What edtech trends will take top billing in schools and districts in the new year?

What did 2021 bring to K-12 edtech?


Top 10 of 2021: What edtech trends will take top billing in schools and districts in the new year?

Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on student engagement and online or hybrid learning strategies related to pandemic teaching. This year’s 2nd most-read story focuses on the K-12 edtech predictions educators and experts had for 2021–were they right?

When we posted our 2020 predictions on January 1 last year, we–along with the majority of the world–definitely didn’t anticipate the curveball that was (and continues to be) the global COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 has been called a dumpster fire, the worst year in recent memory, and more. Abrupt shifts to virtual and hybrid learning laid bare the vast inequities that exist in the U.S. education system. The move to online learning also made people wonder: Are there practices we can continue when the pandemic abates? What can we take from this when we return to our classrooms? And will we return to our classrooms to teach in the same manner as we did before COVID?

We asked edtech executives, stakeholders, and experts to share some of their thoughts and predictions about where they think edtech is headed in 2021.

Here’s what they had to say:

As many school districts remain virtual or use a hybrid model, teachers are doing everything they can to help students succeed in a distance learning environment, but at some point they will hit a wall and need help. This will create a new demand for online tutoring services and I anticipate and hope that more federal resources are allocated to school districts to offer this 1:1 tutoring to students. This may assist with mitigating learning loss. It will provide more support for students who are struggling in the online environment, it will take some of the burden off of the teachers, and it will help schools support educational equity by creating greater access to services that previously were only available to families that could afford it.
– Dr. Maria Armstrong, Executive Director, Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents

As the U.S. and globe accelerate toward the use of renewable energy to fuel power grids, there is an acute pressure to build an educated workforce and a knowledgeable public who will understand and support these changes. There exist major gaps in teacher knowledge and the availability of curricular tools to support this type of learning. We need to help educators and students better understand the power grid system, how it impacts them and the changes that are coming, including renewables, storage, and electric vehicles. I anticipate that we will see more resources dedicated to helping students and educators understand the basics of electricity infrastructure so that they can engage in solving our urgent challenges.
– Michael Arquin, Founder, KidWind

Greater focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) is one model of instructing the “whole child” or attending to more than just academic content. With the extreme changes endured by children and families due to responses to the coronavirus pandemic, social-emotional needs have become more prominent than ever. As educators eagerly seek to address worsening academic gaps, experts increasingly acknowledge the importance of high-quality SEL instruction and support to equip students to navigate these uncertain times, as well as to make academic progress. As we look to supporting the “whole adult” that students will become, instruction on life skills becomes more important. We no longer solely prepare students to be college-ready. We seek life-readiness. Today’s educators seek to provide learning experiences that prepare students to be healthy, successful participants in college, career, civics, and home life.
– Anastasia Betts, VP of Curriculum Planning & Design, Age of Learning

The past six months have reaffirmed that engagement is central to student learning, regardless of the instructional environment. The edtech community stepped up to accommodate students and teachers during remote and hybrid learning with an emphasis on core subject areas. However, the struggle will be to expand innovation in core subjects and beyond, including integrating technology into ancillary K-12 areas such as CTE, music, physical education, health, and the arts. Additional attention needs to be given to all types of learners by addressing various learning modalities, intervention paths, and students with Individual Education Plans through technology that is customizable, integrated, and aligned to state standards. This will be imperative to supporting students and teachers alike.
– Dan Cavalli, Chief Sales Officer, Flinn Scientific

“Next year, many traditional education strategies will fade away as educators help students recover from the pandemic’s impact, especially with harder-hit groups like students who learn and think differently. To provide a safe and effective learning environment, educators will reimagine schools to improve accessibility and inclusivity. We’ll also see educators needing to address the mental health crisis by prioritizing individualized and trauma-informed instruction.”
– Bob Cunningham, Executive Director of Learning Development, Understood

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 49% of K-12 students experienced a mental health condition during their academic career, such as depression, anxiety, or substance use. While districts and schools play a vital role in identifying and supporting students, districts may not be able to fully support the rapidly growing demand for mental health needs based on limited internal resources. How educators respond to this next pandemic –students’ anxiety and stress–will certainly remain a critically important priority for school administrators, counselors and psychologists in 2021.
– Collin Earnst, CEO, LearnWell

This year has highlighted that we don’t want students to stop learning – no matter the circumstance. If we can give students the tools they need to learn how to learn, they’ll be enabled to learn in any setting, especially in a more self-guided way with different teachers. This approach ultimately sets them up for success in whatever environment they find themselves in as learners. For 2021, we’ll begin to see students re-learn how to learn and teach themselves effectively. As students continue to online learn, they will need to focus on how to help adapt to circumstances and be creative in their approaches – which will lead them to a different style of learning that they’re used to.
– Erica Fessia, VP of Field Operations, FIRST

Laura Ascione
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