Usually, top trends lists are published at the beginning of the year. But there’s nothing usual about this year, especially when it comes to evolving trends. COVID-19 has become a catalyst for change, accelerating the adoption of digital technology across all industries. Under challenging conditions, education was completely transformed as schools scrambled to utilize the latest technology. That’s why we’ve decided to pause mid-year to reflect on what innovations in EdTech have recently emerged and what trends will likely stick around.
1. Immersive Learning Goes Mainstream
VR technology is an effective way to provide a personalized learning experience, enhance visual learning and save on physical equipment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that VR in the classroom increases students’ ability to retain information by 60-70%. It also allows training for hazardous jobs without exposure to high-risk environments. Furthermore, the mobility of technology ensures accessibility to world-class facilities for remote students without the burden of traveling or relocating.
Look for more institutions to adopt this state-of-the-art EdTech as VR headsets drop in price and immersive technology advances. Vocational education and training provider TAFE SA recently deployed 30 Lenovo Mirage VR headsets to aid education for their Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Servicing Courses. Students have a 1:1 approach with the headsets to explore and experience high-risk areas they would not ordinarily see as apprentices.
2. Distance Learning is Here to Stay
Even as schools reopen for in-person learning, administrators are extending remote learning plans. Sorry kids, if you’re in the New York City public school system, no more snow days spent sledding and building snowmen. Because NYC districts distributed hundreds of thousands of devices during the pandemic, snow days have been canceled and replaced with online learning days.
In addition, schools across the country are adopting a hybrid approach and online learning options to meet the needs of students who thrive academically in a virtual environment. According to a recent Rand Corp. survey, about one in five districts are considering adopting virtual school as part of their portfolio post-pandemic.
3. 1:1 Goes Global
Sped up by school closures and remote learning requirements, many districts reached their 1:1 device-to-student ratio goals years ahead of schedule. Even if schools worldwide don’t yet have a device in the hands of every student, they have distributed millions more laptops, tablets and Chromebooks than ever before. Acquiring a device for each student has led to another emerging trend—. As students and educators go back to school this fall, their loaner devices will be returning too.
Those districts keeping their 1:1 ratio long-term will need to address how to best store, charge and secure their new devices without burdening school staff. One solution to set up your school for success is to invest in easy-to-cable open-concept charging carts. Pre-pandemic, technology carts helped make a limited number of computers shareable among multiple classrooms. Now, these same resources will take on a new role. Carts enable educators to plug in 30 or 40 devices without worrying about having tons of outlets in each classroom. Students leaving their devices at school overnight can take advantage of the secure storage benefits of tech carts and smart lockers. In addition to security, they offer an easy way to redistribute the devices at the start of the school day.
4. Digital Equity Comes into Focus
Procuring and handing out devices is only one side of the remote learning equation. In the US, 14% of students between the ages of 3-18 can’t connect to the internet at home. Unicef reports that worldwide, over 400 million students have no access to digital or broadcast lessons.
Innovative educators and community partners are hard at work bridging the digital divide to ensure no child misses out on learning. Many new programs have emerged—from Wi-Fi-enabled school buses in California to SIM-enabled internet dongles in Victoria. All aimed at delivering internet connectivity to underserved student households.
Achieving digital equity also relies on preparing for the inevitable. School-issued equipment used at home for remote learning or homework will break, and cables will go missing. District CTOs and CIOs have learned over the past year that they can’t assume students have a backup device. If a device is damaged, most students can’t participate in lessons—which puts them behind until they return to school for a replacement. A better solution is to deploy smart lockers such as LocknCharge FUYL Towers in public places throughout a neighborhood. Ideal locations are open after hours, such as a community resource center, a Boys & Girls Club or a local restaurant. Stocked with replacement devices, smart lockers offer secure storage, no-contact pickup and easy access 24/7. Once a student reports a device requires attention, a staff member can assign that student to a specific locker. Using an admin-defined PIN, the student can swap their broken device for a ready-to-use one. By spreading Towers throughout the district near transit hubs, no family has to travel farther than another, making this a more equitable option that reduces learning loss.
5. More Evidence-Based Procurement Decisions
When faced with stretched budgets, schools are getting smarter with their technology investments. According to ResourcEd, “Schools are much more likely to invest in technology based on evidence that it supports their school’s learning requirements and challenges.” Schools searching for tech that integrates easily within their existing infrastructure are looking for solutions that won’t quickly become obsolete.
Most technology in schools is replaced every 3-5 years. Investing in future-proof technology can have a significant impact on budgets and employees’ time. For example, imagine the costs and time your district could save by not replacing charging solutions every time new devices are rolled out.
The only certainty about the future of education is that it’s uncertain. The trick is to be ready for whatever scenario comes your way—including developing an EdTech plan that empowers students and teachers to focus on the task of learning. Learn how best to navigate educational technology in an ever-changing landscape.