K-12 Educational technology: What’s the right fit for your school?
Flipped classrooms. Bring Your Own Device days. Smart Boards. iPads. If you recognize any one of these concepts, then you know how essential technology has become in K-12 schools. Gone are the days of shying away from virtual classes and student laptops. Now, schools and teachers embrace technology as a resource for investigative learning. Now, educational technology is a concept of the present and the future.
Educational technology in K-12 schools isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, though. As the concept of educational technology has grown in popularity, its variations have grown in complexity. Independent and private schools must now ask tough questions such as which technologies to invest in, and how to fund those investments. They’re big decisions to make, which is why we’re taking a look at the educational technology that is currently available, how schools use it, and what the future holds for this industry.
How students and schools use technology today
Let’s start out by looking at the way students use technology in and out of the classroom. Just take a look at the following statistics:
- Children aged 4 to 14 use smart phones and tablets more than all other electronic devices.
- At school, students have more online learning options than ever before. Their options include fully online classes, supplemental online classes, digital learning, and integrated digital tools within existing approaches.
- 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home
But students aren’t the only ones who know and love technology. Teachers and administrators are embracing the 21st century, too. For example:
- 30 states have fully online schools – which means students anywhere in the state can attend an online school.
- 96% of teachers agree that educational technology increases student engagement in learning.
- 86% of teachers think it’s important or absolutely essential to use educational technology in the classroom.
These numbers clearly show that technology use is popular among students and teachers in all types of schools. That’s the easy part. The hard part is for private and independent schools to decide how to leverage the popularity of “edtech” in a way that includes, engages, and challenges students in a meaningful way – all while keeping within budget.
Adopting educational technology
So there’s a thousand new edtech products/systems and you’re trying to decide which one your school should adopt in the coming school year. You’ve heard that 1:1 laptop programs are necessary, while recording class lessons can help students learn at home. Where do you start?
First, consider what your school actually needs. Jeff Shields, President of the National Business Officers Association responded to the upsurge of edtech products and said, “Stay away from jargon (e.g., “flipped classroom,” “BYOD”) and instead simply consider how in-classroom educators can make the greatest impact on students.”
To Shields’ point, educational technology opens the door to thousands of possibilities, but teachers still remain at the center of the classroom – leading the curriculum, encouraging student engagement, and developing minds. In fact, this is the exact reason why technology adoption is less aggressive in private schools compared to public school districts. Parents expect personalized learning from teachers, not computers.
After wading through all of the edtech options and deciding which ones are best for your school to adopt, there’s still another hurdle to overcome: budget. When schools adopt a new type of technology, whether infrastructure-related or for the classroom, the money has to come from somewhere. Most of the viable options include pulling from several budgets, or relying upon foundations and non-profits to fund and/or help adopt technology.
Ultimately, the solution to adopting technology in a cost-effective and education-promoting way is something that varies from school to school.
Taking edtech beyond the classroom
The educational technologies for K-12 schools that I’ve mentioned so far refer mostly to in-school solutions. But as we all know, education doesn’t just happen at school. Now, online schools are available in more than half of the country. At the same time, brick and mortar schools increasingly offer e-learning days during harsh winters to avoid a pileup of make-up days.
E-learning isn’t beneficial just for make-up days, though. If you decide that flipped classrooms are the direction you want to head in, using video and online lessons will help you accomplish day-to-day educational goals. Students would watch online lessons at home, then come prepared to have in-depth discussions during class.
No matter which approach your school decides to take – online classes, supplemental online courses, digital media, or physical technology – there are plenty of ways to incorporate technology into K-12 private and independent school classrooms. The most important part is deciding what works with your resources and educational philosophy.
Have you recently implemented new educational technology in your school? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!