When we posted our 2020 predictions on January 1 last year, we–along with the majority of the world–definitely didn’t anticipate the curveball that was (and continues to be) the global COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 has been called a dumpster fire, the worst year in recent memory, and more. Abrupt shifts to virtual and hybrid learning laid bare the vast inequities that exist in the U.S. education system. The move to online learning also made people wonder: Are there practices we can continue when the pandemic abates? What can we take from this when we return to our classrooms? And will we return to our classrooms to teach in the same manner as we did before COVID?
We asked edtech executives, stakeholders, and experts to share some of their thoughts and predictions about where they think edtech is headed in 2021.
Here’s what they had to say:
As many school districts remain virtual or use a hybrid model, teachers are doing everything they can to help students succeed in a distance learning environment, but at some point they will hit a wall and need help. This will create a new demand for online tutoring services and I anticipate and hope that more federal resources are allocated to school districts to offer this 1:1 tutoring to students. This may assist with mitigating learning loss. It will provide more support for students who are struggling in the online environment, it will take some of the burden off of the teachers, and it will help schools support educational equity by creating greater access to services that previously were only available to families that could afford it.
– Dr. Maria Armstrong, Executive Director, Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents
As the U.S. and globe accelerate toward the use of renewable energy to fuel power grids, there is an acute pressure to build an educated workforce and a knowledgeable public who will understand and support these changes. There exist major gaps in teacher knowledge and the availability of curricular tools to support this type of learning. We need to help educators and students better understand the power grid system, how it impacts them and the changes that are coming, including renewables, storage, and electric vehicles. I anticipate that we will see more resources dedicated to helping students and educators understand the basics of electricity infrastructure so that they can engage in solving our urgent challenges.
– Michael Arquin, Founder, KidWind
Greater focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) is one model of instructing the “whole child” or attending to more than just academic content. With the extreme changes endured by children and families due to responses to the coronavirus pandemic, social-emotional needs have become more prominent than ever. As educators eagerly seek to address worsening academic gaps, experts increasingly acknowledge the importance of high-quality SEL instruction and support to equip students to navigate these uncertain times, as well as to make academic progress. As we look to supporting the “whole adult” that students will become, instruction on life skills becomes more important. We no longer solely prepare students to be college-ready. We seek life-readiness. Today’s educators seek to provide learning experiences that prepare students to be healthy, successful participants in college, career, civics, and home life.
– Anastasia Betts, VP of Curriculum Planning & Design, Age of Learning
The past six months have reaffirmed that engagement is central to student learning, regardless of the instructional environment. The edtech community stepped up to accommodate students and teachers during remote and hybrid learning with an emphasis on core subject areas. However, the struggle will be to expand innovation in core subjects and beyond, including integrating technology into ancillary K-12 areas such as CTE, music, physical education, health, and the arts. Additional attention needs to be given to all types of learners by addressing various learning modalities, intervention paths, and students with Individual Education Plans through technology that is customizable, integrated, and aligned to state standards. This will be imperative to supporting students and teachers alike.
– Dan Cavalli, Chief Sales Officer, Flinn Scientific
“Next year, many traditional education strategies will fade away as educators help students recover from the pandemic’s impact, especially with harder-hit groups like students who learn and think differently. To provide a safe and effective learning environment, educators will reimagine schools to improve accessibility and inclusivity. We’ll also see educators needing to address the mental health crisis by prioritizing individualized and trauma-informed instruction.”
– Bob Cunningham, Executive Director of Learning Development, Understood
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 49% of K-12 students experienced a mental health condition during their academic career, such as depression, anxiety, or substance use. While districts and schools play a vital role in identifying and supporting students, districts may not be able to fully support the rapidly growing demand for mental health needs based on limited internal resources. How educators respond to this next pandemic –students’ anxiety and stress–will certainly remain a critically important priority for school administrators, counselors and psychologists in 2021.
– Collin Earnst, CEO, LearnWell
There’s a critical need for more funding for schools, including fair pay for teachers. The policies and infrastructures are in place to deliver. This year’s CARES Act took steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. One of the silver linings to come out of the pandemic is that parents and communities now have a renewed respect and appreciation for the invaluable role teachers play in our kids’ education. It’s been challenging for a lot of parents, especially for working parents who are having to balance teaching their kids. But I do believe there’s capacity both at the federal and community levels to impact change and allocate more funding to ultimately help the kids who would benefit from it most. Another focus are is literacy, whicih is the foundation of every subject taught in school. However, in the U.S., nearly two-thirds of students were considered non-proficient readers before the pandemic hit. The “COVID learning slide” that has occurred since March 2020 is only expected to make matters worse. As a wealthy and developed country, there is no reason why we can’t close the literacy gap and help students of all backgrounds and experience become more proficient readers.
– Nick Gaehde, President, Lexia Learning
Though time sometimes feels slower during the pandemic, educators are feeling short on time because so much more is on their plates. Leaders will be looking for new ways to streamline observation to ensure teachers feel supported, connected with colleagues, and aligned on how to have the most impact with students.
– Adam Geller, Founder and CEO, Edthena
Today’s students are struggling more than ever. The current level of student stress and anxiety is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and this will likely continue throughout the pandemic. So far this school year, we’ve noted a 66 percent increase in student incidents. Most alarmingly, we’ve seen an 83 percent increase in incidents of suicide and self-harm as well as a 135 percent increase in incidents of nudity and sexual content. Regardless of whether students are learning in the classroom, at home, or a combination of the two, students are in need of greater support during this time. Elementary students are not immune to serious student safety issues. Younger students are often overlooked when it comes to these issues because they’re more associated with students in middle and high school. Students need around-the-clock digital protection: It’s clear that a significant number of incidents are happening when educators aren’t actively watching what students are posting online.
– Paget Hetherington, VP of Marketing, Gaggle
Hands-on learning will make a big comeback. We are hopeful that, when the pandemic lifts, we can welcome a return to hands-on, collaborative, creative technology education in 2021. We all know young children learn best when doing and creating with concrete manipulatives. The return of makerspaces and other hands-on environments offers a space where students can cultivate a maker mindset and explore their interests, learn to use innovative tools, and develop collaborative and creative projects with their peers. By integrating screen-free tools, children can design and create in all STEAM subjects by developing a child’s computational thinking.
– Jason Innes, Director of Curriculum, Training, and Product Management, KinderLab Robotics
“We learned in 2020 that the “new normal” for educational facilities will need to look a lot different than the normal we’re used to. Safely getting back to the classroom requires many new precautions, and in 2021, innovations in technology such as digital signage software and content management will play a major role. From signage that presents important upda