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What K-12 edtech trends will take top billing in schools and districts in the new year?

65 predictions about edtech, equity, and learning in 2022

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

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.

Suren Aloyan, Co-Founder & CEO, PopUp EduTech, Inc., Founding President, Dasaran 

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

2022 will be the year of decision making for K-12 educators. For over a year now, the focus has been on getting technology into the hands of students. With schools transitioning back to the classroom, we’re seeing what hopefully is the beginning of greater stabilization in education. Districts and schools that embraced new edtech tools since the start of the pandemic are learning what works for them. We will begin to see these schools and districts make more permanent decisions on the edtech tools they’re using and will continue to use in the future. With edtech usage higher than ever, the edtech industry will use this as an opportunity to evolve. Educators will use the data from the past two years to determine what works and where to go “all-in” to support student learning and classroom efficiencies.

–Jason Carroll, Chief Product Officer, Texthelp

Schools had a crash course in greater instructional technology usage during the pandemic. Teachers have gained so much confidence and are finally using educational technology in a way that enhances their instruction at a scale we haven’t seen. Districts now have a trove of data about which platforms and apps were actually being used (and enjoyed), and they can track that data against student performance in ways that just weren’t possible before. I predict that 2022 is going to be the year of edtech efficacy. District leaders are no longer reliant on the claims of edtech companies. They can now see what technology their teachers and students found useful, and whether or not that actually contributed to student growth. And there is power in that data, not just from the perspective of ROI, but also in the potential for teaching and learning and ensuring data privacy compliance. 

–Monica Cougan, Manager of Strategic Relationships and Initiatives, CatchOn

The start of this school year was a tough one for both students and teachers. Because much of last year was very unpredictable, the normal content and study skills were not fully taught. Students came into this year having not been held completely accountable during the previous year, having little experience in the lab, and in many cases lacking necessary content. During the first few months of this year, I spent a lot of time reviewing ways for the students to study, as well as making up for missing content. Because of the ever-changing schedule and environment of last year, many students simply lack the skills to be good students and require much more monitoring in class. This is where my Wacom Intuos has been so very helpful. I have used it to create quick and short review videos for content, lab procedures, and even study tips. Additionally, the tablet has Bluetooth, so I am able to carry on a lecture while walking around the classroom monitoring students as they take notes or work through problems. While I have had to readjust some of my teaching methodology, I have also come to appreciate all of the technology I learned to use this past year and plan on continuing to use it in my instruction.

–Lisa Cumming, Science Teacher, Olmsted Falls High School

A lot of students are struggling emotionally this year because of the pandemic and teaching is harder than it’s ever been because of this shift. Some of our kids haven’t been in school for two years and are having a hard time adjusting to being back in the classroom. Some have had too much screen time and it’s changed the way their brain works and we’re seeing more students qualifying for special education services and needing help. The pandemic moved most schools to 1:1, and monitoring those devices provides another way for teachers to help determine if students are struggling so they can get the help they need.

–Jami Davis, Technology Teacher, Mansfield Independent School District

COVID caused an uptick in parent engagement–this will be the new norm. Educators are feeling the change in parent-school relationships everywhere—an unexpected side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw that communication between parents and educators soared during and after the shutdown. As students begin to settle back into an in-person routine, we must not lose the momentum caused by the groundswell in engagement. Now is the time for schools to establish communication processes, frequency, and consistency— while parents are still very comfortable with increased engagement and information. As such, over the next year we will see this momentum continue, as more schools realize the benefits of more meaningful communication between school and home and implement solutions to enable this.

–Russ Davis, CEO and Founder, SchoolStatus

We will see a continued surge in demand for K-12 digitized operations platforms. Due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting lockdowns and social distancing mandates, there has been a growing need for schools to adopt online school management software for a variety of functions, everything from virtual instruction to communication with student families to operational tasks. When schools were forced to pivot to virtual learning, that also meant finding a way to manage day-to-day operations that didn’t rely on being in person. In the schools that embraced this paradigm, this shift to digital operations resulted in greater efficiency and more time for classroom teachers to focus on teaching vs administrative tasks. This surge in demand will continue post-COVID, as schools work to increase their engagement with parents, provide more detailed reporting, and create more efficient, paperless administration systems.

–Russ Davis, CEO and Founder, SchoolStatus

Schools will look for educational solutions that meet the unique needs of their diverse student populations, not one-size-fits all options. Parents and students will expect schools to provide curriculum pathways that better prepare students for life after graduation, and that factor in student wellness and social emotional learning (SEL). To combat teacher shortages, through collaboration and the sharing of resources, schools will develop new partnerships and solutions for educating students in class and at a distance. Cybersecurity and maintaining student privacy will continue to be a high priority. As more districts use technology tools to deliver education in new ways, it will remain critically important to ensure that education taking place outside of classroom walls remains safe and secure. 

–Carol DeFuria, President & CEO, VHS Learning

As schools continue adjusting to the return to classrooms, educators are searching for ways to reignite student engagement and collaboration. Schools are turning to creative solutions such as immersive technology and gamification in the classroom. AR and VR, for instance, brings a fun element to a lesson and can help students develop critical thinking skills. We’ll continue to see schools and educators creating experiential lessons to better engage students and get them excited to be in school learning.

–Remi Del Mar, Senior Product Manager for K-12 Projectors, Epson America, Inc.

The last two years have shown that technology is a valuable tool that can help educators prepare for any circumstance and be more agile and flexible in a quickly changing educational environment. The pandemic has also highlighted the disparity in technology budgets and practices, revealing an opportunity to make technology work for all. It has become more apparent that technological advancement in education should be focused on rethinking educational approaches while strategically identifying and solving real challenges in the extended classroom. In 2022, education leaders and institutions will be more discerning with their technology investments and adoption to ensure they use strategically aligned, high-quality tech tools to enhance the educator’s role as facilitator, improve equity in student learning, and prepare them for whatever the future brings. As educators continue to vet and implement high-quality tech tools, automated processes will begin to free up time so they can work more closely with students one-on-one.

–Jeff Elliot, COO of UWorld

With COVID-19 we learned lessons that will carry over into 2022. The first is that technology will continue to play an important role in the classroom with expanded infrastructure and broader applications to increase teacher-student engagement. Secondly, we will see the need for greater access to real-time data and analytics to empower teachers to intervene when needed to accelerate individual student achievement. And thirdly, we believe that there will be more urgent attention paid to professional development for K-12 educators. This means instruction in evidence-based, proven methodologies for students and teachers that build on literacy as the foundation to all learning and that create a path to educational equity for all.

–Nick Gaehde, President, Lexia Learning

District leaders are telling us they’re looking for ways to ensure teachers feel supported in their classrooms — even when there are fewer coaches to provide support. This has meant conversations with us about streamlining feedback to teachers and increasing teacher-teacher collaboration. We’re discussing how to strategically implement video feedback “now” and replicate successful models from other districts.

–Adam Geller, Founder and CEO, Edthena

The classroom experience will include increased technology and personalized learning. I believe we’re going to see some really exciting trends in education technology in 2022–in particular, how teachers are applying the tools they discovered during remote learning and incorporating them into an entirely new classroom experience. During the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen how technology can benefit teachers.Using the right edtech tools has been shown to give teachers more time and freedom to focus on improving outcomes for students. Through the use of edtech tools, we will see teachers be able to differentiate instruction, support, and encourage every student on a much different scale, especially as students re-learn or seek to catch up on certain concepts that were disrupted during the past year.

— Ryan Graham, Chief Technology Officer, Texthelp

Districts will move to adopt the Science of Reading to increase reading gains: The research to support this approach to teaching and the efficacy of it in application is strong. Schools are realizing that many of their teachers were not taught this approach to instruction. Districts will have the burden to ensure their teachers play catch up.

–Amy Gulley, M.Ed Literacy and Curriculum, Certified Academic Language Therapist C.A.L.T and IDA Certified Dyslexia Specialist

Schools, districts and states will work to figure out policy changes to help reduce the inequities in education. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a heightened awareness of the important role parents play in a child’s education, but it has also brought a heightened awareness to the inequities we face across the nation to, not just virtual learning, but parental leave to be at home with their kids, time away from their jobs with no funding reprieve, and the need to have basic knowledge/understanding of what their children are learning on schools. As a country, we now have to figure out how to close the inequity gaps and make sure all students and parents have a level playing field. 

–Amy Gulley, M.Ed Literacy and Curriculum, Certified Academic Language Therapist C.A.L.T and IDA Certified Dyslexia Specialist

Schools will make changes to provide systematic instruction and stem the bleed of learning loss. The gaps will have to be filled from the COVID-19 pandemic; as administrators begin to witness the widening of learning gaps, they will have to assure that teachers are equipped to provide systematic and focused instruction. Many states will receive federal ESSR funds to increase professional development for teachers and help support systematic instruction.

–Amy Gulley, M.Ed Literacy and Curriculum, Certified Academic Language Therapist C.A.L.T and IDA Certified Dyslexia Specialist

Many schools that applied for grants during the pandemic are only now getting access to awarded funds.  Now that the most urgent phase of the crisis is past, learning technology leaders can assess how to implement technology that both prepares them for the next emergency and better supports students’ everyday learning needs. Collaboration technology improves accessibility for students with disabilities, illnesses, and other impediments to in-person learning. They also offer benefits in terms of soft skills and workforce readiness. Even very young students now have access to and experience with tools for both synchronous and a synchronous collaboration. Today’s students going to emerge from school already very comfortable with the technological tools of the modern workforce. This increased ability to collaborate at a distance hasn’t made in-person learning obsolete, however. Hybrid capabilities will continue to roll out across campuses specifically so that we can avoid another total shutdown. With hybrid classrooms, schools can ask students to quarantine on a targeted basis rather than issuing a blanket shutdown. In 2022, we’ll see a continued focus on bringing solutions into the classroom that support both continuous operations and safety in the event of a crisis, such as auto-tracking cameras. Such technology allows instructors to teach in-person students normally – but any remote students can keep track of everything happening in the classroom. Moving forward, the question will be not, “should we implement collaborative technology in the classroom,” but, “which tools have the most impact for students – wherever they’re located.

Stephen Heywood, Broadcast Engineer, PTZOptics

As schools and districts focus on closing learning gaps after more than a full school year of virtual and hybrid learning, I predict that resources that help teachers provide differentiated learning will be in high demand. Many schools are using part of the funds from the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for one-on-one or small-group tutoring, which is seen by experts as one of the most effective ways to address learning recovery. Our team is hearing from parents and school leaders that students need more individual support than they can get in a classroom setting. Tutors can almost act as virtual teaching assistants, helping students grasp even the most nuanced concepts of a lesson—without requiring time and energy that classroom teachers simply don’t have. Looking forward to 2022, I believe that any tool students can use anywhere and anytime to receive quality, personalized instruction will be invaluable.

–Myles Hunter, Co-Founder and CEO, TutorMe

As more teachers retire and leave the profession, 2022 will be a year of reckoning for the country. The importance of professional teachers will emerge as an important national conversation. There will be added pressure by governments and businesses to prepare teachers, pay them, and elevate their professional standing. While this shift won’t happen in a single year, 2022 will be seen as a pivotal shift in the zeitgeist.

–John Jorgenson, CMO, Cambium

While the youth unemployment rate is receding from its record high in 2020, the rate is still concerningly high at a time when we see college enrollments at an all-time low. This should be ringing some alarms about the ways we have failed to prepare students for postsecondary success. I predict that in 2022, we are going to see a big push from the business community to start expanding career and technical education programs in high schools to help build out the workforce pipeline and address the critical worker shortage. My hope is that district leaders take a more active role in that design process instead of deferring solely to the expertise of business leaders. A true collaboration between K-12, higher education, and workforce leaders is going to ensure students get the support and training they need to be successful post-graduation, whether they choose to go to college, join the workforce, or some combination of both.

–Dr. Charles Khoury, District Superintendent, Ulster BOCES

Gamification:The world is moving from the content era to the engagement era. Now the most important thing is interactions. More educators and programs are choosing to gamify lessons — and students are responding positively.

–Manan Khurma, Founder, Cuemath

A rise in personalized learning and use of data analytics to help students: Student analytics allow educators to better determine how best to teach students. Programs use data to help identify learning behaviors and styles which provide better results. 

–Manan Khurma, Founder, Cuemath

In 2021, we learned to adjust one’s mindsets, to recognize and appreciate cultural needs, and the impact of social and emotional well-being. In 2022, social and emotional learning will become ubiquitous, integrated in everything we do to support both, students and educators, and their families.

–Lupita Knittel, President, 7 Mindsets

Greater legislation about how teachers teach students how to read: We are going to start seeing more and more state legislation requiring that universities teach pre-service teachers about linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and how the brain learns to read. Districts will forgo a ‘wait to fail’ model where students are identified in third or fourth grade before receiving the instruction they need vs. giving instruction to all students from the onset of school.

–Janice Kohler-Curtis, Chief Academic Officer, The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education

More investment in teacher training and certification: Districts are realizing that teachers are the best resource for any school. Teacher knowledge is imperative to move students forward. Teachers want programs that they can implement immediately: not just something they read from a book. Educators want something they can implement through knowledge, partnerships, and fidelity. Certification will become increasingly more important to ensure fidelity, and cohorts of teachers will pop up who are dedicated to making significant changes.

–Janice Kohler-Curtis, Chief Academic Officer, The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education

Increased support to prevent teacher shortage: Teachers who remain in education have a passion for it and are dedicated to helping children. The past two years have been very challenging for educators. Districts will see the importance of giving teachers the tools to be successful, provide support, and show greater appreciation of them to prevent quality educators from leaving the field.

–Janice Kohler-Curtis, Chief Academic Officer, The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education

My school is always looking for new and innovative ways to engage students in STEM, and this will continue to be a focus in 2022. An example of this will be providing students with ample opportunities to learn about astronomical concepts through the use of Slooh. They will be able to explore space through the use of online telescope feeds, participate in class-wide learning quests, and share what they learn with others. This will encourage ongoing communication and collaboration as students participate in meaningful, real-world STEM learning.

Nicollette LeTellier, STEM Specialist for K-5, Swift Water Elementary School

Competency-based education will emerge across K-12.After the pandemic, schools will need to find a way to measure where their students are academically, developmentally, and socially to make their best efforts to remediate learning loss of all kinds.

Keith Look, Ed.D., VP of Equity and Innovation, K-12, Territorium

Technology will be tailored to support through-course assessment.Rather than an end-of-year, single high-stakes test, conversations are picking up around scaffolding the high stakes testing model, whereby students take pieces of exams as they progress. And those exams–as the learner progresses–will include questions from previous assessments to ensure information is being retained.  Technology will be better equipped to evaluate threads across time as well as single point-in-time measures.

Keith Look, Ed.D., VP of Equity and Innovation, K-12, Territorium

Performance assessment will gain in its share of the spotlight.With every living room, bedroom, or community center becoming a classroom during the pandemic, the education arena became more open to accepting new kinds of evidence of student learning. This has helped to break down barriers to the perception that there is only one way to prove what a student knows and is ready to learn how to do next.

Keith Look, Ed.D., VP of Equity and Innovation, K-12, Territorium

Connectivity will be the winner–both on a technological level and a social/emotional level. We’re already beginning to see many school districts invest in social and emotional learning for the upcoming year, and there’s an increased appetite for asynchronous learning as the pandemic has shown that some students prefer this learning environment. Social connections are crucial, and teachers and students will benefit from technologies built to replicate the social aspects of the classroom.

Abbas Manjee, Former Educator and Co-Founder of Kiddom

2022 will see the birth of digital native curriculum. In the age of remote learning, a myth has emerged that school districts have to make a choice between quality and flexibility when it comes to curriculum. The reality is that curriculum authored on paper doesn’t always transition smoothly to a digital format, especially when it comes to in-person partner activities and other traditional learning activities. In 2022, school districts need to break that mindset and invest in curriculum specifically authored for digital tools.

Abbas Manjee, Former Educator and Co-Founder, Kiddom

Technology that supports engagement, interactivity, and social connection will be key to retaining and recruiting teachers. The idea of the digital market is further along than the adoption of it, and teachers are getting tired. In fact, two-thirds of teachers will be ready for retirement in the next 15 years, a trend that isn’t expected to slow down. Teachers want to use technology and digital curriculum to free themselves from some of the other work they’d been doing beforehand. To attract new talent, we must use 21st century tools in classrooms. 

Abbas Manjee, Former Educator and Co-Founder, Kiddom

At the end of the day, how school districts operate with regard to data will be key.There’s a dire need for new measurement systems aside from end-of-year letter grades. The school districts that win next year will be the ones that invest in and use real-time data to show their end user (families) that an impact is being made and adjustments are being implemented accordingly. Reliance on traditional methods of accountability within both a hybrid and in-person school system will not be fruitful in the long term.

Abbas Manjee, Former Educator and Co-Founder, Kiddom

Over the past year and a half, school administrators, teachers, and IT support staff and students themselves have been working in a complex threat environment. The pandemic and major increase in cyberattacks has resulted in closures for both in-person and online schools. While this will only continue into 2022, it will be importance for security and IT professionals that support schools to align their policies, procedures, and technical controls to a cybersecurity framework that fits the needs of their organization, such as the recently announced K-12 resources announced jointly by the FBI and CISA. Using a formal framework can help schools effectively identify and mitigate gaps in school security postures without substantial budget increases. Schools should also consider a quarterly exercise to re-audit their password stores, as the number of compromised passwords will only continue to increase in the year ahead. A password that was secure three months ago may have appeared in a data breach (especially since students and adults tend to use the same passwords for multiple accounts) and may no longer be a secure option. Although it’s hard to predict what’s to come for educational institutions moving forward and future of remote and hybrid learning is going to be uncertain, education professionals should expect to see threat actors continue to target schools that have not taken a proactive approach to cybersecurity and deployed the appropriate defenses.

Kayne McGladrey, IEEE Senior Member, Cybersecurity Strategist, Ascent Solutions

Tracking students’ wellbeing and mental health will become a priority. Our students have been greatly affected by the pandemic. In March 2020, many were either starting school for the first time or in critical developmental years and had to go to school virtually. Now, three school years later, it is fair to say that this generation of students will be like no other. Teachers, district leaders, and parents need to make a conscious effort to keep track of students’ well-being and mental health. We cannot expect today or tomorrow’s students to be like previous generations. They’ve had a tremendously difficult start to their education, and it’ll likely have a lasting impact. Now more than ever, we need to put students’ mental health first,”

–Martin McKay, CEO and Founder, Texthelp

The impact of technology in the classroom will not go unnoticed. We saw a significant increase in the use of education technology due to COVID-19. I truly do not see there being a decrease any time soon, especially not in 2022. The pandemic triggered the deployment of 1:1 devices for students. Across the board, we saw more laptops in the hands of young people than ever before. While this is very likely due to schools across the world having to go remote, it is probable that teachers and students will continue to choose these technologies in the classroom moving forward. And, with educators now seeing the impact and benefits of having devices and technology tools, I don’t see us fully turning back to paper and pen. Through the use of technology tools, we will be able to give our students a greater education that is more individualized to their needs and learning styles. While the deployment of edtech tools has been substantial, educators must make sure all students have the same opportunity and access to these tools. A major focus will be on ensuring that disadvantaged students and families have equal access.

–Martin McKay, CEO and Founder, Texthelp

Students have seen increased access to school-issued devices and improved connectivity in a learning environment that combines in-person and remote learning in the last few years. As a result of these significant changes to their learning experience, 2022 will continue to highlight the importance of student safety, both emotional safety and digital safety. Teachers, who have been adapting to similar paradigm shifts, will need to acknowledge the students’ emotional needs and empower them with the resources they need to continue their education. Schools must combine digital security solutions to protect against cyberthreats with filtering solutions that ensure a safe learning environment for the students regardless of where they are. Lastly, “The Great Resignation” has affected every industry including education. Teachers are leaving their jobs and schools need to find ways to retain talent. One of the ways to empower teachers is offering professional development specific to the technology they use to run their hybrid classrooms. Empowering teachers will benefit the entire classroom experience and in turn drive student success.

-Suraj Mohandas, Senior Director of Education Strategy, Jamf

School safety and student wellbeing continue to be significant concerns for school districts this year. As a result we’re seeing an increased demand for our Student Safety and Wellness courses as well as our online Safety and Compliance courses for staff – everything from youth suicide prevention, to how to respond to and prevent bullying, to active shooter training. With most school districts back in-person, it’s important to be vigilant and proactive about safety issues, and for school administrators to make sure both employees and students have the resources they need.

–Justin Moore, K-12 Sales Director, Vector Solutions

Game-based learning is certainly proving its mettle in classrooms and in enhancing the overall learning experience in the edtech sector. With the excess of content and decreasing attention span of students, it is very important to arouse the interest and involvement of students, especially those in the K-12 sector. The biggest advantage of game-based learning is that it keeps students motivated and absorbed, but most importantly, makes learning fun. It also helps overcome anxiety, which is so typical of a classroom environment and helps retain concepts with spaced repetition. The educational sector is now also appreciating the value of data analytics. Learning analytics systems use student behaviors, or ‘digital breadcrumbs,’ to collate the traces left behind and use those traces for improving learning by providing insights to educators on how best to teach their students.

–Joy Deep Nath, Co-Founder, SplashLearn

New technologies will support equity in K-12 parent communication. Now more than ever, schools need to make it a priority to remove technology, language, and access barriers to parent engagement to create an environment where all kids can succeed. Most communication solutions have built-in economic or social barriers such as requiring parents to own a smartphone or computer, have reliable Wi-Fi, have time to spend communicating, and too often, to speak English. Equity in K-12 parent communication is about breaking through barriers and reaching parents in ways that are direct and convenient. That is why what we are already seeing, and will continue to see, is a growing demand for K-12 technologies and platforms that support more equitable parent communication and collaboration. Beyond the basic mass communication platforms, or grade/attendance portals, these new platforms fuse data and communications, and offer multiple modes of communications and translation capabilities that enable expanded educator understanding of student home life, increased professional and productive communication between teachers and parents, and shared parent understanding of curriculum and course goals.” 

–Leslie Ortego, Director of Customer Success, SchoolStatus

Social emotional learning will be a key area of focus in K-12. Social emotional learning (SEL) has grown in importance among schools. Schools are looking for ways to track and monitor SEL. One thing we have learned is that to successfully monitor SEL it takes a lot of two-way communication between the school and parents to stay abreast of and address any issues. To meet these needs, schools are implementing communications platforms with expanded capabilities that enable schools and classroom educators to have more in-depth, meaningful discussions with parents. Schools are also tracking metrics such as sports and activities involvement, chronic absenteeism, and disciplinary infractions to capture, track and monitor the social emotional health of their students. In the coming year, there will be an increased focus on social emotional learning, along with issues such as learning loss and chronic absenteeism, and finding ways to track and address these issues.

–Leslie Ortego, Director of Customer Success, SchoolStatus

This past year, some districts have worked tirelessly to address the unfinished learning that many students have faced over the past 21 months. As we turn the calendar to another new year, I believe public schools, districts, and charter schools will need to cultivate: Next-Level Resilience: To overcome and succeed through adversity, standing on their continuous improvement models and pathways developed along the way. Continued Innovation: And unleash the power of technology in the hands of trained educators to propel K-12 forward by leveraging and creating innovative initiatives to address the noted learning losses and this includes rapidly evolving and strengthening the ability to reach and teach students with engaging online learning opportunities. Social-Emotional Learning Endeavors: To ‘Lean In’ on the importance and necessity to develop and support Social Emotional Learning initiatives and address this critical foundation need for students and their academic communities. Targeted Instruction and Acceleration Focus TO SCALE and SUSTAIN: So districts can push the envelope on scaling strategic and targeted supports, like tutoring and acceleration models that can sustain for the long-term along with pairing their ESSER initiatives with research to deliver a sustainable pathway.

–Ryan Patenaude, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder, FEV Tutor

During the 2021 back-to-school season, we have witnessed a tremendous desire and need for SEL assessments across our customer base and throughout the nation.  Our partners are implementing district-wide initiatives because of increased COVID funding, allowing them to implement SEL assessments. Our partners realize the extreme learning loss that results from not supporting their students’ SEL needs through the application of adaptive, collaborative strategies and we expect this need to continue to increase.

–Stacey Preator, Vice President of Customer Experience, Aperture Education

Classrooms will become more democratic. Post-pandemic educators are feeling the pressure to “do it all.” We’ve all felt so out of control that our natural inclination is to hold the reins tighter. But we all know that’s unsustainable. Couple that with the fact that students are out of practice with their interpersonal skills and feeling especially disconnected from their learning. Something has to give. I predict that in 2022, we will start to see more democratic classrooms, where teachers share more authority with their students to embrace their expertise and experience. And because we know students are capable of struggle, we will start to trust them to take more risks, to be more critical and ask more questions, and to grow their confidence to use the thinking and content both in and out of the classroom to improve and enrich their schools and communities. By taking those small steps, teachers will have greater capacity to not only re-examine better and more diverse ways for students to demonstrate mastery, but to also seek out communities of practice to collaborate with and learn from their peers. 

–Christine Schepeler, Instructional Coach and Partnerships Director, STEM Ed Innovators

Simplification of the teachers’ technology toolkit:Districts drowned in apps during the pandemic in an effort to quickly assemble a virtual learning strategy. In 2022, institutions will start to commit to specific programs (Zoom vs Microsoft teams) or buy into a comprehensive learning management ecosystem.  Schools will pull in the reins on what was the proverbial ‘Wild West’ of technology experienced over the past few years.

Terry Shrader, VP of K12 Growth, U.S., Territorium

Advancements will support simultaneous synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The technology to support the delivery of live in-person teaching with online instruction remains clunky (sound, small groups, camera tracking, whiteboards, etc.) Someone will see the opportunity in filling the need to improve these systems.

Terry Shrader, VP of K12 Growth, U.S., Territorium

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has ushered in a time of rapid change in education. In 2022, I envision fatigue with the online and virtual learning experiences of 2020 and 2021 turning into new and emerging instructional models. As they’ve become more well equipped with technology, schools will look at effective ways to combine face-to-face engagement with online/virtual learning opportunities in balance with each other. Each can play a powerful role in helping create flexibility, while also supporting student academic learning and well-being. Schools are experimenting and innovating more. Some schools will dabble in flexible schedules, for example. Schools will try new ideas and quickly scrap those that are not working. I think that’s exciting.

–Shawn Smith, Chief Innovation Officer, McGraw Hill

Another trend in 2022 will be a deeper focus on social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health in the classroom. This is a continuation of a trend that has emerged in recent years and become even more important during the pandemic. For students to succeed academically, they will also need to learn skills like managing emotions, feeling empathy for others and developing the ability to persevere, focus and more.

–Shawn Smith, Chief Innovation Officer, McGraw Hill

School districts will need to leverage data to address inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on schools and students across the nation. In addition to academic impacts, many students are also facing widening achievement gaps, social emotional and economic challenges. While all students were impacted, the impacts have been most severe for those who were already at the greatest risk of not graduating — students with language and learning barriers, and those experiencing poverty. As schools struggle to recover from these impacts, it will be imperative that districts prioritize data and school-home communication to support its most at-risk students. Comprehensive data on the student, classroom, and school level will be critical to understanding the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic and addressing the resulting inequities system-wide.

–Joy Smithson, Ph.D., Data Scientist, SchoolStatus

Cybersecurity is not a new topic, but as schools continue to increase the size of their data centers, server counts, and data and software options, their liabilities continue to increase. Five to seven years ago, it felt a bit obtuse to consider cybersecurity insurance as a valid need, yet over the years its significance has grown to the point where now it is an absolute necessity.  Mitigating risk today requires staying on top of training staff, using a secure and updated firewall, multi-factor authentication (MFA) for accounts, and going to the cloud with systems and data. We need to make sure there are no open doors into the network, by having top-notch security on all assets, including peripherals such as networked projection systems. We recognize that nothing is 100% safe and will even store certain data configurations in a secure offsite location to insure recoverable access in the event of a natural disaster or attack.

–Tony Spence, Chief Information Officer, Muskego-Norway School District

2022 will be a year that disconnected communications functions from various education products evolve into Parent Relationship Management systems, as parents deal with the longer-term fallout of rapid transitions to edtech tools during the pandemic; and the demand for new solutions to handle families being overwhelmed with digital communications.

–Chad A. Stevens, Ph.D, Chief Strategy Officer, ParentSquare

The pandemic has prompted a pivot to virtual options for students and staff. For example, last year we implemented OPEN Classroom which allows any family to access free daily online lessons, parent guides and resources. And our HR department has pivoted to conduct employee interviews, testing, onboarding, and new hire orientations virtually. Online professional development tools from Vector Solutions also allow us to conduct and manage our teacher evaluations online and to offer an e-sign in option for PD events instead of using paper sign-in sheets.  Moving more of our resources online has provided flexibility for our staff – something that will continue to be important for schools in the coming year.

–Monica Strain, HR Specialist,  Springs Charter Schools

This school year has met educators with many challenges, and some hope.  Educators are so happy to be back in buildings with students, however, they are facing more pressure to close gaps, and are still having to deal with students absent, parent frustrations and getting sick themselves.  The pressures of teaching haven’t changed, so those who support them need to. Now more than ever, it is important to provide opportunities for educators to focus on self-care as they continue to create classroom environments where all students will thrive, build relationships with students, and use the right technology tools to help students grow academically.  Administrators and edtech companies alike need to support educators in doing this important work, and ensuring they feel seen, heard, and validated just as much as their students.

–Danielle Sullivan, National Director of Content and Implementation, Curriculum Associates

This year we’re hearing from a lot of school leaders who are experiencing more and more turnover among deeply valued staff members. To remain attractive as employers, school districts need to consider remote work solutions. “My former co-op now has four remote therapists who would have left if not for their ability to work remotely,” said Mike Lowers, former executive director of Central Kansas Cooperative in Education. “They were able to stay on with the school and continue services, which was huge for them, our school, and especially the students!” While some roles do not lend themselves to remote work, many special education therapy services can be, and already are, delivered remotely. The schools that embrace this approach are likely to be the ones that win the battle for employee retention.

–Kate Eberle Walker, CEO, PresenceLearning

In 2022, many learning institutions will investigate the use of digital identities as a way to safeguard online learning environments for future technologies like the metaverse. Digital identity, a construct for representing students and understanding their educational journeys, is the foundation for the metaverse and other blockchain-based applications. With safe and secure access, the metaverse will be a boon for education. Experiential learning has historically been limited by cost as well as space and time itself — it’s simply impossible for the majority of students to visit China to learn about the Great Wall and be back by recess. The metaverse will unlock an unprecedented level of digital equity in education. For the cost of an internet connection and technology such as a VR headset, students of all backgrounds will have access to new learning experiences. The metaverse is here, and implementing digital identities is the first step towards widespread accessibility in 2022.

–Michael Webb, CTO, Identity Automation

Looking ahead to 2022, I believe that the edtech infrastructure that was stood up to support the continuity of learning—1:1 learning, better student access to Wi-Fi beyond the classrooms, etc.—at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic will serve an important role in bringing a host of powerful new technologies to teachers and students. The one technology I believe that is primed to make a big splash in classrooms is augmented reality. Augmented reality empowers teachers to create interactive learning experiences by showing virtual examples of concepts and adding gaming elements to instruction. For example, students can immerse themselves in a moment from history, like the reign of Tutankhamen, and enjoy experiences, explore landscapes, observe key events, and manipulate 3-D objects via their device. These experiences not only heighten student engagement with the digital content, but support students’ ability to retain knowledge by experiencing them through augmented reality. A big plus on the side of augmented reality becoming more deeply embedded in instruction in 2022 is the fact that in addition to the infrastructure being already in place, students are already using it in their personal lives through popular consumer and social apps. So, in 2022, teachers should be on the lookout for a host of new apps and tools they can use to create immersive classroom experiences that more deeply engage all learners.

–Pete Weir, Chief Product Officer, Discovery Education

Educators have faced continuing challenges this school year addressing learning loss and, in some cases, dealing with temporary closures or hybrid teaching. This continues to shine a light on technology equity issues as well as the challenge of keeping all students engaged regardless if they are in or out of the classroom. As such, school and district leaders should look to repurpose the tools and technology they invested in for hybrid or remote learning to augment in-person, synchronous instruction.

–John Wheeler, CEO, Vernier Software & Technology  

We predict edtech resources for district and school leaders will be abundant, fueled by the significant funding from the federal government. From a sourcing perspective, we can see districts aiming to centralize the purchase, training, support, and evaluation of digital instruction. Decisions will be made to trim choices in favor of higher-fidelity implementations to optimize outcomes. Edtech providers that were historically having site-by-site conversations are increasingly having district-level conversations, which we expect to continue into the new year. Lastly, though AI and natural language innovations have been evolving for several years, expect to see some innovative new uses in the education market by the end of 2022, expanding more rapidly in future years. There will be continued exploration around uses of blockchain in edtech, as well as an eye on Web 3.0 development and the benefits it may bring.

–Brett Woudenberg, CEO, MIND Research Institute, Creators of ST Math

I predict that homeschooling’s rise in popularity will continue into 2022 due, in large part, to two factors. First, the alignment of homeschooling curriculum with brick-and-mortar schools makes it easier for families to seamlessly transition between homeschooling and in-person instruction without much disruption. Second, homeschooling techniques — flexibility, student-paced learning and technology-first academics – are now mainstream, which will lead to more homeschooling growth and a paradigm shift in classrooms.

–Jaya Yoo, SVP of Product Development, Learning A-Z

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