Mar 04 2021

CoSN2021: Remote Learning Creates New Opportunities for K–12 Education

Lessons from the move to online learning highlight innovation, professional development and shifts in educational technology.

For many educators, the shift to remote learning happened overnight. In Oregon, Beaverton School District teachers, students and families were informed one day at noon that schools would be closed the next day and beyond, said district CIO Steven Langford at CoSN2021.

Langford moderated a Thursday session titled “Lessons Learned from the Frontlines of Remote Learning,” which also featured Pat La Morte, the K–12 solutions lead at Zoom, and Ryan Imbriale, vice president of education solutions for PowerSchool. Together, the trio reflected on the challenges and solutions that emerged during the pandemic, the growth of educational technology, innovation from educators and their own outlooks on the future of learning.

Reliance on Educational Technology Drove its Growth and Expansion

As the pandemic unfolded, La Morte said, educational technology came to the forefront, advancing markedly over a just a few months.

“Blended learning became learning,” Imbriale said, emphasizing how quickly students and teachers adapted to the changes.

La Morte agreed, highlighting technologies that educators relied on, such as Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms. Many schools also needed to find ways to provide internet connectivity, he said, and some did so by putting Wi-Fi on school buses that they then parked in neighborhoods. He stressed that the creative solutions that followed the shift to remote learning helped accelerate the growth of ed tech.

“As digital as we all believed we were,” Imbriale said, “every district can find something that they were doing manually that they had to figure out.”

In Baltimore County, Md., where he worked as a teacher last year, educational technology helped expand his district’s summer learning program. “It was an opportunity where we used tools and resources from the ed tech space that allowed us to monitor student progress and quickly and stand up reports at the end of the summer,” he said.

DISCOVER: Technology promotes equity in the classrooms of K–12 students.

Remote Learning Amplified Professional Development Needs

Both La Morte and Imbriale applauded the perseverance and innovation of teachers in the wake of the pandemic.

“Professional development has never mattered more,” Imbriale said, noting that teachers were shortchanged on professional development before the remote learning shift. He said he admired how the educational community came together to learn and continue teaching despite the challenges it faced.

La Morte discussed the benefits of educators allowing students to teach them about technology in areas where their own skills were lacking. It helped boost confidence for both teachers and students, he said.

Looking ahead, Imbriale noted, professional development should drive learning and educational technology forward. “Professional learning is not about a technology solution,” he said. “It’s about pedagogy.”

EXPLORE: Know how to answer to the most-asked hybrid-learning questions.

How Remote Learning Is Defining the Future of Education

The speakers stressed throughout the session that education must avoid backsliding to pre-pandemic practices.

Langford noted the move to remote learning gives educators the opportunity to imagine a learning environment that benefits all students. The old way of teaching, he said, didn’t serve all kids.

There’s evidence of this, said La Morte, in recent increased attendance rates. “Administrators didn’t realize people just couldn’t get to school,” he said. “Now they’re coming to school, and they’re learning and thriving and feeling like they’re part of the community.”

Moving forward, he said, educators should reimagine the learning landscape instead of re-creating it. When teachers can’t be in the classroom, he continued, they could prerecord a lesson for the substitute to show so that students are still learning effectively through a familiar teaching style. La Morte also used severe weather and student illnesses as examples of situations where remote learning could prove useful in the future.

“The ed tech space in general has really found a way to stand up around innovation and find those opportunities that, I think, are long-term,” said Imbriale.

EdTech is covering CoSN2021, so keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing coverage. Follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for live updates and join the conversation using #CoSN2021.

Maria Symchych-Navrotska/Getty Images