5 important ed-tech lessons schools are learning from the pandemic

Why the kind of devices distributed to students matter just as much as getting those devices into their hands
By: | August 24, 2021
1-to-1 programs are more effective when students are allowed to bring devices home so they “are really fluid between school and home,” says Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of education technology at the University of Michigan’s School of Education.1-to-1 programs are more effective when students are allowed to bring devices home so they “are really fluid between school and home,” says Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of education technology at the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

The kinds of devices that are distributed to students matter just as much as getting those devices into their hands.

That’s a major lesson that educators learned during the COVID shift to online and hybrid learning, says Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of education technology at the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

That, of course, brings up funding considerations. A more powerful MacBook, which gives students access to more learning features and design capabilities, can cost considerably more than a Chromebook, Kolb says.

Here’s some more guidance for administrators on how to put COVID’s ed-tech lessons into action during 2021-22.

1. Life experiences: What has also become clearer is that 1-to-1 programs are more effective when students are allowed to bring devices home so they “are really fluid between school and home,” she says.

Students, for example, can use devices and apps to gather information about the wildlife in their backyards.

“The devices should be part of a student’s life experience as well as school experience,” Kolb says. “One of the most important parts of learning is that it doesn’t stay isolated in the classroom—for example, if you learn quadratic equations in class, it isn’t as beneficial as if you learn to use them in everyday life, such as by measuring the slope of a ramp.”

2. How to evaluate apps: With much more learning likely to take place online, regardless of the severity of the COVID pandemic, teachers also are more rigorously vetting apps and other digital learning resources students use at home.

They have found more accessible resources that make it easier for parents and others to help students with their assignments, says Kolb, a developer of the Triple E Framework that helps educators evaluate the effectiveness of digital tools.

Teachers also are now evaluating apps through an equity lens to better ensure they include a diversity of voices. Kidmap is one project that supports the development of inclusive apps.

“A lot of times, districts have ended up using apps that aren’t representative of the demographics of their students or their students’ experiences,” Kolb says. “Even the language used in apps that are sent home may not be recognizable in students’ own communities.”

3. Higher-order thinking: Teachers also are pivoting away from using computers and other devices for simple drill-and-practice assignments. Digital learning is more likely to raise student achievement when devices are used to practice higher-order thinking and inquiry, Kolb says.

4. Ruled by research: Administrators should also provide a research-informed framework for how teachers should evaluate and pilot tools they’re using and design lessons with technology. This includes a curriculum for developing digital literacy, particularly for students who don’t have as much technology at home, Kolb says.


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