The present and future of edtech

The last eighteen months have seen unprecedented growth in education technology investment. With the influx of capital, the space has also seen a number of new companies being formed, and the debate about the role and relevance of technology in learning intensified. The proliferation of new technologies and increased access to content have also led many educators to question what role these tools should play in learning, especially given the high cost of many. 

Simultaneously, it is undeniable that more than any other time since the proliferation of blackboards and chalk, technology is transforming the way students learn. Recent innovations in education technology are making it easier for educators to create personalized lessons to engage students and to provide them with the critical skills needed for success beyond formal education. 

It remains to be seen whether education technology can help schools tackle systemic issues like teacher shortages, one-sided access to resources, and overcrowded classrooms with its increasing offering of engaging educational content, adaptive learning programs, or virtual instruction tools. But in the following three areas in particular, there is great promise for the future.

1) Education technology will drive more personalized and engaging learning

The best tools and strategies in education have always moved learning farther from a one-size-fits-all model, into one that is both more personalized and, as a result, more engaging. Since schools were widely forced to adopt remote learning models in early 2020, tools that were once considered luxuries have since become indispensable. 

Learning solutions that are adaptive to the needs of students, and help teachers to understand exactly the content students have understood, are driving the current movement in personalized learning – a movement that decreases the burden on teachers to assess and evaluate student progress, and allows them to instead focus on the implementation of a bespoke learning plan. 

2) Education technology will give teachers and learners more flexibility

While the pandemic brought into sharp focus what we have known about the disparity in access to resources and educational opportunity throughout the United States, it also highlighted some other, less-well seen distinctions that will remain impossible to ignore. 

With school days running in a remote format, many students and families struggled. In some ways, those difficulties were predictable. Not nearly as well foreseen, however, was how many students would thrive with the flexibility and autonomy created by virtual learning. As we look ahead, this freedom will apply not only to learning, but to how we classify that learning. The day will come when educational experiences, apprenticeships, and internship opportunities will become equally common in students’ schedules to Algebra I. 

Higher education is just as likely to see unparalleled change as K-12 in this regard, with thousands of university students across the country questioning why their virtual lecture classes still commanded exorbitant tuitions before campuses reopened. The pandemic might very well have accelerated the acceptability, both within the workplace and within society at large, for alternative pathways in career-skill development. 

3) The best of education technology will leverage the human advantage

As the current school year has gotten under way, we have seen tremendous impact from the strain placed on teachers throughout the pandemic. In many areas, teachers have left in record numbers, forcing schools already strapped to make the most of their budget dollars to do even more with less. By amplifying the reach of highly effective instructional practice, technology can help teachers to increase their impact with students exponentially in limited time. Many of the tasks required to assess progress and to prepare for the next lesson may now be done with the click of a button, leaving teachers with time to connect with students and to build the classroom environment most conducive to learning.

In the end, technology will not fix everything that is challenging in education. Most of all, it cannot replace the most important people in children’s lives as they learn to be good and decent humans. But even if the future of learning is not entirely about technology, there is little question that it will mean more tech than we see today. Emerging technologies in particular, provide students an opportunity to explore new ways of learning that may be more engaging than traditional methods. 

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