How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Forever Changed K-12 Learning
Technology in the classroom isn’t a new concept. Schools have been incorporating the latest technologies since the dawn of the 21st century, from “old school” tech like projectors and filmstrips familiar to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, to the ubiquitous laptops and cloud-based collaboration web services of today.
So why is it that when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools across the world in the spring of 2020, K-12 education was immediately and dramatically changed forever? The answer may lie in the speed of technology adoption.
The Speak Up Research Institute found that in the 2018-19 school year, 72% of school districts were using collaboration tools like Google Classroom. Fifty-seven percent had deployed mobile devices like Chromebooks and tablets for students to use in class. ( 1 )
According to the study, only a small percentage of school administrators recognized enhanced learning outcomes from the use of technology, and even fewer teachers said they were comfortable integrating devices into the curriculum. The sudden move to fully remote learning in early 2020 necessitated a mindset shift for educators, who had to adjust to technology being the foundation for education, rather than a tool used sparingly in a traditional learning model. ( 1 )
Though the pandemic shattered the notion of what K-12 education looks like, there’s evidence that schools are picking up the pieces and shifting to a model that’s more future-proof. District leaders have had time to reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t and are better prepared to implement new technologies at a moment’s notice if a surge in coronavirus cases forces schools to return to fully remote learning.
Teachers Learn to Evaluate the Quality of Digital Resources
Educators faced a tough task in the spring. Not only did they have to complete their regular teaching duties, they had to do so while learning how to use new technology platforms.
Teachers were ready to rise to the challenge, however. They have broadened their usage of online resources to include mobile learning apps, online simulations and educational videos by as much as 72%, according to the report. ( 1 )
By diving in and using these tools, teachers have become more comfortable implementing technology into daily instruction and have learned how to evaluate the quality of digital resources. A majority of educators say that effectively using technology helps ensure their students are prepared for future success in an increasingly digital world.
School districts have found that adopting new technology has helped teachers create more engaging and relevant lessons, encouraged self-directed learning, highlighted individual student strengths and needs for additional support, as well as built stronger connections with students and parents.
Many teachers have become experimenters, which has enabled them to better understand what works and what doesn’t work, both in a traditional and a remote classroom. Educators report that personalization of learning is very important, and that technology makes this easier to achieve simply because of the vast range of educational tools available. Teachers are collaborating with colleagues to identify the technologies that work the best in their particular school or classroom, and are relying on one another more than ever to ease the burden of lesson planning. ( 2 ) School administrators are also seeing the potential of digital resources to improve learning outcomes and teacher effectiveness.
Once widespread in-person instruction returns, it’s very likely that new technology will remain an educational fixture as a result of its positive impact on students and teachers alike.
Parents Learn to Appreciate Technology as a Viable Tool
Administrators have been striving for decades to increase parental engagement in their child’s education. Now that parents are on the front lines due to the pivot to home-based learning, this is even more crucial to student achievement.
Having a literal seat at the table of their child’s learning has given parents a more comprehensive understanding of how technology is being used to support education. They’re seeing their child engaging in virtual field trips, collaborating with peers on assignments through Google Docs and connecting with their teachers on Zoom calls.
As a result of this increased exposure to school technology, 75% of parents say that the effective use of digital resources is very important to student success, compared to 55% of parents who held that belief prior to school closures. More than half of parents also believe teachers are using technology effectively to facilitate learning in a non-classroom environment.
Going forward, school leaders will need to continue to build upon parents’ increased engagement, perhaps by sending out parental feedback surveys or connecting with families on school social media platforms, to reinvigorate K-12 education and ensure students are prepared for college and career success.
Students Learn to Embrace an Improved Educational Environment
Students are at the heart of education, so the use of technology in learning must be focused on helping them achieve academically.
Today’s students are early adopters of new technologies and tend to prefer learning environments that incorporate digital resources to provide more personalized education opportunities. Most students say they tend to use technology for self-directed learning outside of school rather than in a physical classroom. The pandemic accelerated this, with 65-82% of students reporting the use of a school-provided Chromebook, as compared to 35-56% before school closures.
Many educators are now incorporating online games, or esports, into their curriculum. Nearly half of students in grades 6 through 12 report playing games on their own to develop college- and career-readiness skills. ( 3 ) The shift to digital learning in early 2020 served as a springboard to wider acceptance of games as valuable educational tools.
Esports is still in its infancy, with 15% of middle and high school students saying they’re part of an esports club at their school. However, district leaders are taking note of its popularity outside the classroom. Esports competitions are ideal for the current learning environment, as they can take place online anytime, without students having to be in close proximity to one another. Nearly a third of principals say they’re considering adding an esports team to their school, up from 10% before the pandemic.
Even in schools without esports clubs, teachers are increasingly interested in the concept. Research shows that educators gravitate toward:
- Quiz games that test students’ content knowledge
- Building games that encourage imaginative learning
- Simulation games that enable students to take on contextually relevant roles
- Strategy games that utilize critical thinking skills
- Team-based games that foster collaboration
Considering the benefits that teachers are seeing from including games in their lessons, school leaders would be wise to heed student perspectives when considering new tools. Gamifying education not only boosts student engagement – it also helps them develop digital competency that’s critical for success after high school.
Schools Are Learning to Use Technology to Transform Education
While the pandemic and subsequent school closures turned education on its head overnight, the changes that ensued have the potential to positively impact the future of learning. Educators have been given a great opportunity to experiment with new technology to reinvent K-12 education and prepare students for a world that’s more digital-centric with each passing year. This school year can serve as a catalyst for an educational revolution, if educators are willing to take the leap and embrace technology for all the ways it can improve learning.
Ready to transform the educational experience at your school? Discover resources to help you bring the classroom experience into the home. Trox offers tailored technology solutions and works with you every step of the way to ensure you’re getting the products and services you need to help elevate learning for your students.
- Evans Ed.D., J. 2019, October. Digital Learning: Peril or Promise for Our K-12 Students . [Report]
- Wiggins, A. 2020, summer. A Brave New World: A Teacher's Take on Surviving Distance Learning. [Report]
- Israel, M. 2020, January 30. How esports can build academic skills and career readiness. [News]
About the Author
Ashley Wallinger is a content marketing specialist at Trox. She began her career in broadcast journalism, working as a producer at two TV stations, where she created content for news broadcasts and digital platforms. She has since held roles as a digital copywriter for a marketing agency, as well as a social media specialist overseeing content creation and analytics for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.