On chasms, classrooms, and what is clear: perspective from an industry leader.
GUEST COLUMN | by Martin McKay
Since the start of the pandemic, the use of edtech tools has grown enormously. Edtech products became mainstream pretty much overnight due to school shutdowns. It was the drive for many teachers to use — and see the benefits of — technology in their classes.
‘There is hope … the 2021/22 school year will be an improvement from last year. This past school year saw an impressive rate of adoption in edtech tools.’
Even since returning to in-person, teachers have continued to use technology to support their classes and promote student learning. In a recent teacher survey, 90% said that they will continue to use these tools whether they’re in-person or remote.
Edtech “Crosses the Chasm”
The past 19 months have been difficult for educators. The U.S. school system was challenged in many ways. According to researchers, learning was measurably interrupted, despite the best efforts of teachers. In some cases, the interruption was due to a lack of technology, both at school and at home. In other cases, the interruption was linked to the lack of collaboration students experienced when learning remotely. In all cases, it was stressful.
There is hope though that the 2021/22 school year will be an improvement from last year. This past school year saw an impressive rate of adoption in edtech tools. This increased, “mainstreamed” usage of technology, has allowed edtech to “cross the chasm”. Teachers who were once hesitant to use technology are now using it regularly—and happily. These teachers even found that digital tools helped keep their students more engaged and connected with their peers.
Enhancing the Classroom
Edtech tools should strengthen any classroom. Let’s break this down with an example. In Mrs. Maxwell’s 8th grade math class, she has assigned her students homework. As part of that homework, students must watch a pre-recorded overview video for the next day’s lesson. The students are able to watch the video as many times as they’d like from home to learn the methods.
The next day in class, Mrs. Maxwell asks the students to work on 10 problems. They can do those problems on their devices using a tool like EquatIO®. This tool allows STEM symbols to be input directly in Google docs, and integrates with Google Classroom. It also is built with personalized learning in mind, so students have choice and voice in how they work through their problems.
Many tools like this are also designed for collaboration, helping to flip the traditional classroom structure. Students now have the chance to work together. They can help each other and build upon their skills with their peers. Likewise, Mrs. Maxwell now has the chance to walk around the classroom, providing individual feedback to students and groups. And when everyone is finished with their problems, they can send their worksheets directly to Mrs. Maxwell with a simple click.
This is just one of many examples of how edtech tools are creating change within the in-person or virtual classroom. Technology has provided schools with an opportunity to enhance the teaching and learning experience. And now that it’s “crossed the chasm” in adoption, this can take place on a large scale.
Edtech Tools Are Here to Stay
The future is bright for edtech. Thanks to the pandemic, education technology is now accepted as mainstream. Teachers who were once hesitant have mastered the edtech learning curve. They’ve seen how these tools can increase student collaboration and digital access. They’ve also seen how they can support personalized learning, efficient grading, and practice. It’s clear from our own users and survey respondents that the benefits for edtech tools are far-reaching and undeniable. And as we work together to overcome the learning interruptions of the past 19 months, edtech adoption will continue to help and will grow. It is certain that edtech tools are here to stay.
Martin McKay is the founder and CEO of Texthelp, a leading technology company focused on helping all people learn, understand, and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Martin has spent his work life developing education technology. His current areas of R&D include learning analytics and the automated assessment of writing and oral reading fluency.