What solutions providers see as they look ahead at education in 2022

Industry representatives leaders' predictions for the new year offer guidance for K-12 administrators

Educational technology, both online and in the classroom, went into overdrive during COVID. And ed-tech will certainly continue to increase its presence in teaching and learning in innovative new ways, regardless of the trajectory of the pandemic.

To help administrations and their teams of educators make sound decisions around the adoption of ed-tech, industry representatives and other thought leaders are sharing their predictions for 2022.

Ensuring all students have access

If it wasn’t already, tracking students’ wellbeing and supporting mental health will become a top priority, says Martin McKay, CEO and founder of Texthelp, a provider of assistive technology.

“We cannot expect today’s or tomorrow’s students to be like previous generations,” McKay said. “They’ve had a tremendously difficult start to their education and it’ll likely have a lasting impact.”

A drop in the use of laptops and other 1-to-1 devices is highly unlikely regardless of where learning takes place because educators have seen the benefits of widespread ed-tech. Now, educators must ensure all students have the same opportunity and access to these tools. “These tools support more personalized learning, enabling students to have a choice in how they take notes, process information, and complete assignments,” McKay says. “Now, it is time we ensure that all students have access to technology, whether it be in their classrooms or at home.”

Here are some more predictions for 2022 from TextHelp:

  • Ed-tech companies that fail to prioritize accessibility will be left behind: “As ed-tech tools become more integrated into the classroom, teachers will want to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities or language barriers, are being supported. This means that teachers will prefer to use tools from ed-tech companies that prioritize accessibility… as accessibility will become a major factor for ed-tech tools in 2022 and beyond.”—Jason Carroll, chief product officer
  • 2022 will be the ‘Year of Decision-making’ for K-12 educators: “With schools transitioning back to the classroom, we’re seeing what hopefully is the beginning of greater stabilization in education. Districts and schools that embraced new ed-tech tools since the start of the pandemic are learning what works for them. We will begin to see these schools and districts make more permanent decisions on the ed-tech tools they’re using and will continue to use in the future. The ed-tech industry will use this as an opportunity to evolve.”—Jason Carroll, chief product officer
  • The classroom experience will include increased technology and personalized learning: “Using the right ed-tech tools has been shown to give teachers more time and freedom to focus on improving outcomes for students. Through the use of EdTech tools, we will see teachers be able to differentiate instruction, support, and encourage every student on a much different scale, especially as students re-learn or seek to catch up on certain concepts that were disrupted during the past year.”—Ryan Graham, chief technology officer

Empowering teachers to innovate

In the coming year and beyond, the ed-tech industry will offer more online resources that support in-person instruction, says Lisa O’Masta, president of Learning A-Z, a curriculum provider.

She recommends that educators prioritize ease of use for teachers and students when choosing these resources. “Teachers will continue to seek out multiple supplemental resources that offer engaging, effective and accessible functionality,” O’Masta says. “They will be able to pick multiple providers, so continuity across programs will likely become a greater focus for both ed-tech providers and administrators as districts purchase more resources that overlap.”

Teachers will also need regular professional development to maximize the use of AI and other automation tools in closing achievement gaps. “Curriculum and delivery only go so far; the relationship between teacher and student is ultimately irreplaceable,” O’Masta says. “In 2022 and beyond, districts and administrations need to invest in teachers to match their worth: priceless.”

Learning A-Z’s thought leaders also see the following priorities ahead:

  • Ensure that professional development is digestible: “On top of the stress that accompanies teaching, the pandemic has placed a heavy responsibility on teachers to overcome new challenges such as tailoring learning in a remote environment. In 2022, professional development will need to be integrated into educational materials, such as detailed lesson guidelines or avenues for collaborating with other teachers.”—Jaya Yoo, vice president of product
  • Moving away from traditional quizzes: “When a teacher can access actionable student performance data, then that teacher can better assess student progress and support the student’s learning and ultimate success. In 2022, there will be a move away from traditional assessments such as multi-question quizzes and a move toward methods that measure student progress on a real-time basis with aligned recommendations for resources, support, or remediation.”—Jaya Yoo
  • SEL will be crucial in nurturing successful students: “The issue is with time: How do teachers fit social-emotional learning initiatives into their schedules while also prioritizing curriculum requirements? In 2022 and beyond, educational content will have to be built with social-emotional learning initiatives in mind. For example, prior to a group discussion, a teacher might discuss what a good group discussion looks like. The most efficient and effective way to teach social-emotional learning is to weave it into what teachers are already teaching.”—Becca Hughes, vice president of content development

How sustainability and equity work together

Students and parents will increasingly promote and lead green initiatives—and choose schools that support them, says Cheryl Aquadro, K-12 vertical market director for Johnson Controls, which provides building equipment.

“We are seeing a big push toward renewable energy for school districts … and when renewable energy is not possible for the school district, leaders are pushing for energy efficiency-focused facilities improvements,” Aquadro says. “Those serve to create a healthier building and community while shrinking the school’s carbon footprint, appealing to green-minded students and parents and creating long-term cost savings for the school.”

In 2022, schools leaders can advance equity goals is by prioritizing projects and partnerships that provide savings that can be leveraged into equity improvements across district facilities, Aquadro says. Utah’s Cache County School District, for example, entered into a $15 million performance contract to update district-wide LED lighting and controls, fire and CO alarm systems, and new photovoltaic solar systems. The project is projected to generate $16 million in energy and operational savings over 20 years, Aquadro says.

Some administrators will also continue to focus on women and diversity inequities throughout school leadership, she says. “Our mission is to enrich the communities we serve—when approaching a new K-12 facilities project, we make it a priority to select and hire local and diverse talent through Equal Business Opportunity firms, which enhances our capacity to deliver the highest quality of work,” Aquadro says.

Communication and data go hand-in-hand

Communication between parents and educators surged when schools were first shut down by COVID and some industry leaders hope to see that momentum carry over into the future.

“Now is the time for schools to establish communication processes, frequency, and consistency—while parents are still very comfortable with increased engagement and information,” says Russ Davis, founder and CEO of SchoolStatus, an analytics and communications technology provider.  “As such, over the next year, we will see this momentum continue, as more schools realize the benefits of more meaningful communication between school and home and implement solutions to enable this.”

Here are some other developments Davis foresees for 2022:

  • School districts will need to leverage data to identify and support at-risk students: “Comprehensive data on the student, classroom, and school will be critical to understanding the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic and addressing the resulting inequities system-wide. Having a holistic picture of each student—including academic, behavioral, social-emotional learning, attendance, and disciplinary data—will be essential to targeting interventions and resources to the students who need them most. Most importantly, sharing this data with families through ongoing, meaningful school-home communication will become paramount.”
  • New technologies will support equity in K-12 parent communication: Busy work schedules and language or culture barriers can hamper communication with student families. Many school-home communication solutions also require parents to own a smartphone or computer or have reliable Wi-Fi. Schools need to prioritize removing these barriers to parent engagement to create an environment where all kids can succeed. Equity in K-12 parent communication is about reaching out in ways that are direct and convenient to parents. In 2022, we will see growing demand for K12 technologies and platforms that support more equitable parent communication and collaboration. Platforms that fuse data and communications, and offer multiple modes of communications and translation capabilities can help enable expanded educator understanding of student home life.”
  • Social-emotional learning will be a critical area of focus in K-12: “We learned in 2021 that to successfully monitor SEL, it takes a lot of two-way communication between the school and parents to stay abreast of and address any issues. To meet these needs, schools are implementing communications platforms with expanded capabilities that enable schools and classroom educators to have more in-depth, meaningful discussions with parents, and use tools such as one-to-one phone calls and video calls more often. Schools are also tracking metrics such as sports and activities involvement, chronic absenteeism, and disciplinary infractions to capture, track and monitor the social-emotional health of their students.”

Eliminating inequities

In the coming years, there will be more and more state legislation that requires colleges and universities to teach pre-service teachers about linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and how the brain learns to read, says Janice Kohler-Curtis, the chief academic officer of IMSE, The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education, a provider of professional development in reading instruction.

This will enable districts to provide rigorous instruction from the time students start school rather than continuing with a €˜wait to fail’ model where students are identified as struggling in third or fourth grade, Kohler-Curtis says.

She also predicts:

  • More investment in teacher training and certification: Teachers want programs that they can implement immediately—not just something they read from a book. Educators want something they can implement through knowledge, partnerships, and fidelity. Certification will become increasingly more important to ensure fidelity, and cohorts of teachers will pop up who are dedicated to making significant changes.
  • Increased support to prevent teacher shortage: Teachers who remain in education have a passion for it and are dedicated to helping children. The past two years have been very challenging for educators. Districts will see the importance of giving teachers the tools to be successful, provide support, and show greater appreciation of them to prevent quality educators from leaving the field.

Amy Gulley, an academic language therapist and dyslexia specialist, expects that more districts will adopt the science of reading concepts to increase reading gains, which includes providing teachers will professional development in the approach. She also predicts that schools, districts and states will develop new policies to reduce the inequities in education.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a heightened awareness of the important role parents play in a child’s education,” Gulley says. “But it has also brought a heightened awareness to the inequities we face across the nation to, not just virtual learning, but parental leave to be at home with their kids, time away from their jobs with no funding reprieve, and the need to have basic knowledge/understanding of what their children are learning on schools.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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