As we reflect on the last 14 months in the education space, we all understand the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students, teachers, and schools in the U.S. and around the world. With this understanding, we must look for ways that we, the edtech industry, can add true value to these groups in order to help get them back on track in the current and post-pandemic worlds.
Although there are many areas where the edtech industry can help, I have identified a few areas in which edtech leaders, including myself, can make an immediate and meaningful difference:
PD to support in-person, hybrid, and remote learning
One of the first steps we should take is to ensure technology and remote learning pedagogy are critical areas of professional development (PD). As a number of today’s edtech products could be used in a brick-and-mortar or online classroom environment, it’s key that their PD programs focus on the broader subjects of technology, not solely just on a product. Without the right training or understanding of the overarching concepts, those products will not be as successful.
Technology to seamlessly facilitate effective teaching and learning
Another key step for the edtech industry is to ensure that all edtech products currently in the market, or being developed, work across different learning environments and solve the challenges students and teachers are facing.
Effective technologies should:
1. Seamlessly fit into the classroom workflow no matter where it is
2. Augment the teacher
3. Allow for easy transition from different classroom environments
4. Solve a particular problem that either students or teachers face currently in the classroom
5. Meet the needs of students and teachers of all abilities
If these criteria are not met in the technologies in the market today or coming down the pipeline, they could bring on more challenges than opportunities for students and teachers. And, unfortunately, not every piece of edtech follows these guidelines.
The ability to address new challenges and changing needs
Lastly, as an industry, we must be there to support our educators and students. We must be ready and able to address any problems that arise within the education space as they work to get back on track. This means edtech companies must remain agile and be able to adapt current or upcoming products to the changing needs of users and the overall market.
In order to understand what challenges may arise, it is critical that edtech companies remain in contact with education leaders, teachers, and students. A few effective ways to stay in touch could be through:
1. Short monthly or quarterly surveys that gauge thoughts or feelings on certain subjects
2. In-product feedback mechanisms that allow for users to immediately provide commentary on how the technology is performing or how it could be improved
3. Close contact with tech support to know what questions or technical issues customers are contacting companies about the most
4. Attendance at local and national events (when able) to hear first-hand from customers
5. Customer focus groups (virtual or in-person, when able)
6. Social media interaction
My team and I have done this ourselves regularly throughout the pandemic. Most recently, we surveyed English teachers to understand how the subject of writing and how the cultivation of writing skills were prioritized since school was disrupted in March 2020. In addition, we plan to also survey math teachers to determine how the pandemic has impacted their teaching of math concepts.
As we continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic now, and even down the line—it could be months from now or in a year or two—the edtech industry will continue to play a supporting role in efforts to help students and educators. And because of that, we must maintain a firm grasp of the landscape and be able to provide near-immediate assistance as challenges arise and changes occur.
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