- The pandemic did a number on student achievement, particularly in math and reading
- Technology access and digital learning tools are critical in addressing these learning gaps
- See related article: 4 ways edtech tools drive student engagement and build classroom culture
After Covid-era shutdowns and rocky transitions to virtual education, we’re facing a crisis in education. The past three years erased decades of improvements in math and reading literacy across K-12 students. It also widened existing achievement gaps, leaving millions of children behind their American peers, and even further behind students in other countries. Increasing students’ access to technology tools in the classroom is key to reversing these trends.
For teachers, closing the achievement gap will mean embracing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Generative AI can be a low-cost tutoring tool to help students understand difficult concepts–especially important for students who believe they are behind their peers and are less likely to engage in a classroom setting. Gamified and AI-enabled tools like SayKid’s Toybot and Encoder Inc.’s Memory OS offer fun and engaging ways to improve learning skills.
AI can also help kids exercise their imaginations. My kids love AI-driven apps that allow them to create and read their own stories. As AI grows more sophisticated, it should be no surprise that some 68 percent of students and 73 percent of teachers believe AI tools can help improve student performance, according to a recent study by the Walton Family Foundation.
Opportunities for technology-enabled learning extend beyond AI. In recent years, we’ve seen huge growth in edtech as companies partner with educators to develop software and hardware that can support teaching and learning. Companies like Skriware offer comprehensive ed tech systems for schools, using 3D printing to teach principles of robotics and programming, while Unitinia analyzes student data to visualize data and help build custom content for tutors and parents. Other technology like Kinderpedia streamlines teacher work and strengthens the three-way connection between teachers, students and parents. With more than three quarters of U.S. states experiencing teacher shortages and nearly half of teachers reporting burnout, this technology can help teachers give students more personalized time and attention while lightening their workload.
Of course, more internet-enabled technology in the classroom will require work to ensure that educators and students can actually use it. That means doubling down on efforts to expand access to 5G and high-speed internet. The Biden administration recently allocated more than $650 million in federal grants and loans to build more broadband infrastructure in rural U.S. communities. Government officials and school administrators must work together to ensure that investments in high-speed internet reach our classrooms and are made in a technology-neutral manner. That’s especially critical for rural and remote schools, or those serving kids living in poverty, who are more likely to attend schools with fewer and lower quality books and curriculum materials.
At the same time, schools will need to ensure that new technology doesn’t introduce new security risks. With cyberattacks on the rise, expanded cybersecurity protections, as well as training for students and teachers, are key steps to protecting schools from attacks that can derail school systems, expose students’ personal information and cost millions of dollars to repair. Recognizing this need, one government agency recently proposed a pilot program that would invest critical resources in cybersecurity services for schools and libraries, a positive first step.
Education requires innovation. To give American students high quality learning opportunities and prepare them for an increasingly digital world, schools need access to modern technology tools, as well as the internet that powers them. We should look to technology as more than just a gadget in a school backpack–it’s a partner as we strive to educate the kids who will define our future.
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