96 edtech predictions for K12 in 2019

What edtech innovations can you anticipate this year?

Luke Quanstrom, CEO and co-founder, Ontic Technologies

• With acts of school violence in the news on a seemingly daily basis, school personnel and administrators are under increasing pressure to keep students safe. However, proposals to further harden facilities and arm employees are not complete solutions. Schools will begin to explore the concept of Protective Intelligence: using technology and data (like social media) to discover pre-incident indicators of acts of violence. Ultimately, the conversation will transition from a reactive strategy to a proactive one. How can we use technology and available data to prevent and stop acts of violence in our schools?

• Mental health is a key focus as administrators develop plans to address acts of violence (suicide, self-hurt, bullying, and more) well before an event in our schools. Technology will be used to help create educational professionals, guidance counselors, and resource officers conduct Behavioral Threat Assessments more efficiently and get students access to the help they need sooner. Addressing behavior and mental health issues early will not only improve school safety by proactively addressing the problems, but will aid counselors and mental health professionals in getting students the help they need, when they need it.

Aparna Rao, founder and CEO, eCare Vault 

• As it stands today, special education across the United States is experiencing a staff shortage crisis. According to research conducted by Education Week, the total number of special education teachers nationally has dropped by 17 percent over the past decade, a worrying statistic for an occupation that has seen a shortage in professionals for years. Coupled with the fact that the number of students who require an Individualized Education Plan is steadily on the rise, this means larger class sizes of students with different learning and physical disabilities, and consequently, increased workload and paperwork per teacher.

• Moving into 2019, school districts will have to look for solutions to reduce all activities for teachers that aren’t focused on the educational success of their students in the classroom. This means exploring options to reduce the amount of paperwork and evaluations teachers are accustomed to, creating a direct line of secure communication with the parents, and streamlining all additional workflows, including the organization of current paper documents that provide the basis of their work. To achieve this level of support for educators, school districts need to move beyond the traditional locked file cabinet and bring these documents to the cloud, where they can be virtually uploaded, signed, and shared in moments, rather than waiting days or potentially weeks for activity. Everyone is pushing for fewer meetings, so there needs to be a space for secure collaboration among teachers, administrators, counselors, therapists, and parents to reduce the number of in-person meetings and, in an easily digestible format, impart transparency and accountability for all involved.

Karl Rectanus, CEO and co-founder, LearnPlatform

• The value and need for interoperability between edtech systems (SIS, LMS, edtech Management, curricular tools, etc.) will become more valuable and required more often than in previous years. Data shows that districts are using more than 500 edtech tools per month; as this increases, so have the use cases for interoperability to expand far beyond easy logins (for example, using interoperable data flows for rapid-cycle evaluation of tools and personalizing learning at scale). So the need for both product providers and consumers to have interoperable tools (beyond rostering) will become more than a check box on a procurement process or a glib agreement from the salesperson. It will become required for systems to see success.

• The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts the onus on districts to provide evidence, not just cite research, for their expenditures in Title I, Title IV and beyond. While districts have “wanted evidence” that an intervention works, the 2018-19 school year is the first they must “document evidence” to justify their expenditures. They’ll look to document one of four levels of evidence (as outlined in ESSA) themselves, and also start to require providers to provide this evidence as well.

• While the number of edtech providers will continue to grow overall (think math games, coding tools, curriculum offerings, teacher widgets, etc.), larger enterprise solutions like PowerSchool, Frontline, Google for Education, and others will continue to grow and acquire, leaving fewer choices for district consumers when it comes to back-office and district-wide systems. Also, look for the rise of foreign (esp. Chinese) investors to continue to fuel the later stage (Series B and beyond) companies, enhancing the overall contraction at the top end.

Dan Rivera, portfolio marketing manager for education, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company 

• Education departments, law enforcement agencies, and industry experts expect to see a rise in cyber threats targeting schools in 2019. School systems must implement new tools that go beyond traditional cybersecurity measures, including user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions. UEBA can identify patterns in typical user behavior and alert IT teams when they notice abnormal or anomalous behavior, providing actionable intelligence that allows quick responses. By detecting anomalous behavior and enabling quick remedies, UEBA solutions can provide real-time protection that traditional systems miss.

• In 2019, machine-based learning will go mainstream in all areas of the campus. Limited staff and stagnant budgets are forcing IT to get creative in implementing smarter networks that utilize features incorporating machine-based learning and automated intelligence to augment deployment and support efforts. In the coming year, we will see an expansion of these technologies throughout the campus environment, impacting not just Information Technology, but Instructional Technology and Operational Technology as well.

• Next-generation wireless will connect even more users, devices, and remote locations at wired speeds in 2019. With student enrollment expected to rise in a majority of the states across the U.S., the need to rapidly connect new students, classrooms, and buildings rises too. As new and innovative technologies are increasingly being used in the classroom and throughout the campus, legacy wireless networks can be bottlenecks. The need for advanced wireless networks will become more prevalent as schools expand deployment of digital, collaborative, and immersive learning environments across new and modernized buildings and campuses.

Hilary Scharton, vice president, product strategy K12, Canvas

• Districts will approach data security more actively. As more organizations are hacked (like this really horrifying one at the end of ’17 where parents were sent text messages from the hackers talking about shooting students), districts will spend time and money on data security and insist on higher security standards from vendors.

• Districts will begin to question big data and AI. As more products incorporate things like machine learning, decision makers will push back on the idea that the mysterious “black box” is the best decision-maker for their students.

Brad Schenker, senior director of education, littleBits

• In the coming year, educators will be expected to incorporate STEAM topics across subjects and departments in order to integrate STEAM into every aspect of students’ learning.

• PBL will be incorporated into more schools across the country. Schools will introduce students to authentic problems and challenges, then encourage them to gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time on solutions.

• Elementary schools will focus on building computational thinking pathways to better prepare students for middle school and high school curriculum.

Scott Schickler, CEO and co-creator, 7 Mindsets 

• By the end of 2019, educational leaders will have zero doubt that all learning is social and emotional. This reality will transform how educators engage with students and each other. SEL PD will have to include personal development for teachers, because we can no longer separate the head from the heart in education.

Tyson J. Smith, president and CEO, Reading Horizons

• More universities will evaluate their teacher-prep programs with an eye towards improved instruction in decoding strategies and phonics.

• More schools and districts will adopt reading programs in Tier 1 that supplement their core and that provide instruction that reaches all students, even those who may struggle to learn to read.

• More schools and districts will evaluate their use of technology and adopt systems that allow teacher-led instruction to blend with what students are getting through digital devices.

Nicola Soares, vice president and managing director, Kelly Education Practice

• Teacher shortages will continue to grow. Low compensation, challenging state education budgets, and limited resources are just a few reasons why 35 percent less college students have pursued a teaching degree in the past five years. The demand for highly qualified teachers has increased, while the supply of teachers is dwindling because of high turnover rates and an increase in retirees. With the teacher shortage growing, I expect that we’ll continue to see the gap widen in 2019, with more districts having to seek out new and innovative teaching solutions.

• Special education needs will keep increasing An upward trend in the number of students with special needs combined with a chronic shortage of teachers with special education certifications will be a critical challenge for schools in 2019. The education community will look towards specialized training programs to foster a larger talent pool of dedicated educators who are equipped to provide critical services to all students.

Tom Strasburger, vice president, strategic alliances, PublicSchoolWORKS 

• School safety, particularly as it relates to active assailants, will continue to be a top priority for districts. Administration will be tasked with determining the best ways to fortify their schools while ensuring they still feel like a place for learning. This year, we’ll see schools and the companies that serve them focus on prevention. Student safety reporting and other tools will expand to support students’ mental and physical wellness so all students feel supported and safe.

André Thomas, CEO, Triseum

• Edtech focus will move from platforms to content. For quite some time, educators have focused on platforms, from grading to LMS to proctoring solutions. While today’s technology has improved content engagement and accessibility, in many cases we are still dealing with stale, static resources. I believe we will see a renewed focus on high-quality content in 2019.

• Blockchain technology will become a major point of discussion in education. The technology can provide a secure means to record grades, store transcripts, and reduce cheating, and while still in its infancy for educational use, I believe we will see the first major applications take advantage of the technology in 2019.

• Interest in VR will shift to AR. First, many schools, classrooms, and teachers don’t have access to the hardware to fully utilize VR experiences. Second, teachers likely don’t want to stand in front of students who are wearing headgear; if the teacher is also in the VR environment, he or she can’t see facial reactions and emotions. I believe we are longing for more interactions in person rather than through screens.

Rob Waldron, CEO, Curriculum Associates

• There are still groups of students, such as English learners and those who live in poverty, who are not being served equitably. Education publishers need to provide these students with more supports, such as culturally-responsive lessons and lessons that provide strategic scaffolds that make on grade level content accessible by integrating language-based activities, to help them improve their skills and make learning gains.

John Wheeler, CEO, Vernier Software & Technology 

• Coding will continue to receive significant attention. With emphasis and support at the federal level in both policy and funding, coding plays an important part in STEM solutions and is essential to meet the growing needs of our future workforce. Coding as part of hands-on, real-world problem-solving activities can inspire students to follow studies and career paths that they might otherwise feel are out of reach.

Christine Willig, CEO, Illuminate Education 

• ESSA legislation mandates districts implement a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). This has great promise to positively impact student outcomes because MTSS aligns district and site initiatives and resources to address the needs of all students. In 2019, districts will use MTSS to holistically address the needs of the “whole child” by focusing on academic and behaviors to create change in the services students receive. This multifaceted approach provides the basis for closing the achievement gap and ensuring every student graduate college and career ready.

• A common shift we hear from districts is the shift from singular measures to multiple measures. With the proliferation of data sources and systems, we see that school can be more comprehensive in their approach toward student achievement. One example is the shift from judging a student or school or district by just one isolated score (often a high-stakes state test) to a model where we can look at host of academic, social-emotional, and behavioral information to get a better picture of the whole child. This allows schools to better support each student—plus, the data can be summarized at the classroom, site, and district to get a better view at those levels.

• Real-time data helps district administrators collaborate, create shareable insights, and design effective strategic plans. As more leaders are leveraging data in their districts, measures related to areas such as attendance, behavior, and grades will help educators set students up for success. Predictive analytics will help inform the decisions and solutions that educators can offer to students.

Lee Wilson, president, FreshGrade

• Grades are dead; long live grades. In the 1820s, universities began issuing records of student performance. For 200 years, report cards were the most efficient way to communicate the inherently messy and complicated process of learning. To work, learning had to be rated on a scale and reduced to paper. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best tool we had. Today, capturing text, images, video, and audio is easy. In real time we can now capture and share those deeper moments of learning that reveal what lies behind the letter grade. A new generation of tools that blend rich multimedia with grading tools are opening up the possibility of much deeper conversations about learning.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.