K–12 education is on the precipice of change in 2024. School IT administrators need to be ready to adapt as numerous shifts at the federal level create impacts throughout the education landscape.
Affecting many schools’ budgets this year, the final round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding expires in September. Many K–12 institutions relied on this funding to sustain new educational technology programs, including providing devices to teachers and students.
Additionally, the Office of Educational Technology is poised to release its updated National Educational Technology Plan in early 2024. The revisions to the NETP will take into consideration the vast changes to the K–12 technology landscape as a result of the pandemic and the subsequent accelerated digital transformation.
The K–12 tech trends of 2024 are an amalgamation of ongoing changes that will be brought into even sharper focus by the major factors poised to alter educational technology. Here are five things K–12 IT leaders should look out for:
1. Tools and Services to Maintain Schools’ Device Lifecycles
Many schools relied on ESSER funding to launch their one-to-one device programs for students. As districts prepare to refresh these devices, they’ll need to do so without the cushion of ESSER funding.
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In 2024, schools will be looking for ways to maintain the device lifecycle with tighter budgets. They’ll need tools that help IT departments extend the life of devices, and they’ll need services from experts who know where and when to purchase devices to get the best return on investment.
Break-fix services and asset tagging, for example, can keep devices viable for an extra couple of years, which can make a big difference when it comes to stretching a school’s budget.
Services can also help schools develop cost optimization strategies, saving them money in other areas so they can afford to refresh student devices when it becomes necessary.
2. Artificial Intelligence Tech in the Classroom to Support Teachers
It’s impossible to talk about the biggest trends in educational technology without mentioning artificial intelligence. The hottest topic of conversation in K–12 ed tech circles in 2023 will remain relevant in 2024, especially as technology vendors integrate the solution into products for teaching and learning.
One way AI is growing in classrooms is as a tool to aid teachers. Teacher burnout rates remain high, with many educators citing the additional work created by understaffing as a leading cause.
The percentage of educators who had to take over absent colleagues’ duties due to staff shortages
Source: nea.org, “NEA survey: Massive staff shortages in schools leading to educator burnout; alarming number of educators indicating they plan to leave profession,” Feb. 1, 2022
AI tech is helping educators in numerous ways, including as a solution to repetitive administrative tasks. It’s also allowing teachers to analyze student data more efficiently so they can appropriately adjust their content or enact personalized learning models as needed.
Companies like Google and Microsoft are highlighting the existing AI aspects of their offerings while creating new ways for educators to use these tools. Merlyn Mind, which was the first company to introduce a classroom assistant powered by AI specifically for K–12, recently released the first large language model for education.
While in 2024 these tools may not eradicate teacher burnout, which is a deeper and more complex challenge in K–12 education systems, they can provide much-needed assistance in a modern classroom.
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3. Technologies to More Easily Manage the School’s Network
Bandwidth and connectivity will continue to play a major role in K–12 schools in 2024. Device quantities aren’t shrinking, so neither is the need to connect these devices to a school’s network.
When it comes to networking equipment, K–12 IT professionals aren’t likely to see an uptick in adoption of the newest wireless upgrade, Wi-Fi 7. Instead, they’ll see more advanced technologies to help monitor and analyze network traffic.
Today’s networking solutions, like those from Juniper Networks, offer a single-pane-of-glass dashboard that allows IT admins to see where users are struggling to connect to the network or where bandwidth is particularly scarce. These tools help IT departments make adjustments remotely, saving valuable time and work hours.
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4. Identity and Access Management as a Foundation for Zero Trust
The security concept of zero trust is gaining steam in other industries, as K–12 schools find ways to begin laying the foundation for this approach. One area in which many schools are already moving toward zero trust is through identity and access management.
Strategies such as multifactor authentication and single sign-on are components of a zero-trust model.
Schools that don’t yet have multifactor authentication should look for solutions from providers such as Cisco Duo, Okta and RapidIdentity, among others. These tools can be easier to implement than other components of a zero-trust strategy, which K–12 organizations often struggle to attain due to a lack of personnel and cybersecurity expertise.
DIVE DEEPER: Make the case for IT managed services in your K–12 school.
5. Tech for Physical Safety, Prevention and Mental Health in Schools
Last but certainly not least, K–12 IT administrators will want to follow trends in school safety technologies. Physical safety solutions have become a necessity for schools, from tools that deny entry to suspicious (or actively dangerous) individuals to those that detect students’ bad behavior, like vaping in bathrooms or fighting in the hallway.
Moving through 2024, schools will want to look for systems that keep all parts of the school safe for teaching and learning. Companies offering safety technology are more frequently working to provide an entire package to schools, from cameras and alert systems to door locks.
Advanced safety technologies are working together, using AI and Internet of Things capabilities to protect staff and students on campus.
Even technologies that monitor and improve student mental health are trending as a way to keep kids safe in schools. Tools like GoGuardian’s Beacon software detect search queries and text in online documents that could indicate a student plans to harm him or herself or others.
While student safety itself isn’t a trend or new idea in K–12 schools, education leaders are better equipped now than they’ve ever been to provide a safe learning environment with the help of advanced technologies.