to use, and offered no learning benefits.
This mass adoption of educational technology allowed teachers to explore a variety of options and try new things they might not have considered before. As a result, a significant shift is expected in 2022 as successful platforms continue to grow, albeit not at the same rate seen during the height of the pandemic, while others fall by the wayside. "Many teachers who adopted something quickly during the pandemic are now quickly abandoning it," says Baker. "Vendors with high-quality offerings are not experiencing a decline in numbers compared to pre-pandemic levels."
So, what does this mean for 2022? Epstein suggests that while some districts are still spending stimulus money without thoroughly researching their options, most now have a better understanding of technology than they did before COVID-19. They are demanding information about the tools students use. Dan Carroll, a former teacher and founder of Clever, a company that assists school districts in integrating educational technology solutions, reveals that over half of the teachers surveyed intend to continue using the new technology they adopted. However, the pandemic has also resulted in significant learning loss nationwide, which is where educational technology may play a crucial role.
"The next big thing will be tutoring and quasi-learning center experiences for students who have fallen behind," says Epstein. He acknowledges that the transition will be messy and potentially wasteful of resources as people figure out the best way to implement the technology. With districts facing challenges in hiring local tutors and establishing new programs, Epstein believes that technology companies should fill this gap. "Some students require ongoing tutoring support for specific subjects, while others were socially promoted last year and are so far behind that they need someone to teach them an entire year’s worth of math. We are beginning to see more real-time tutoring integrated into various programs, and I expect this trend to continue."
Virtual tutoring offers a unique opportunity, according to Epstein. Baker agrees and predicts that virtual tutoring will expand in the upcoming years, combining computer-based and human tutoring in one application to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Baker also hopes to see a greater emphasis on simulation technology, which allows teachers to incorporate technology directly into the classroom while providing students with hands-on virtual experiences to learn new skills and concepts.
Throughout this evolution, Baker and Carroll emphasize that the best educational technology companies are those that not only offer a quality experience for students but also gather valuable information for teachers. "I don’t believe that teachers or administrators are currently seeking another major innovation. Therefore, I believe the next big thing in educational technology will focus on sustainability, improving user experiences, collecting data to identify areas for improvement, and ensuring that the significant investments made in educational technology over the past 18 months deliver value," says Carroll.
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