Apr 29 2022

Pandemic-Era Tech Continues to Add Value to K–12 Classrooms

School leaders are seeing a return on investment as remote and hybrid learning solutions continue to benefit students, educators and districts.

Educational technology saw an explosion of growth and innovation over the past two years as companies worked to meet schools’ needs in the wake of the pandemic. Existing companies built new solutions and updated old favorites, while new companies entered the playing field with creative innovations.

These technologies and updates were created with remote and hybrid learning situations in mind. As a result, the available tools for today’s learners look much different, despite many schools having returned to in-person learning in some capacity.

99%

The percentage of schools open for in-person learning in December 2021

Source: U.S. Department of Education, “2022: Staying In School In-Person,” January 2022

School districts that purchased pandemic-era tech needn’t worry, however, as these tools continue to add value to education in modern learning environments. Large displays and other audiovisual tools support accessible learning. Learning management systems such as Google Classroom allow teachers to easily organize and visualize their class data. Here are other ways technologies released during the pandemic continue to benefit students, whether they’re in the classroom or learning from home:

Advanced Connectivity Options Open the Door to Network Upgrades

At the onset of the pandemic-driven remote learning shift and during the hybrid learning that followed, districts persevered to provide one-to-one devices to K–12 students.

One element many of these learners lacked, however, was connectivity. “The Lenovo 100e 2nd Gen and 300e 2nd Gen are equipped with features that provide enhanced learning experiences through improved connectivity for online learning, and videoconferencing and multimode flexibility,” says Delia DeCourcy, senior global education solutions manager for Lenovo. The company equipped these 2nd Gen Chromebooks with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

TECH TIPS: Here are six things K–12 schools should consider before upgrading to Wi-Fi 6.

The advanced connectivity features of the devices helped students get online during the pandemic and will continue to benefit users as schools update their infrastructure and future proof their networks.

Security Features Protect Schools from Cyberattacks and Rising Costs

The increased cybersecurity features ed tech companies implemented to keep schools safe during the pandemic also continue to benefit users. Following a rise in cyberattacks targeting K–12 institutions, schools sought pandemic-era technologies with increased security measures. Leaders needed ways to keep student data safe.

Because IT teams were stretched thin, schools turned to cybersecurity products powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Lenovo NetFilter is a cloud-based security software that uses AI to categorize both known and unknown domains to help detect and stop malicious malware,” DeCourcy says. “It provides real-time protection through robust features designed to work in the classroom and remotely,” keeping student data safe in any learning environment.

Beyond protecting student data, these pandemic-era cybersecurity features are now helping schools secure lower cybersecurity insurance premiums. Insurance companies have re-evaluated the risks facing schools in the wake of rising attacks. Districts without sufficient cybersecurity protections are seeing their premiums rise — or, in some cases, their coverage dropped entirely. Technologies that add a layer of protection against cyberthreats are therefore much more enticing in today’s education landscape.

UP NEXT: Multifactor authentication should no longer be optional in K–12 districts.

Online Tools Curate Data for Learning's Continued Personalization

Schools also invested in software to support remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic. Companies responded in kind, developing and updating offerings to meet the needs of virtual learning environments.

Reading fluency, for example, was initially difficult for many educators to measure online. “Historically, this arduous process is conducted manually by a teacher sitting next to a student who practices reading a passage out loud,” says Mike Tholfsen, principal group product manager for Microsoft Education. “Teachers dislike this time-consuming process, and many students dislike reading out loud in front of people. During the pandemic, this process became extremely difficult, even impossible in many cases.”

As a result, the Microsoft team developed Reading Progress. “Reading Progress, which is built into Microsoft Teams for EDU, allows students to independently record themselves reading out loud,” Tholfsen says. “After the student submits the reading passage, Reading Progress uses our speech services to auto-detect reading speed and accuracy — including mispronunciations, insertions, omissions, repetitions and self-corrections — and lets the teacher review the data, update or change it if necessary, and give the student feedback.”

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He adds that this program continues to be popular with students, who love the independence the technology provides, and teachers, who love the data and insights Reading Progress curates from students’ submissions.

Educators have access to more data than ever as a result of AI programs developed during the pandemic. Even in an in-person classroom setting, teachers are able to personalize learning and get real-time updates on students’ learning.

Chat Features Provide Students a Safe Option for SEL

Social-emotional learning became a popular topic as school moved online. Without the social connections they were accustomed to, some students struggled in school and in their personal lives. Educators found it difficult to connect with students without face-to-face communication, and sought other ways to understand how students felt.

“For circumstances where students and teachers need to discuss issues privately, private chats can be a valuable tool. Supervised Chat gives school leaders the confidence that chat conversations involving students are kept safe by staff, and that only appropriate staff members have access to students via chat,” says Angela Chin, principal program manager lead with Microsoft Teams for EDU.

Many companies implemented or developed similar private chat features in their programs, including GoGuardian and Lenovo.

“With LanSchool, students and teachers can easily send messages through the software, giving students another outlet to meet their social and emotional learning needs,” DeCourcy says.

DIVE DEEPER: How does digital equity play a role in social-emotional learning?

Experts say effects of the pandemic continue to impact students — and everyone else — making these technologies equally valuable in today’s classrooms.

“The ability for students to safely collaborate with each other asynchronously and for a student to reach out to an educator safely and independently remain vital needs as schools move back to in-person learning,” Chin says.

FG Trade/Getty Images

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