We asked 49 edtech executives to look into their crystal balls and share their thoughts about what will happen in 2019. In addition to the usual suspects—more augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps—a lot of people believe this will be the year that social emotional learning (SEL) and interoperability become part of the mainstream. There are also a lot of predictions about improving safety and security. Read on to see what’s in store for 2019…

Berj Akian, CEO, ClassLink

• With 2019 here and 2020 in arm’s reach, there’s an ever-growing expectation that next-generation tech tools should do a better job of informing educators on which resources improve learning outcomes. I’m pleased to say that more and more education leaders and technology products providers are regularly talking and doing something about this. I hope this topic always remains the main problem to solve, and that the slow, steady progress the industry is making continues.

•  The industry has made loads of good progress on interoperability; now it’s on the mind of all educational leaders. This is a good thing, because it will take motivation from all sides to achieve simpler data connections between systems. The only wrinkle I see in the land of interoperability is that the conversation is still too complicated, and school leaders still don’t have a go-to resource that helps them translate the techno-babble of open data standards into plain English. What the industry needs is a place where interoperability can be discussed and advocated without complicated jargon and a standards bias—maybe a “Church of Interoperability” that’s open to all. I see Project Unicorn possibly filling this role. They see the bigger picture and nicely bridge the tech and curriculum sides of the discussion.

Chakrapani Appalabattula, CEO, Bloomz

• In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in parental engagement that can be correlated to the implementation of digital platforms and applications. School-to-home communications has evolved through three phases. Student information systems and automated messages are what I consider to be the first stage in the evolution of parental engagement, or version 1.0. With the next stage, 2.0, came a myriad of apps, each designed to solve one problem really well. And now, I believe we are entering a new stage of “one-stop shop” solutions. As schools are adopting and using more digital tools, they are looking for solutions that not only consolidate functions to reduce the risks of privacy or security failure, avoid confusion among teachers and parents, and also better connect and engage school communities. We are already seeing the evidence of this, as administrators are taking a more active role in parent-teacher communication, ensuring that stakeholders are able to engage via their preferred method through one simple-to-use, safe platform. Additionally, educators swear that their parents are showing up more prepared for conferences and more in tune with their child’s education than ever before. As we gain further insight into teacher, parent, and student communication needs, interaction between school and home will become more commonplace and more frequent.

Dr. Becky A. Bailey, educator, author, and founder, Conscious Discipline 

• School leaders and personnel will take a more active role in addressing the emotional toll of safety procedures like lockdown drills, and in building community as a vital safety measure in schools. Creating a learning community that nurtures emotional safety, connection, and inclusion provides fewer opportunities for the growth of the “outsider mentality” that often ends in violence, and will emerge as an essential tool for school security.

• SEL will begin to affect school culture from the top-down, bringing about change in adults first and students second. In 2019, administrators and educators will gain a broader awareness of the internal growth and consistency required for adults to transfer SEL skills to students. As a result, greater value will be placed on SEL providers who bring longevity, proven results, practical tools, and adult-first approaches to the table. Recent years have brought about a surge of new SEL players, and many educators have scrambled to put new programs in place. Progressive leaders will emerge by acknowledging that successful SEL requires a perceptual shift from school leadership and staff, and also by discouraging midstream changes in favor of long-term personal growth. Educators will prioritize SEL over technology controls as cyberbullying deterrents. This more comprehensive understanding of social-emotional health will spur schools to prioritize SEL as a foundational response and technology monitoring as a complimentary (but secondary) facet of student wellness and safety. As a result, both physical bullying and cyberbullying will decrease in schools that prioritize meaningful connections, inclusion and emotional regulation.

Kevin Baird, chief academic officer, Achieve3000; chair, Center for College & Career Readiness 

• Districts will increase their focus on collaborative environments and collaborative tasks for basic literacy development.

• Neuroscience, and the measurement of emotional immersion, will become a key innovation and a new precision metric of student engagement. As a result, districts will recognize that student “Net Promoter Scores” (a measurement of customer experience) are more reliable and valid indicators of program excellence and student learning outcomes than standardized tests.

• Districts will start to focus on speaking and listening protocols before, during, and after reading to accelerate vocabulary acquisition for fluency.

Dr. Carolyn Brown, president and co-founder, Foundations in Learning

• New players in the education market will focus on models of learning rather than methods of teaching. The continuing failure to meet the needs of a growing number of students will demand different approaches and practices taught in Colleges of Education. Focusing on how students learn rather than what they learn will eventually lead to changes in conceptual frameworks of “teaching” and instructional practices. As this movement gains traction, formative assessment tools will become critically important to the iterative process of maximizing the learning environment and customizing instruction to meet students’ needs.

• Principles of learning that are emerging from cognitive science will begin to infiltrate the education space. Integrating principles of learning into instructional classroom practices will challenge traditional thinking; however, there will be early adopters who will be willing to test new approaches—especially to help their most challenged learners. Data analytics embedded within instructional tools (not just digital renditions of content) will inform the process of change.

• Teachers will gravitate towards educational solutions that engage their students in meaningful social-emotional contexts. While technology can play an important role in targeting student needs, students and teachers are welcoming the re-emergence of meaningful interactions in the classroom. Consequently, technology will find its place to support rather than supplant student engagement through personal interactions with both peers and teachers.

Jacob Bruno, vice president of professional learning, NWEA

• More personalized professional development (PD), driven by data. We are seeing schools and districts starting to be more creative and collaborative with PD, expanding beyond school-wide workshops to include professional learning that recognizes the existing competencies and knowledge base individual educators bring to their work. Contributing to this trend is the growing use of data to encourage inquiry and dialogue in collaborative learning communities that build collective teacher efficacy. As such, we are going to see an increased focus on PD that facilitates assessment literacy, fosters active professional learning communities, and supports teachers in developing formative instructional practices.

Jamie Candee, CEO, Edmentum

• The trend of schools implementing adaptive and digital experiences will continue and increase in 2019. Advancements in data science will provide valuable information about how students learn and help educators individualize instruction—the ability to adapt and curate curriculum will be the new core curriculum. By better understanding what students know, educators will be better able to measure growth, predict performance, and make informed decisions about which curricular resources and instructional activities best fit the needs of their students. Soon the days of core, supplemental, and intervention will essentially merge as technology that gives educators the ability to curate the right curriculum for each student.

• The amount of data that is in educators’ hands can be overwhelming. While data is a powerful accelerator, data-tracking systems often operate separately from one another, leading to frustration and roadblocks. In 2019 and beyond, interoperability will be an extremely important point of emphasis for edtech leaders. At the end of the day, our role is to save educators time—not make their jobs more difficult.

• As personal technologies become more engaging and interactive, learning systems have to as well. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity that augmented reality (AR) and VR activities bring learners. AR and VR can engage and excite learning while simultaneously breaking down traditional barriers of accessibility. Imagine a student experiencing the Louvre for the first time in an art appreciation course.

Matt Dascoli, education strategist, Dell EMC

• In 2019, AR/VR will continued to be explored in the K-12 classroom and as such, there will be a demand for content to create genuine learning experiences. Although the potential to create a deep, immersive, collaborative environment exists today, the structures and delivery mechanisms that comes with packaged content has yet to develop into a powerful enough technology for widespread adoption. As early adopters continue to explore AR/VR technology, we will see a viable market emerge to attract more content developers. In the meantime, we are likely to see more students dip their toe into what could become a more integral part of the learning experience through singular instances of exploration.

Breck DeWitt, education strategist, Dell EMC

• The adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud environments is quickly growing within the education industry. The use of various devices in the classroom is up among students and teachers, from computing devices to AR, VR, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices and beyond. K-12 is faced with significantly more data; as a result, there is a need for a flexible and budget-friendly method to securely store and access it. Schools will double multi-cloud data-center usage by 2025.

Caroline Fahmy, President & CEO, Educational Data Systems

• Teachers, schools, districts, and states will strive to balance assessment for statewide accountability and assessment for classroom instruction. The assessment mode—paper and pencil or computer-based—will become less important than the content and purpose of each assessment. Educators at all levels will need to strengthen their assessment-data literacy to be effective in using the resulting data.

• School districts will recognize the usefulness of geographic information system tools for analyzing multiple types of data and displaying them on maps. High-visibility adverse events such as school shootings, hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires will bring disaster and recovery plans to the top of the planning queue, and high-quality maps that link the locations of students and schools with other data will help in that effort.

Mike Durham, founder and CEO, Peachjar

• Schools will double down on community connections. Students are in school for 1,000 hours every year, and district leaders are increasingly aware that students’ success ultimately also hinges on what happens during the remaining 4,000 waking hours. I predict there will be a stronger partnership between schools and local community to elevate student outcomes. Community and after-school programs ranging from sports to arts to STEM not only help develop leadership, creative and critical-thinking skills, but participation in them also help improve school attendance and academic achievement.

Richard Fuller, CEO, Impero Software 

• Schools and districts will increase their attention to the well being and mental health of their students, seeing this as a contributor to improved academic performance and as an issue in its own right. School counselors—who oversee an ever increasing number of students—will be sought out by school administrators seeking to reduce risks of students harming themselves or others. Technology providers will come forward with ideas to reduce such risks, more affordably and more closely aligned to educational purposes than alternatives.

• School IT administrators will find themselves (even) more involved in the classroom in 2019. As technology becomes more pervasive in the classroom, IT administrators will be called on to provide insights as to which applications are really contributing and how teachers are making the best use of the tech solutions in place. Expect to see a year of analytical tools designed to help with these tasks.

Adam Geller, founder and CEO, Edthena 

• When teachers leave the classroom for PD, the lost learning time with students is costly. Offering more job-embedded professional learning using technology like video reflection will keep teachers in classrooms while enabling them to collaborate with and learn from others.

Scott Glinski, CEO, Skyward

• While the idea of data interoperability isn’t new, I see districts making a stronger push for adherence to data standards before forming new partnerships with vendors. When integration is done right, the result is fewer logins, automated data transfers, and a more enjoyable experience in the platforms districts are using.

• I’m hearing more and more from district leaders who want to move beyond simply tracking data to giving the people in the classrooms and business office more direct access to the data they need to make faster and more informed decisions.

• When it comes to new technology adoptions, there is definitely a trend toward putting the user experience above features and functionality. I’m excited to see more vendors forming user panels so the people using the products have more of a voice in the development of those products.

Matthew Glotzbach, CEO, Quizlet 

• Students will increasingly seek their own resources for learning. With technology at their fingertips, they are taking control of the sources and brands they absorb information from, creating a greater need to connect the classroom to the digital world. Meeting students where they naturally gather information will be key for school technology leaders.

• “Bite-size” education resources (versus all-in-one textbooks) will become the norm. As teachers continue to pull in outside resources to help illustrate teachings and provide examples, we’ll see expanded use of teachers leveraging a technology platform (from a simple online presentation to a more involved LMS interface like Google Classroom) as a foundation for housing multimedia like videos, images, links to activities and study material, etc., to teach their subject matter.

• The overemphasis on math and language learning will give way to a focus on educating the whole person, including SEL, collaboration, the arts, and more. We will move closer to an equal importance of humanities and science and that coupling will pave the way for new, emerging courses that focus on skills like financial literacy, team collaboration, and personal well being.

Shai Goitein, CEO, POWERUP Toys

• While coding will remain a popular skill to learn, we will see more focus on classic hands-on engineering activities. The U.S. recently landed a probe on Mars, which required mechanical and aerospace engineers, not just programmers.

• As more and more toy companies focus on STEM toys, educators are finding they make great tools for introducing science concepts. Companies who want to support education will provide clear explanations of how these toys integrate with NGSS to make it easier for teachers to pick the right ones.

John Harrington, CEO, Funds For Learning 

• Online resources engage student minds, offering them high-quality, personalized instructional tools and new opportunities for collaborative learning. However, getting students connected to the Internet has proven to be a daunting and expensive challenge for most schools. In 2019, I believe we will see progress being made. An astounding 64 percent of school districts have indicated they will be upgrading their campus wi-fi networks by 2021. Much of that work begins now. Schools are planning dramatic updates to their computer networks, expanding classroom capacity, and extending wi-fi coverage to every corner of their campus. A majority of this work will be accomplished with aid from the federal E-rate funding program. In 2019, I expect the Federal Communications Commission to begin an overhaul of the regulations that govern support for on-campus wi-fi. Building on enhancements made to the program in 2014, I estimate that we will end the year with fewer roadblocks to funding and more financial aid where it is needed the most.

Jason Innes, manager of curriculum development and teacher training, KinderLab Robotics, Inc.

• Incorporating robotics and coding into everyday classroom education, versus having a computer lab or robotics hour. Integrating computer science, coding, and robotics into the core classroom curriculum allows teachers and students to use these technologies in creative ways. Coding is a new literacy: Like writing, coding is a means of self-expression and exploration of interests. Incorporating robotics and coding as part of cross-curricular projects will allow students to develop STEM skills in an authentic, personally meaningful way.

• Theorists and educators are exploring the connections between computational thinking and the cognitive skills developed in early childhood. A variety of states are leading the way in adopting standards across K–12. As these efforts grow, more educators and policymakers will see the importance of addressing computer science and computational thinking starting in pre-K.

Dave Jackson, president, The Connections Model

• PD is undergoing a dramatic change. The two-day intensive offsite is a dying breed. We live in a streaming video Netflix-driven world, and teachers want their PD on-demand. Teachers require learning on their time, when and where they need it, so it works for them. Stay tuned as next-generation PD is coming to your device of choice.

• Edtech and SEL are converging. Schools are recognizing the importance of supporting their students’ social and emotional needs. Teachers understand the impact SEL has on academics. The next phase of education will be focused on teaching students the skills to drive their own learning.

Cindy Jiban, lead ELA content specialist, NWEA

• In many states, students are expected to read proficiently by the end of third grade. To meet this goal, schools and districts are expanding their K-2 reading focus beyond phonological awareness or phonics to put more focus on reading comprehension and vocabulary, and assessing these in efficient and engaging ways even before kids can read. Early literacy assessments are evolving to meet the full array of early literacy needs, using technologies such as computer adaptive testing and automatic speech processing to help educators more quickly and precisely identify and address each student’s individual reading challenges.

Dr. Vernon Johnson, CEO, Accelerate Learning 

• The potential that AR brings to K-12 education has been discussed for a few years now, but I believe that 2019 is the year in which the trend will take the education market by storm. AR can help keep students engaged, spark their interest, and in the case of interactive lessons where all students are involved in the learning process at the same time, it can help improve teamwork skills. But the most obvious advantage is that it provides more visual references and context to subjects, allowing students to better understand and retain content. This is especially true in the STEM subjects where merely reading about complex theories and concepts often leaves students confused, bored, and disengaged. These benefits are widely understood; however, the high cost of putting AR-compatible equipment into students’ hands and the lack of affordable apps that integrate AR content with standards-aligned curricula have prevented educators from embracing the technology at a more rapid pace.

Here’s why that’s about to change: More than 80 percent of Americans aged 12 to 17 now have cell phones. And unlike VR, which requires hardware along with apps, almost anyone can use AR apps on their smartphones. Further, thanks to the 2018 introductions of the Apple ARKit and Google’s ARCore, developers now have access to some effective frameworks to create AR apps. Last month, Accelerate Learning announced a partnership with BBC Learning to align thousands of videos, news, and AR segments from the BBC library with the STEMscopes digital STEM curriculum. Through partnerships like this, teachers will be able to use an array of pedagogical and technological approaches to instill a sense of wonder, curiosity, and discovery in students while teaching the foundations of STEM literacy and understanding.

Anthony Kim, CEO, Education Elements 

• We will increasingly see a shortage of people going into and staying in education. While educators have the benefit of a clear purpose, the working conditions are not competitive to other industries.

• We will start seeing school districts completely redesigning their organization, to try to figure out how to get more done with less.

• Innovations will be around how we provide embedded PD for our teachers and administrators. While schools of education will still be largely traditional, educators will seek non-traditional sources to develop their professional capabilities.

Scott Kinney, president of K-12 education, Discovery Education

• In 2019, I believe the ongoing movement to make instructional content “smart” will have a tremendous impact on teaching and learning. The creation of smart content really began with the rise of embedded formative assessment. With the integration of formative assessment tools into digital content, the need to halt instruction to assess learning disappeared. Now, assessment can be a largely unseen part of the learning process that, through results dash-boarded for teachers both by standard and by student, is helping educators nationwide make real-time instructional decisions. Supporting the next phase in the development of smart content is the growing access to AI and, in particular, machine learning. The ability of technology to use statistical techniques to “learn” or improve performance on a specific task with data inputs—what is now called machine learning—will not ever replace teachers. However, this development will play a significant role in developing smart content in the coming year that will empower teachers as never before to scale best practice in the classroom.

Shannon Leininger, vice president of U.S. public sector state, local and education (SLED) East, Cisco

• As the introduction of forward-thinking technology continues to increase in education, administrators will need to start thinking of ways to create a holistic school security system. In 2019, we’ll see more schools turning to security solutions that have the capabilities to monitor the network before, during, and after a cyber breach, as well as a solution that connects all systems together in case of an emergency. A holistic system that uses one password and login will make it easier to gain access quickly when a cyber threat turns real.

• Currently, school CIOs focus much of their attention on cybersecurity. 2019 will be the year when we see a switch of CIOs focusing more on education as new security solutions will allow them to focus less on worrying about a breach.

Bob Lenz, executive director, Buck Institute for Education 

• We will see a greater demand for project-based learning (PBL) from educators and the families they serve in 2019. There has been an increase in national exposure for schools doing PBL, including the White House promoting PBL as a teaching methodology for STEM and a recent NPR segment showing that PBL leads to authentic learning. This will lead to a greater demand for PBL as a solution to teach 21st-century skills.

• We will see a greater demand for edtech solutions to manage projects. The focus on PBL has led to companies developing new systems to support and facilitate PBL. We anticipate this market will expand as more school districts seek out tech tools to help them manage projects.

• More schools will use PBL to help address educational equity issues. Educational equity is an important issue for schools. PBL is a teaching methodology allowing all students, regardless of their background, to have meaningful and high-quality educational learning opportunities, thus supporting educational equity.

Susan Liu, edtech program manager, LEAP Innovations

• With the growing adoption of personalized learning models among schools, SEL has been embraced as part of a whole-child approach to supporting the student. While there is a growing number of SEL-specific products on the market, in 2019 we expect to see more integration of SEL into core curriculum and the digital technologies that support academic instruction. Expect to see more math, science, and ELA products that incorporate non-cognitive skill development like goal-setting, time for reflection, and encouragement to struggle through a problem in order to arrive at the correct answer.

• Over the last year, I have observed more teacher-facing tools attempting to ease educators’ time and operational burdens by helping them to grade, interpret student data, roster their classes, connect with families, and even access PD opportunities. I see this as a positive development; these kinds of technologies free up teacher time to focus on building individual relationships with students and imparting higher-order thinking skills.

• 2018 raised a number of legitimate questions around the impact of technology: How much is too much screen time? What impact does tech have on a student’s physical activity? I expect to see tech respond in 2019, with a rise in school-facing tools that get kids physically moving, like the adoption of fitness trackers, or enable the benefits of adaptive tech without screen time, like programming robots that encourage students to spend less time coding on screens and more time interacting with physical robots.

Vinod Lobo, co-founder and CEO, Learning Upgrade

• Schools will realize that traditional, web-based home learning is out of reach for many low-income families. With more than 80 percent of low-income families owning a smartphone, the focus will turn to smartphone app-based learning for children that parents can facilitate. This will level the playing field much more than previous attempts such as take-home laptops, because parent smartphones have data plans for internet access and don’t cost the school anything.

• As schools have increasingly large sets of student data, there will be a greater focus on using AI to analyze the results and make predictions on outcomes such a dropouts and failing classes. Schools will start to experiment with programs that can inform staff of students who need special attention, but—given that the programs use machine learning—many issues will arise from its use.

• With 36 million adults in the U.S. reading at or below 3rd-grade level, schools need to help low-literate parents to learn in order to create the environment for their children to succeed. Schools will increasingly enroll both parents and children in learning programs that can be completed on multiple devices. This trend will be focused especially on ESL families, including migrant families, refugees, and new arrivals.

Natalie Mactier, CEO, Vivi

• We believe that in 2019 and beyond, schools will shift focus away from hardening campuses against security threats and more toward softer solutions, like emergency notification systems that can be triggered by anyone from any device. Student safety will remain paramount, of course, but schools will increasingly look for more holistic solutions that don’t turn the classroom into a fortress.

• The ability for teachers to monitor and respond to their students’ well-being and immediate academic needs will increase in the coming months and years. In the past, teachers were pinned to the front of the classroom next to the whiteboard or projector, but increasingly, technology is unleashing them to roam around the room and check in on their students, whether it be to make sure they have a firm grasp of the lesson or simply to make sure they feel good about the activity they’re engaged in. This move from teachers as the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” is already well under way in many schools and districts, but as the technology enabling this new model improves and the benefits become ever more undeniable, we’ll see schools moving faster in that direction.

Jason Meyer, group product manager, projectors, Epson America, Inc.

• Technology in the classroom is no longer about any particular piece of equipment. Instead, it is about finding solutions, such as student devices, large-format projection, and wireless networks that work seamlessly together to improve productivity, interactivity, and access to information. Hands-on interactivity will continue to be a focus for elementary schools and the need for wireless connectivity focused on collaboration and sharing will continue to expand in the higher grades.

Chris Minnich, CEO, NWEA

• In 2019 we will begin to see a much-needed shift in the modes used to rate school performance—away from an over-reliance on achievement scores to a recognition of the relevance of academic growth. In addition to weighting growth more heavily, more education leaders will recognize that growth is about more than a change in summative test performance over time—it’s about how much students learn from fall to spring, regardless of achievement level. This approach to measuring growth provides a more accurate picture of school performance and reduces bias against educators and schools that serve students in diverse, high-poverty communities. Recent research on the relationship between poverty and school performance supports this notion, revealing that many high-poverty schools with low achievement are at the same time producing average or better growth. The move toward a deeper understanding of growth will lead to better differentiation between schools with low achievement and high rates of growth and those with low achievement and little growth. This will, in turn, ensure that the schools most in need of support get it, and those that are accelerating student progress are recognized.

Cindy Moss, vice president of global STEM initiatives, Discovery Education

• In 2019, momentum for creating cultures of STEM education in school systems will accelerate, producing students even better prepared for college and careers. In 2018, in a number of districts, teachers, administrators, and community stakeholders began working collaboratively to create powerful STEM learning environments. These STEM learning environments feature cutting-edge, web-based digital resources that help students develop the creative, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills they need and include real-world challenges, career connections, and hands-on activities. To support the use of these resources, these school districts initiated sustained, job-embedded professional learning initiatives. In the coming year, I believe the effort to build cultures of STEM will accelerate. As the success of the districts that have been using this approach grows and as the need to change the way we prepare the workforce of the future becomes even more apparent, the “Culture of STEM” movement will become much more prevalent.

Mike Nesterak, senior director of product innovation, NWEA

• In the coming year, we will see more research into how new technologies, such as AR, speech recognition, automatic scoring, and artificial intelligence can create opportunities for more precise measurement, deeper insights, and more personalized learning. Additionally, we will start to experience migration towards individualization of assessment, where students are assessed on particular skill sets, rather than at the average level of the class.

Erez Pikar, CEO, CDI

• Educational organizations are moving their administrative and teaching applications as well as user data off premises. This trend will impact a variety of technology decisions in the future, from shrinking data-center requirements to different needs for end-user devices. Moving to SaaS-based applications and storing user data in the cloud will mean different security requirements and concerns, and the necessity of a robust infrastructure to support the increase in data traffic.

• The popularity of technologies that truly impact student engagement will grow exponentially. Whether it is a teaching tool that uses VR or AR, robotics, or a gaming-based educational tool, technologies that instigate student engagement will be high-demand solutions in the future. This trend is a result of the instructional staff becoming an integral part of technology decisions. Today, educators’ priorities are deploying technologies that will allow them to improve student engagement and that result in improved learning outcomes. The introduction of affordable solutions that truly change the way tech is used in the classroom is driving this trend. The growing focus on STEM and STEAM as a critical part of the curriculum are also contributing factors.

• The old tombstone-like classroom setup no longer meets today’s teaching needs. Educators are breaking away from traditional classroom layouts and finding new approaches to make their classrooms more conducive to 21st-century learning, where collaboration, personalization, and project-based instruction are becoming the norm. This means flexible, modular furnishings and mobile technology. The blackboard/whiteboard is no longer a fixture at the front of the room. Large-format interactive flat panels on carts that allow them to be used anywhere in the classroom are replacing the blackboard (or attached interactive whiteboards). These flexible classroom setups allow the introduction of new technologies and teaching techniques.

Adam Pisoni, founder, Abl Schools

• Equity is the new personalized learning and will be the new big focus for districts in 2019. It’s not that personalized learning is going away, but we’re continuing to find that the assumption that personalized learning will solve problems around equity isn’t panning out. Personalized learning is one important tool in broader efforts to improve equity for students.

• Increased focus on how issues outside the classroom (e.g., school operations) impact student outcomes and experience. It’s the natural continuation of a trend. Fifteen years ago, there was a narrow focus on math and reading in the classroom which expanded to general classroom experience (like SEL). The next step is realizing that the many decisions made outside the classroom can have just as much of an impact as what goes on inside.

• Meeting the needs of immigrant families. Schools will seek new ways to personalize instruction for an increasing number of students arriving to the public education system with limited English proficiency and large breaks in schooling, and to engage with LEP parents.

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.

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is editorial director for eSchool Media.


Add your opinion to the discussion.