The same technological forces reshaping American industry, government and communities are making their way into the classroom, giving educators and students more learning choices than ever to consider.
Experts stress that IT in schools is a good thing for students, who will certainly be using technology after they graduate from their K-12 education. Whether they will be going on to college, entering the workforce or starting vocational training, technology will be a big part of that, which makes exposure to it as part of an elementary school education all the more critical.
These changes are motivated, in part, by the drive to establish a more standardized curriculum across the country, with metrics in place to assess the progress of both students and the schools they attend.
“The standard curriculum in the past was to wait for McGraw-Hill or Pearson to put it in a textbook and release it,” said Brian Louderback, education market leader for Insight, an IT products and services provider in the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance. “Today it’s digital curriculum, which has made it so much more robust.”
According to Louderback, another aspect propelling the incorporation of technology into the classroom is the urgency to prepare students for what comes after K-12, whether it’s higher education or vocational training and work. Using technology will become a larger and larger part of their lives.
Louderback sees several technology trends emerging in K-12 education:
The first is online learning. “The beautiful thing about technology is that you can turn schools into nerve centers,” he said. “Students can learn, see and experience anything they want from all over the world.” And online learning fosters collaboration, whether between students, students and faculty, or faculty and parents.
A second trend is the increasing degree of mobility in education. Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, tablets, smartphones, projectors — all are tools students are using in the classroom, library and at home, providing a single seamless learning environment.
Combining these devices with digital content can enable a teacher’s dream — the ability to customize lessons to meet the individual needs of each student. “Not every kid learns at the same pace. Not every kid is going to achieve in a 30-student classroom,” Louderback said. “Technology provides the ability to find solutions and tailor them to specific learning patterns.”
A third trend just starting to emerge in schools is the use of data analytics. School districts are beginning to recognize they can leverage their data repositories to identify best practices, areas of concern that need to be addressed, and what needs to be adjusted on the fly. It can be challenging to figure out what data to gather and which metrics are truly useful.
With these trends comes challenges. A major one facing many school districts is infrastructure, Louderback said. That includes what networks and IT equipment are needed, cybersecurity policies, skilled IT professionals — the same kinds of issues that face corporations and government agencies.
School budgets are stretched thin as it is. When it comes to IT, rather than hiring professional IT staff, many schools may tap teachers who like using computers on the side — but they aren’t IT directors or a chief information officers. Finding the funds for competitive salaries is even more difficult.
These obstacles make it imperative for school districts to find IT companies that both understand the K-12 environment and build partnerships with their clients that focus on the outcome: student achievement.
“The sweet spot is when instruction meets technology and you put together the right package for the students,” Louderback said. “The instructional side of the house is responsible for finding the right curriculum on the right media path, delivering a thoughtful message that students can learn from. Making sure they’re working cohesively with the tech side of the house — the platforms, the tools, the connectivity, all that — is what makes the magic happen,” he said.
“It enables the teachers to be as wonderful as they strive to be every day, and students to be knowledgeable and inspired.”
Download Insight Public Sector’s full “Digitalization: What’s Your End-to-End Game Plan” infographic here:
This article was produced by EdScoop for, and sponsored by, Insight Public Sector.