There has been a sharp increase in the number of technology tools available in schools to augment, support, and supplement teaching both in and out of the classroom. But as thousands of school districts purchased millions of devices in 2020, bringing the country as a whole closer to a 1:1 reality, several new challenges have surfaced. From usage rates to limited reporting and the long-term cost of maintaining subscriptions, many districts are wondering what 2022 and beyond look like for their new technology investments.
The hardware alone is not enough to address the realities of remote learning, the learning gap created by COVID, and the long-term challenges of having a large technology pool to draw from.
To successfully address these challenges, schools must evaluate short and long-term expectations. What do you want to gain from integrating technology into the classroom and what impact will it have on professional development? Let’s take a closer look at five of the most substantial challenges school districts face and how they are starting to address them.
Concerns About Individual Teacher Usage
At this stage, you’ve invested heavily in technology – bringing in hundreds of devices to support your students, and likely investing in several technology platforms to supplement instruction. But nothing has been effective. Teachers are stretched thinner than ever and you’re getting feedback that they don’t have the time needed to properly implement new lessons using the tools you’ve provided.
Everyone will use the technology you provide differently. Teachers have varying degrees of experience with these tools, and some will rely more directly on the new tools than others. To address this, technology needs to be simple to use and not add time to a teacher’s already busy schedule. It should integrate into a variety of different approaches to remote, hybrid, and in-class learning. Rigid software that requires teachers to abandon their existing lesson plans and follow a strict path often fails because it doesn’t align with what’s being taught. Software should be flexible, editable, and supplemental to individual districts, schools, and teachers.
A 2016 study found that the number one obstacle getting in the way of technology integration in the classroom was a lack of appropriate training. Without proper support and intuitively-designed resources, technology becomes a burden rather than a savior. New teachers have a lot on their plate. Pairing new teachers with veteran mentors builds partnerships and a support system for the many hurdles of that first year.
Boardworks offers a library of resources that not only makes onboarding easier, but it also provides consistency from one course to another and from one grade to the next. With lessons and activities in Math, Science, English, and History, students and teachers can look forward to smooth transitions and less time needed for setup at the start of class.
Frustration With a Lack of Reporting and Transparency
Without clear reporting on which teachers are using the tools, how they use them, and what impact those tools have on student learning outcomes, it’s difficult to know if an investment is effective. With so many tools requiring recurring subscriptions and with a growing perceived learning loss across almost all grade levels, that transparency is more important than ever.
Effective reporting should provide data on the number of students completing individual lessons, how teachers are leveraging the tools they’ve been provided, and what level of customization has been implemented. The greater insights you have about usage, the more effectively you can expand on it.
Standards Alignment Is Key
Over 12 million K-12 students are educated in the ten states and territories that have not adopted the common core standards. Educators and curriculum coordinators in these states are responsible for ensuring that digital curriculum supplements are aligned with their respective state standards. In fact, even teachers in the common core states should be careful where they get their online materials from. For example, a teacher from California might go online and purchase an assignment made by a teacher in Texas, inadvertently using classroom materials that are aligned to different standards.
Boardworks’ library of K-12 curriculum supplements was purposely designed and crafted by veteran teachers and curriculum experts to align with each state’s respective curriculum standards. With Boardworks, there’s no ‘what if’ with regards to standards alignment.
Long Term Cost of Software to Realize Gains with Technology
In 2020, most school districts benefited from CARES act funding to support the expansion of their remote learning. But that money is a one-time influx of resources that won’t help offset the long-term cost of most software. Too many districts rely on short-term patches that are not living up to expectations, which will come with a hefty price tag next year. That kind of turnover can be frustrating for administrators and disruptive for teachers.
With the prospect of having to carve out space in the budget for software in 2022 and beyond, many districts are unsure how to proceed, and are unwilling to fully commit to any single toolset. This is why Boardworks has always offered a single upfront payment for our interactive library of curriculum-aligned K-12 activities. By giving ownership of the software and peace of mind that it will be available beyond the next budget, school administrators and teachers alike are more comfortable investing time in the platform.
The Complexity of Implementing These New Tools
Complex technology tools are often difficult to use. They require extensive training, integration into existing platforms, and are not always compatible with the tools you’ve already purchased. Achieving high adoption rates when the technology being implemented requires hours of additional time from teachers is challenging. The right tools should be easy to set up, easy to use, and ultimately save time and improve effectiveness for those using them.
The past three school years have seen technology rise from the occasional classroom supplement to a mainstay of instruction, exercises, and assessment. Prior to the pandemic, over 90% of teachers reported that technology was supplemental. That’s no longer the case. In today’s classroom, confidence in technology skills is of utmost importance. A survey of 764 teachers found that one of the strongest predictors of teachers’ technology use was confidence in achieving instructional goals using technology. Teachers who lack confidence postpone use of technology and hold on to paper-based instructional strategies for as long as possible.
Imbalance in Time Focused on Instruction
During the height of the pandemic as teachers refocused their efforts on the technology needed to teach their students, 71% of teachers indicated they were spending less time on student instruction and 87% said they were spending more time on troubleshooting problems with technology. While these numbers have improved since the start of the school year as teachers gain experience using technology tools, it’s indicative of the imbalance that can develop when districts layer new technology on top of instruction and don’t provide the context and support needed to use it properly.
The technology tools you select should be supplemental, providing a tool that teachers can utilize to support their lessons and better engage students. They should require minimal training and take work off your teachers’ plate so they can focus on instruction, individualized learning, and interventions as needed.
Smart Solutions Steer Clear of Distractions
What could possibly go wrong when students are assigned an ‘internet scavenger hunt’? School districts go out of their way to keep students safe online; however, the vastness of the internet is always a click away. How do schools navigate a digital world where cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and even ransomware attacks abound?
One of the proven strategies for keeping students safe online at school is through closed-loop online curriculum supplements. For example, Boardworks lessons and activities encompass everything a student needs to master the content, practice applying skills, and complete assessments. There’s no need to venture over to a search engine where possible digital threats loom. Boardworks provides a turnkey library of resources that simplifies the digital learning experience for both teachers and students.
Addressing the Long Term Challenges of a Technological Transition
These challenges are not new. For much of the last decade, school districts around the country have invested heavily in both hardware and software, and many of them have struggled to reach the adoption rates they’d like. The pandemic has exacerbated these problems, with most districts in the country implementing some degree of remote learning.
School leadership has the responsibility of empowering teachers (and students) with the tools and training to become comfortable with education in a digitally-based classroom. Conveying the purpose of the new technology tools also goes a long way towards earning ‘buy-in’ from even the most skeptical of staff members. Thorough training and long-term support build confidence among students and staff alike, and, ultimately better utilization of technology.
Boardworks is designed to supplement and support teachers in the way that best suits their teaching methods. For a single purchase and no recurring subscription costs, districts gain access to interactive lessons across K-12 in all four major subjects. Content can be edited and customized to match teacher lesson plans, and students can be provided access to individualized content based on their needs and feedback.
Ready to Give Boardworks a Try?
Boardworks provides prospective curriculum coordinators with complimentary demo access to our library of turnkey resources. Whether you’re looking to explore our uniquely interactive history lessons, or you’re interested in exploring math, science, English, or all of the above, our team of product experts is ready to show you around.
Educators and administrators from around the nation have shared with us the ways that Boardworks has transformed the educational experience for their staff and students. Check out our success stories to learn more.
Download our white paper, How to Leverage Existing Technology Investments to Address Education Challenges to learn more about how Boardworks helps address these challenges both in the classroom and remotely.