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Crises as a Catalyst: EdTech Lessons from a Pandemic

10th February 2021

This post is written by Julie Adams, a Communication & Content Specialist at DisplayNote.

The outbreak of COVID-19 last March gave rise to severe disruptions to many industries across the world. Businesses, education, and public institutions were forced to close their doors as governments told people to stay home.

As schools closed back in March and classrooms migrated online, there was an overnight surge in the use of education technology (EdTech). Without warning, educators had to rely on digital tools to carry out their teaching, work allocation, and marking. Here, we examine some of the insights the global pandemic has taught us about EdTech’s place in the classroom.

Innovation flourishes under pressure.

As Thomas Eddison famously said, “times of crises mean times of innovation.” He was right. Almost 12 months into a global pandemic, the fruits of our current crises are starting to bloom. Video-Conferencing, Online Collaboration Tools, Online Learning Platforms, Vaccinations, the parameters and capabilities of all these technologies have been stretched to their limits this year. Often, when tested, things either bend or break - and bend they did.

The sheer quantity and quality of measurable learning behavior data from 2020 have provided EdTech companies with a valuable source of product feedback they usually wouldn’t have access to. This provides a foundation for development and innovation, particularly for virtual learning tools.

This is not an isolated event; a similar trend can be observed in countries that have previously experienced epidemics. In 2002, the SARS virus in China caused widespread closures of schools to curb the spread of the virus. Academics say the epidemic acted as “...a catalyst for extensive ICT use in schools” while also contributing to a broader boost in internet and e-commerce efficiency.

In our wireless collaboration tool, Montage, we saw more and more users using our web app to share their screen to a display that was, increasingly, not in the same room. Interestingly we saw a correlation between web connections and grid view, which points to educators teaching to some students in a room and inviting other remote students to also share and present.

Technology isn’t an add-on; it’s essential.

86% of UK educators say technology is core to learning (The State of Technology in Education Report, 2021). But a third admit they avoid using it because school hardware is often unreliable.

Experts have suggested that this pandemic could act as a catalyst for the long-term development and transformation of education and the digitalization of society. Given that digital literacy is still a pressing issue in many countries (see more in our previous blog), the current spotlight on EdTech and technology might be serendipitous in that it provides a trial run for institutions and governments to explore new solutions and spot gaps.

In fact, 57% of the IT staff surveyed believe schools should prioritize updating their technologies. Whereas only 7.8% of all respondents (including teachers,‌ ‌head‌s and deputy ‌heads) reported updating technology as a priority for 2021. This could suggest an attitudinal barrier to how some schools value technology in the learning environment.

Tools need to engage pupils.

Keeping students motivated was one of the biggest challenges for educators during the lockdown. 84% have identified that technology is a great way to improve engagement.

33% believe it can improve behavior, too. The challenge lies in finding tools that support and bridge the learning process instead of replacing them.

Research has shown time and time again that children respond best to face-to-face learning. Yet, due to the layout of the classroom and the ratio of teachers-to-pupils, it can be difficult to give each child the same amount of attention. Therefore, an opportunity exists for technology to improve this experience, creating a classroom where all students have the same access to the learning materials, no matter whether they’re sitting at the back of the classroom or the front. 39% of schools surveyed say using tech in this way to boost pupil engagement is a priority for teaching in 2021.

Training needs to be a priority.

According to the report, only 1% of schools are prioritizing tech training. And 41% of respondents say the staff has had to find time to train themselves. This is like buying a new sports car without yet knowing how to drive. Good technology is only useful when it’s well utilized.

Arguably, 2020 has served as a testing phase for EdTech; what tools are essential, what tools are useful, and what tools are redundant in the classroom. An emphasis has been placed on manufacturers to create products that are intuitive and accessible both inside and outside of the classroom. EdTech businesses may try to combat usage issues by providing more one-to-one support and training for teachers and staff.

EdTech is a unique market.

Although the US EdTech market is estimated at an impressive $8 trillion in 2020, the market is growing more slowly than other similar markets. A key reason for this slower growth is the number and complexity of decision-makers involved in the market – educators, teachers, traditional textbook publishers, and politicians.

Evidence-based tech procurement is set to be on the agendas of many schools and institutions for 2021, which may put pressure on many emerging EdTech companies to prove their products’ success before they are widely adopted in the classroom.

Get more out of your lessons.

Montage wireless presentation system supports instruction and learning in the classroom for educators worldwide. With smart collaboration tools like Screen Annotation and Grid View - up to four students can share their screen at a time - adding their own annotations in real-time. Learning is inclusive, interactive, and truly collaborative. Plus, with Moderator Mode, you’re in full control of who shares their screen.

Discover the benefits of Montage for yourself with a 14-day free trial.

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