U.S. education technology news – March 2021

Published: March 25th, 2021

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One year later: Learning models have shifted and some are staying put

As the pandemic evolved in the past year, so did education systems. Since the abrupt transition last March, decisions, and circumstances have fluctuated between remote, in-person, and hybrid learning models. Despite efforts to recover from learning losses and restore a “traditional” academic experience for students, schools have achieved progress in implementing adaptive teaching and learning models.

As of this March, nearly 50% of U.S. students are receiving an in-person education and approximately 30% are learning through a hybrid system. Vaccinations are being distributed and growing research is encouraging schools to reopen. However, unless guidelines are adjusted, cases drop, or schools receive an influx of funding, full-time in-person schooling remains a challenge.

Unfortunately, this increased spending on education technology is indicating a decrease in school funding. In fact, the pandemic could have accelerated the adoption of technology in education by up to a decade, as over 25 million devices have been shipped to U.S. schools, effectively normalizing digital tools in education.

Nearly 30% of parents foresee indefinite participation in remote learning. While struggles of equity, learning loss, and mental health persist, curriculum, school leadership, and community relations are evolving for the better.


Educators: Maintaining morale or facing a professional predicament?

Over the past year, educators have experienced struggle, triumph, and varying levels of support. From being deemed essential workers to being criticized for administrative decisions out of their control, educators have faced a number of challenges both personally and for their students and schools.

Instructors and administrators have been burdened by the same pandemic that students and their families have. Some schools have provided hotlines and virtual resources to help maintain wellbeing. But beyond needing resources for mental and emotional support, teachers are yearning for professional development in order to adapt to technology that the younger generation of their students has inherently grown up with. In the adaptation to virtual instruction, teachers highlighted that common struggles included the digital divide, student engagement, and the impact of the “summer slide”.

In fact, remote instruction was reported as a top reason for teachers quitting jobs during the pandemic. Between the dip in professional enrollment and the threat of job automation, education technology has an opportunity to serve educators in a supportive and empowering role, rather than replace human instruction altogether.

Noting the growing shortage of teachers and continued to struggle to maintain morale, it’s essential to remember the inevitable mishaps of technology and the hardships of a global crisis. Through a strong culture, clear communication, and driving student engagement, hybrid schooling can deliver a strong academic experience. We must recognize and appreciate all efforts of educators, students, parents, and supporting members of communities through this transition period and beyond.


New ways to engage: Testing practices, gamification and more

Beyond the shift of the physical classroom, the curriculum is adjusting to meet needs and better fulfill the interests of today’s youth. Gamification and test prep activities are driving connections between class members and amplifying updated approaches, tools, and strategies to student engagement.

Multiplayer and world-building games offer opportunities for student collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Teachers are even playing along with students to increase the likelihood of connection and empathy. The accessibility of a gamified lesson can propel participation and interaction with the lesson topic at hand. Gamification, learning apps, and digital escape rooms are working to increase student engagement in hybrid settings.

While standardized testing has long been measurement and even determination of academic success, a growing number of organizations are advocating to waive the traditional evaluation. For the second year, multiple colleges are not requiring students’ standardized test scores. The California Teachers Association is advocating for the suspension of testing for this school year, urging reallocation of time and resources to support effective remote and distanced education practices and invest in a safe return to in-person schooling.

Meanwhile, academic testing continues today at the local level. Test prep sessions between partnered students allow for students to discuss and collaborate on sample tests. This example of a student-led learning approach addresses knowledge gaps and empowers leadership skills.

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