COVID’s impact on education technology cannot be understated. Parents and students had to adapt to remote learning. Educators had to adjust their lesson plans to teach online. Classroom activities that were meant for interactive groups had to be changed for individual learning.
Teachers and school administrators rose to the challenge. They got creative.
They created science experiments with household items. They played vocabulary games over video calls. They worked together to pool resources and ideas to keep students engaged.
As many schools look to return to in-person learning in the 2021–22 school year, we wanted to see how educators felt about the past year:
- What went right?
- What is the future of remote learning now that students can return?
- What does the future hold for today’s educators?
We surveyed 284 educators in July 2021 to better understand COVID’s impact on education technology. Here is what we learned.
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Educators Stand By Their Careers
One of the main concerns in the education field is burnout. Many teachers work long hours each day and aren’t paid for all of that time. With the switch to remote learning, some teachers worked late into the evening in order to help students with homework and difficult concepts.
Despite the stress of the past year, many educators are happy in the field. Forty-three percent of respondents said they weren’t reconsidering their career. Only 20.4 percent said they are absolutely reconsidering their careers after a year of remote instruction.
To dig deeper, we posed the same question but asked about remote learning. Specifically, would teachers consider changing careers if they had to teach remotely again? Only 13.7 percent said they would absolutely change their career; 48 percent said they wouldn’t change their careers at all.
While turnover is still a major concern in education and COVID-19 impacted teachers significantly, remote learning didn’t increase a desire to leave the field for our survey respondents.
Student Connections Are Key
Among the biggest challenges teachers face, many respondents (67.7 percent) cited the extra work they had to do because of remote learning. A similar percentage (63.4 percent) said they struggled because students were having a hard time emotionally.
The pandemic left many people isolated, which was particularly hard on young people, who need more social interaction in their developmental years. Almost a quarter (22.5 percent) of educators said they noticed their students having emotional issues and difficulty with social skills because of the pandemic.
Educators noticed this and did their best to engage with students and their parents, providing a lifeline in an otherwise isolated period of time. These efforts seem to be paying off. When asked what is going well with K–12 education, 61.3 percent of educators said they were finding more creative ways to communicate more often with parents.
Interaction Is a Big Part of Remote Learning
Many educators and students had difficulties with internet connectivity: Only 12.7 percent of respondents said very few students experienced difficulties because of poor internet.
Teachers also had to develop lesson plans that kept students engaged. It’s in this context of connection, motivation and engagement that we found some of the most profound challenges. For example:
- 30 percent of respondents said keeping students motivated was the hardest part of remote learning.
- Another 27 percent said interacting and connecting with students was the most difficult.
Don’t Overlook Teacher Training
Most survey respondents felt they needed more training to use the remote-learning tools they were given.
Only 15.6 percent of teachers said they had all the support they needed when implementing new tools. A majority of respondents (62 percent) said they received some training but could have used more.
Training is particularly important when all educators within a school or district are expected to use the same technology. That’s noteworthy because 60 percent of teachers said they didn’t get to select their classroom technology.
This means many teachers worked with new tools for the first time during the pandemic and had to learn how to use those tools on the fly.
Everyone Is Doing the Best They Can
No one was prepared for the scale or duration of the pandemic and how much COVID-19 impacted teachers.
Many districts developed remote work plans with only a few weeks to prepare. However, over the past year, many educators felt that their school systems worked hard for them:
- Almost 80 percent of respondents said their school or district did as much as it could to keep students safe.
- More than 63 percent said their school or district did as much as it could to keep teachers safe.
As a whole, the educators we surveyed stand by their school systems. Almost 95 percent of educators said their schools and districts can provide students with the tools they need to succeed.
Just because life is returning to a so-called normal doesn’t mean educators will forget the pandemic. COVID’s impact on education technology will continue to evolve as students enter the classroom each day. Right now, educators have the luxury of choosing from both worlds and embracing the best parts of remote and in-person instruction.
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