Pandemic Spurs Changes in the Edtech Schools Use, From the Classroom to the Admin Office

Jan 26, 2021

Top reported teachers’ apps have adapted to meet pandemic purposes. Home may be the new classroom, but instructional approaches are slower to change. And if you think the college IT department seems a bit stressed out … well, yeah. All in this Edtech Reports Recap.

Changing App-etites

How a pandemic can change things. Market data and services firm MDR has updated a wide-ranging survey it last fielded in 2018 about teachers and tech, and the resulting report, “How 2020 Shifted Perceptions of Technology in the Classroom,” illustrates how COVID-19’s disruptions have upended some edtech trends and accelerated others.

The new report did a bit of compare and contrast, asking nearly 1,000 K-12 public school teachers in October 2020 the same questions that were asked for the 2018 report while adding a few new ones.

Upended? Popular educational apps. Zoom took the number one spot in mentions by teachers in 2020, at 60 percent, displacing 2018’s top mention, Google Classroom. But four apps cited in teachers’ top tens in both 2018 and 2020 nearly all saw growth: Kahoot!, from 41 to 57 percent; Quizlet, from 27 to 37 percent; and ClassDojo, from 22 to 28 percent. The fourth repeater, Remind, was flat at 30 percent in both years.

Source: MDR: “How 2020 Shifted Perceptions of Technology in the Classroom

The other six 2020 apps were new to the list. There was Zoom, of course, but also Flipgrid, Bitmoji, Google Meet, Screencastify and Nearpod. Perhaps to be expected, apps that enable creating a virtual classroom were popular.

Oh, don’t feel bad for Google Classroom. For the new report, it was reclassified from an app to a learning management system, and its mentions grew from 44 percent as an educational app in 2018 to 54 percent as the LMS teachers said their school used in 2020. Trailing Google Classroom as the K-12 LMS of choice was Canvas, at 28 percent.

Accelerated? Apparently 1:1 device access. MDR reports a “surge,” with 1:1 schools most likely to be high schools (41 percent), then middle schools (37 percent) and finally elementary (22 percent).

And when learning remotely, 56 percent of teachers said student devices were Chromebooks, far and away outpacing tablets like iPads (16 percent) and other mobile computing devices.

Unchanging Structures

There may be only so much change any long-standing institution such as K-12 education can handle all at once.

A new Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation report, “Breaking the Mold: How a Global Pandemic Unlocks Innovation in K-12 Instruction,” finds what’s not being disrupted is the desire for some kind of classroom-style instruction—even if the classroom is closed.

The report is based on a survey conducted by the nonprofit think tank Christensen Institute and Bay View Analytics. It’s not like the Christensen Institute is new to this concept: it’s known for studying online and blended learning over the past decade, including presenting an at-one-time mind-numbing variety of blended learning models.

For this report—as the pandemic abruptly accelerated reliance on online learning—the Institute peppered a national representative sample of just under 600 U.S. K-12 classroom teachers and 700 school and district administrators with questions, using two different surveys, in October 2020.

One key finding in the report and the full survey: Teachers’ instructional materials didn’t necessarily change to meet the needs of remote instruction. The results revealed that they “tend to be those geared for synchronous instruction”—that is, for live direct teaching.

The most common sources of curriculum materials were those teachers developed themselves (84 percent), followed by various resources collated from online sources (77 percent), materials developed by others in the school or district (50 percent), a classroom-based commercial curriculum (44 percent), a remote-instruction commercial curriculum (22 percent) and an open-source curriculum (16 percent). Teachers could choose more than one source.

Source: Clayton Christensen Institute: “Breaking the Mold: How a Global Pandemic Unlocks Innovation in K-12 Instruction

It’s the low ranking of materials designed for remote instruction that caught the eye of report author Thomas Arnett. Taken together with the other survey data about technologies in use, he writes it “reveals a striking pattern: many teachers are attempting to replicate their traditional classroom-based instruction over video calls.”

While there are some promising signs—and the bias toward mimicking conventional instruction online makes “perfect sense” considering the practical issues educators are facing right now—Arnett says it “seems like a missed opportunity given the promising range of student-centered strategies that online learning can enable—such as mastery-based learning and individualized learning pathways.”

What About That App Behind the Curtain?

It’s not just the software teachers and students see that’s undergoing changes during the pandemic. According to a new report from the market research firm Futuresource Consulting, “administrative tools are the new K-12 edtech battleground.”

According to a blog post and an infographic covering some of the highlights of the final paid report in Futuresource’s EdTech Voice series, there is both movement and dissatisfaction. Nearly half (48 percent) of school districts said their current student information system doesn’t fully meet their needs, with “data management and storage the biggest challenge.” Almost as many (46 percent) plan to introduce asset management software due to the growth in connected devices.

In its interviews with curriculum leaders and IT decision makers across more than 400 school districts in June and July 2020, Futuresource also found interest in learning management systems is on the rise.

Overall, 66 percent of K-12 schools have or will have an LMS in place over the next two years. Futuresource says adoption is highest in schools on the East Coast at 91 percent, followed by the West Coast at 75 percent and the Central U.S. at 60 percent. And 53 percent of schools which already have an LMS are thinking about finding another LMS provider “to improve communication and collaboration with remote learners.”

Pandemic Winner: Stress Hormones

All this change is ... relaxing? Not.

Nonprofit higher education information association EDUCAUSE finds in one of its regular QuickPoll surveys that 76 percent of higher ed IT staff have seen workplace stress increase during the pandemic. The top reason, not surprisingly, is “additional responsibilities or increased workload.”

Source: EDUCAUSE QuickPoll survey

The January poll of 1,522 participants in IT leadership from mostly U.S. institutions didn’t see much relief on the horizon: 54 percent of all respondents expect stress levels to stay about the same as they are now over the next 12 months, and 36 percent expect it to increase even further.

It may be time to try unplugging, before having to plug yourself back in again.


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