What the Past Year Taught Us About the Gaps in Technology for Education
Technology and software development can help solve some of the major problems currently facing education, including: better digital platforms for teaching, better means of communicating with parents about what to teach when, and how to help expand education into the home.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As our society becomes more and more dependent on technology like smartphones, tablets and laptops, the debate around whether or not to use technology for education has gone back and forth. In fact, some private schools have built entire curriculums intended to exclude technology.
Many feel strongly that technology will hinder traditional development while others think it will better equip students for the modern world we live in today.
The year 2020 changed the tone of the education and technology debate for many because of the necessity for teaching through digital platforms like Zoom. Additionally, 2020 made a lot of parents teachers themselves. Parents needed to rely on technology to help them maintain any type of sanity while teaching their children, keeping their families safe and working their full time jobs.
Personally, I believe that technology and software development can solve some of these major problems currently facing education, including better digital platforms for teaching, better means of communicating with parents about what to teach when and how to help expand education into the home.
Teaching through digital platforms
Because teachers needed to figure out how to teach quickly, Zoom teaching spread like wildfire. Zoom was probably the most user-friendly and an already widely used digital conferencing tool, so it became the obvious go-to choice for teachers. Many teachers quickly tried to adapt to using Zoom for their digital classroom experiences and in many instances it was a disaster.
While seemingly a great band aid solution, there were lots of flaws, including "Zoombombing" where hackers (or the students themselves) would hijack lessons. Not a great look.
In another Entrepreneur article related to virtual events, I outlined potential opportunities for better software solutions, and the same ideas could easily be applied to educational experiences.
However, small public schools are not going to be able to pay to create these custom platforms for teachers, so maybe there is a solution where a future update to Zoom can better adapt as well.
Zoom is the one-size-fits-all solution for businesses, conferences and everything else right now. As remote learning evolves, the ultimate solution will be a more bespoke system that allows teachers more customization and control depending on their curriculum and classroom size.
I would not be surprised if, down the road, we start to see school-wide video chat services specifically designed for their own specific use cases.
Parents have definitely had one of the biggest adjustments to make during the pandemic. Not only were their normal day-to-day lives turned upside down, they had the added pressure of needing to educate their children.
"Parents either feel like they are drinking from a firehouse or there is no information out there- there is no middle ground," Elizabeth Engellenner, Project Manager for Early Learning Lab said when I interviewed her about education during the pandemic back in March of 2020. "The parents who are getting bombarded with information are finding it hard to tell what's good and what's bad, what you actually need to be doing with your child, and what you should be doing right now."
While many students are back to in-person learning, many are choosing to remain virtual until they feel it's safe enough to send their child back to school. Additionally, some schools are part-time with learning in-person half the week and from home the other half.
There needs to be technology that helps teachers teach in person and virtually and give parents the information they need to make sure their child is learning at home appropriately.
My mom, a second-grade teacher, now spends a large part of her day writing emails to keep her student's parents informed. This can be assisted with better technology.
If students are going to remain to get at least a part of their education virtually and/or with assistance from parents at home, there needs to be a clear way to communicate the essential core concepts parents should be making sure their children are learnin, and there should be different creative ways to suggest how parents can help implement these lessons depending on what they are equipped with at home. Not all families have access to the same resources like multiple computers and cell phones at home.
Bridging the gap between school and home
One of the more long-term conversations about education that the pandemic has shone a light on is the importance of having a student's education follow them outside of the classroom to apply real life lessons. We need to bridge the gap between this idea that education is the school's job only.
The challenge for teachers becomes, "How do you digest a year-long curriculum into some core skills a child needs by the end of the year, and what are the resources available to help parents get them there outside of lessons?"
Software solutions could help deliver a synopsis and outline of what the child will be learning that year, what the core skills should be and how to help reinforce those skills at home and within the community that that particular child is living in. There should be different creative ways that suggest how parents can help implement these lessons depending on what they are equipped with at home and/or what type of environment they live in.
There's no arguing that education was hit especially hard during the pandemic and is continuing to suffer. Even before the pandemic hit, there was a need, in my opinion, to better equip schools and teachers with technological advancements that will help them give their students a more holistic, well-rounded education. But now, more so than ever, we need technology in education. These three problem areas are a great place for developers to start creating solutions.