With the influx of ed-tech platforms and products being offered in today’s ever-growing digital learning market, educators and administrators at K-12 schools and universities are looking to stay ahead of the curve and make the most out of advancements in education technology.
Speaking on related challenges in this sphere, private-sector executives involved in ed-tech development and investing met at the Learning Impact Conference in Nashville on June 15 to discuss how K-12 schools and universities can use new ed-tech products to better serve students in the years to come. The ongoing conference is hosted by the nonprofit collaborative 1EdTech, formerly known as the IMS Global Learning Consortium.
In a panel titled “Getting Ahead of the Ed-Tech Curve,” Michael Buttry, managing director at Cherry Tree and Associates, said educators and digital learning developers have shown a willingness to be creative in using technology to combat learning loss that has grown as a result of the shifts to and from remote learning during the pandemic.
As digital learning companies create new products in the years ahead, he said, schools, universities and ed-tech developers must think about how new tech products could change professional development expectations. He said professional development, as well as overcoming current IT staffing limitations in schools, will play a key role in how and when new technologies are deployed for students.
“You have incredible entrepreneurial energy meeting really significant available capital. Tremendous innovations exist now that are on the horizon,” he said. “Early-stage growth companies in the K-12-focused education space will leave you optimistic and excited, but as you think about K-12 districts, there are really limiting factors right now in the ability of districts to be able to take advantage of the innovations that are coming to them.”
“From a banking perspective, I can tell you the most attractive products are the ones that meet a district or system where they are,” he later continued. “The switching costs in all of education is really significant.”
Michael Hale, chief content and learning officer at VitalSource, agreed that professional development and teacher planning will play a major role in how new ed-tech tools are utilized in the years to come, as tech developers continue to make advancements in fields such as artificial intelligence and AR/VR, among other disciplines.
“We should be thinking about how to control the variability in teacher quality,” he said. “VitalSource is not doing a ton there, but we’re thinking about it … We’re going to think about how to scale making sure students and faculty get those things they need without having to think about technology.”
Hale said ed-tech developers are working on new digital learning tools that are intuitively designed to enhance instruction without complicating the learning process, particularly in higher education where use often varies among institutions and instructors.
“We fundamentally believe students and faculty shouldn’t have to think about technology. They’re engaged in teaching and learning — it should just be where they are, when they need it. We’ve come a long way there,” he said. “On the simple idea of course materials, the truth of the matter is still, most students in higher ed, 80 percent of them, either delay or don’t get their required course materials.”
In the higher ed space, Oracle’s VP of Higher Education Development Nicole Engelbert said educators will soon expect technology that “works on your behalf.” She said goals such as these will likely be more attainable when educators and digital learning developers create a shared understanding of how to define buzz terms like “student success,” and how technology will work toward those goals.
“The best technology will be the technology we’ll never have to use … We’re really not that far from that capability happening,” she said. “As an industry, as institutions, as vendors and investors, we need to be pushing ourselves harder in that area to get that right — what does ‘student success’ mean to us?”
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