This article was originally published on TechCrunch.
We’ve heard a lot about the role of technology in pandemic education, and for good reason: Digital solutions enabled school communities to maintain learning through uncertainty and interruption none of us could have imagined.
However, the triumphs of EdTech have been paired with critical challenges. Since the pandemic closed schools in March 2020, school districts have invested in getting students access to computing devices and the internet.
Technology-hesitant teachers became technology-proficient as they learned to navigate remote teaching and learning in impromptu virtual classrooms. Still, with all of the progress we made in digital learning, the interruption of the face-to-face social aspects of the classroom experience resulted in the students finishing the 2020–2021 school year four to five months behind in reading and math on average, according to a recent study from McKinsey & Company.
We’re starting to see the promise of digital learning take hold; teachers can use software to differentiate and personalize instruction. But we can’t stop here. Over the last 18 months, “technology” has been a synonym for “virtual,” where many kids felt isolated, sitting behind a device and craving connection with their peers and teachers.
We now have the opportunity to take what we have learned and use it to usher in a new era of education—one that is powered to a meaningful degree by technology yet centered on human connection, and one where we reject the false choice between engaging software and an incredible teacher. As we return to school this fall, we can blend the best of technology with the best of the classroom experience.
HMH recently shared the results of our annual Educator Confidence Report, and the findings provide critical insights into the characteristics that should define the post-pandemic classroom.
Over 1,200 front-line educators from across the U.S. responded, and while optimism has fallen (only 38% of educators reported a somewhat positive or positive view of the state of their profession), confidence in the mastery and benefit of learning technologies is on the rise.
We’re moving from digital promise to digital proof.
Despite a tumultuous year, teachers’ current views on technology provide a bright spot, paving the way for more purposeful use of digital solutions.
Educator confidence in using EdTech is at an all-time high since we began this survey seven years ago, with 66% of teachers very or extremely confident in their abilities. Many credit their experience of being thrown into the deep end in March 2020. Today, a nearly unanimous 95% of teachers have experienced the benefits of EdTech, and 77% believe tech will help them be more effective teachers post-pandemic.
Of critical importance is the type of benefit teachers are experiencing. 81% report at least one of the following top three benefits, all of which are highly student-centric: improved student engagement; differentiated, individualized instruction; and flexible access to instructional content.
Despite technology playing a larger and more effective role, educators report that there are still critical barriers to access and efficacy that must be addressed, including lack of devices and internet access. 57% of educators also indicated that lack of student engagement with tech is a major barrier. More than half told us that the lack of time to plan for integrating digital resources into instruction was a top challenge.
Students’ emotional well-being is educators’ top concern
We all recognize that at the center of teaching and learning is the strong connection built and nurtured between teacher and student, which serves as the foundation for academic and social-emotional growth and drives engagement. We cannot let technology that breaks that connection and isolates students obscure that critical relationship, and data from this year’s survey is an important harbinger.
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