As we wrapped up 2020, we thought for sure that 2021 might bring us a reprieve from pandemic learning. Well, it did–but it also didn’t. Virtual and hybrid learning continued into the spring, but then classrooms welcomed back students for full-time in-person learning in the fall. Many silver linings emerged and digital learning cemented itself as a “must have” in schools. Equity remained front and center, too, raising issues of inequitable technology access, along with racial and socioeconomic disparities and discrimination.
2021 brought with it new COVID-19 variants, the dreaded school COVID quarantine, and renewed calls to support the nation’s educators, who have worked tirelessly (and constantly) to support students’ learning, social and emotional needs, and more.
And now, we head into our third year of learning during a global pandemic. We asked edtech executives, stakeholders, and experts to share some of their thoughts and predictions about where they think edtech is headed in 2022.
Here’s what they had to say:
The demand for online learning will continue to grow in 2022 and possibly lead to the creation of virtual schools, which would introduce new AR and VR learning processes. Teachers will need to learn and refine their online teaching skills and find new opportunities for working from home, allowing them a better work-life balance. This will help them focus on the quality of their lessons without the heavy financial strain that many teachers deal with today. Learners will have the flexibility to follow on-campus lessons and use online lessons to cover topics they couldn’t fully grasp the first time around. More importantly, students will have better access to lessons designed specifically for their learning style. This will inevitably result in increased comprehension and productivity in student learning. To deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow, we need to equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge necessary to adapt and overcome these challenges.
This school year, one of the biggest challenges for school administrators has been trying to work through the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. This includes navigating the often politicized issues related to immunizations, the high student absence rate due to quarantines or parents wanting to keep their children home, and the negative impact the pandemic had on student and staff mental health. Many students are exhibiting new behavioral issues such as getting into fights or engaging in bullying, and many teachers are just trying to get through the day. Although there has been a lot of focus on mental wellbeing, we need to do more. We need to invest in resources that will help us get better at finding the root cause of these issues instead of just treating the symptoms.
–Dr. Maria Armstrong, Executive Director, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
5G promises reliability, lightning-fast speeds, and much higher data capacities. The pandemic highlighted the massive digital divide that exists between marginalized communities and affluent communities that enjoy well-established digital infrastructure. We typically talk about the “last-mile” – the connection between the larger Internet network and neighborhoods and communities. 5G can provide a cost-effective way to deliver fiber-like Internet speeds to schools, through Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). FWA allows extremely high-speed broadband where fiber connections can be too cost-prohibitive to install. Think of broadband speeds where large amounts of data can allow students to collaborate digitally from their schools or homes. Access to interactive experiences, 3D drawings, site visits, etc. can now be accessible to schools in densely populated urban areas. By the end of 2022, some of the major service providers in the U.S. expect to reach 250 million 5G customers. It is becoming more and more promising for 5G to enable improved remote learning through these innovations.
—Babak D. Beheshti, IEEE Senior Member, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences at New York Institute of Technology
I believe the use of esports to teach both K–12 academic and social-emotional skills and the design of esports environments to support skill development outcomes will continue to grow at an exponential rate over the next several years. Currently, the esports ecosystem is projected to surpass $1.8 billion by 2022. Schools, media, and investors are all keeping an eye on the growth. In fact, research shows that 80 percent of esports teams are comprised of students who have never before participated in extracurricular activities. Much like participation in an athletic team, esports players learn how to work together as an effective team by communicating and collaborating with each other. I believe the alignment of esports to the development of higher order thinking skills and social emotional learning with a path toward college scholarships combined with the high interest of adolescents for gaming activities ensures that esports will continue to grow for some time into the future.
–Remco Bergsma, CEO, MiEN Company
COVID forced teachers and students to rely on digital learning more than ever, but they came away with different lessons from the experience. Even teachers who were tech-shy found excellent tools to help create and deliver engaging classes, whereas many students found they missed school and interacting with their classmates. After online lessons, I don’t see teachers returning to binders of lesson ideas collected over years, but I do see teachers and students pushing back on the idea that digital is the solution—so hands-on learning, collaboration, and teamwork will take center stage for the next year or two. However, eventually, as post-stimulus costs begin to hit schools, digital, with its lower costs and higher margins, will be where districts and publishers come together to deliver engaging education with tighter budgets.
— Catherine Cahn, CEO, Twig Education
Edtech companies that fail to prioritize accessibility will be left behind. Now more than ever, students and teachers are seeing the real value edtech tools can bring to the classroom. As these tools become more integrated into the classroom, teachers will want to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities or language barriers, are being supported. This means that teachers will prefer to use tools from edtech companies that prioritize accessibility. Companies that don’t prioritize accessibility will be left behind as accessibility will become a major factor for edtech tools in 2022 and beyond.
–Jason Carroll, Chief Product Officer, Texthelp