August 20, 2021
There’s no going back to pre-pandemic education. Although the 2020-2021 school year brought a lot of rushed and temporary solutions for students, it laid the groundwork for more planned and permanent changes to the education landscape moving forward.
Whether students and teachers return to school in-person or not, education looks different now. Perhaps the most visible and pervasive difference is that education technology (EdTech) has taken a front seat for students, teachers, and administrators. Tech is no longer a supplement to learning, but is woven into the student experience creating a new normal for teaching methods, collaboration tools, and communication channels. This gives district leaders and network admins new considerations as they prepare for the upcoming school years.
Here are just six ways the pandemic has changed education for the future.
Online communication channels are enhancing collaboration between teachers and faculty in the same district and even across districts. The need to adapt quickly during the pandemic introduced a new category of virtual communities, set up through Facebook groups and other online forums, where teachers can connect with other teachers to get support, share ideas, and help each other navigate EdTech. Some share teaching methods, digital tips, or upload videos of their recorded virtual lessons, to inspire and grow with their fellow teachers.
The reliance on tech tools across roles now allows increased collaboration between teachers and network admins, reduced silos between teachers and administrative faculty, and the ability for educators in different regions to learn from each other.
Technology is also deepening the connection between teachers and parents. Moving parent-teacher conferences to virtual meetings has led to higher parent turnout. Parents don’t have to account for transportation, commute time, or child care when they can conveniently log onto Zoom to meet with their child’s teacher from home.
The ability to hold online meetings and cut out travel time also puts some time back in teacher’s schedules for lesson planning and other work. While face-to-face time in the classroom benefits the relationship between teachers and their students, virtual parent-teacher meetings are likely to stick around.
The height of distance learning pushed parents into day-to-day school life, as they helped their children log into virtual classrooms from home, troubleshoot digital assignments, and stay on task during remote lessons. Many parents acted as teacher’s assistants, filling in the gaps for teachers managing their classrooms from afar. Now that EdTech is part of every student’s experience moving forward, parents are likely to be more involved in the details of their children’s learning. This means schools will need to continue to provide resources and support to families, to help parents navigate the tech tools their children are using on a daily basis.
While many schools are pursuing a return to in-person learning, plenty of districts are preparing for some students to remain partially or entirely remote. With 29% of parents indicating that they want to keep their kids in remote education or a hybrid model, schools are developing virtual options that must work alongside in-person learning models. This means EdTech is now a basic necessity, to enable schools to support teachers and students in sharing materials, communicating lessons, completing schoolwork, and connecting with each other through digital avenues.
It also means that schools must place a heightened focus on cybersecurity, to ensure that students can get full access to quality education remotely without sacrificing security or privacy. District network administrators and IT teams will need to put policies in place for handling data and protecting privacy not only on school property, but across school-owned devices, educational software tools, and even student-owned devices that may be used for school.
Students with less access to reliable internet, digital devices, and basic resources (like food or transportation) were already at a disadvantage in the pre-pandemic education landscape, but now they are at risk of being left behind entirely. While technology opens more education possibilities for those who can access it, up to 12 million students have unreliable or nonexistent internet connection, even today. The digital divide disproportionately impacts Black, brown, and low-income students, meaning that remote education is most likely to lead to learning loss for students who were already under-served in school before the pandemic.
Addressing the digital divide must become a top priority, to provide all students with access to a quality education. Access to the internet and a connected device are now basic staples, necessary to participate in K-12 education today. Schools and policymakers need to find ways to provide the resources students need to get the educational opportunities they deserve.
With EdTech now firmly woven into the fabric of education, schools must provide continual professional development opportunities for teachers in order to support student learning. Technology changes rapidly and teachers will need help from network admins and district leaders to stay ahead of the curve as new tech tools arise or replace old ones. In addition to planning lessons, managing the classroom, and giving students adequate attention, teachers are now expected to stay up-to-date on using digital tools like YouTube, Zoom, Google Classroom, content filtering software, file sharing solutions, and more.
To enable teachers to do their jobs, district leaders need to set up ongoing training sessions, work with their EdTech vendors to provide learning materials, and give teachers dedicated time in their schedules for tech-related professional development.
There’s no denying that technology has changed education in many ways. Because schools have had to quickly adjust to remote learning, kids have had to adapt education technology just as quickly as teachers.
Now, as modern day students use technology to learn, communicate, and express themselves, online monitoring systems have become increasingly important.
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