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 2021 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.
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.
Long term cost of software to realize gains with technology
In 2020, most school districts benefited from the ESSER grant fund as part of the CARES act to support their remote learning efforts. 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 are relying on short-term patches that are not living up to expectations and that 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.