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How Technology Enables More Personalized Learning Experiences

After a challenging year-and-a-half of remote learning, schools reopened their doors for the 2021-22 school year. While experts agree most students learn best with in-person instruction, the pandemic encouraged education leaders to reimagine technology’s role within the school building. 

According to a recent Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) survey, 56 percent of school district technology leaders reported an increase in their overall district IT budget for the current school year. By investing in technology that provides meaningful, personalized educational experiences, schools can reverse pandemic learning loss and help students develop the skills needed to achieve their full potential.

Even before the pandemic upended learning for 51 million public school students, the nation was nearing an inflection point in K-12 education. The results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed declining reading scores and stagnant math scores for high school seniors. It’s clear the status quo — students learning the same material at the same time in the same way — wasn’t working. 

In the past decade, education policy experts and teachers concerned with low academic achievement researched and practiced a methodology known as personalized learning. Personalized learning is a student-centered approach where instruction is tailored to each student’s strengths, interests, and needs. 

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In 2020, the National School Boards Association launched Public School Transformation Now! to champion student-centered and personalized learning approaches across the country.

Leveraging tech

Technology has an important role to play in creating these personalized learning opportunities. In the second volume of its COVID-19 handbook, the U.S. Department of Education identifies supporting equitable access and effective use of technology as a major strategy for repairing the pandemic’s effect on academics. 

The department recommends schools “use technology in ways that support students who are performing at different levels — which may be an even more common occurrence when students return to in-person instruction — in part by leveraging technology to support one-on-one or small group work.” 

One way classrooms can support students who are performing at different levels is by adopting a “flipped classroom” approach; a form of blended learning that combines in-person instruction with technology and high-quality online content.

In a flipped classroom, students watch recorded lectures on school-distributed devices at home. Classroom time is used to work through the material, ask questions, receive one-on-one feedback from teachers, collaborate with others, and assess understanding. Recorded lessons can be accessed at any time, allowing students to rewatch parts or pause the video to suit their needs. 

Under this model, teachers have more time to support students and provide direct student support. Many flipped classrooms also empower students to help and work with one another.

Immersive education

In addition to changing how education is delivered, education technology offers new ways of learning content through augmented reality and virtual simulations. Imagine exploring historical places in virtual reality or dissecting a virtual frog. Students can also demonstrate mastery of content in new ways. 

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Learning analytics can also benefit teachers by helping them identify patterns and gain real-time insight into how their students are progressing. Notably, the Education Department’s COVID-19 handbook also advises that technology can be used to “support parent-teacher engagement and can be a good way to get information to parents as well as support student learning.”

Of course, technology is not a panacea to improving academic performance, nor does its presence in a classroom magically manifest a student-centered learning approach. Teachers need to be trained on how to use education technology, which requires time and financial support. 

Furthermore, schools must continue to safeguard student privacy when adopting new technologies. Most importantly, parents need to be part of conversations about why technology is being used and what role it serves. 

Nevertheless, education technology is an important piece in transforming public education. School leaders that strategically implement education technology — working in collaboration with students, teachers, and parents — will discover new opportunities to better prepare learners for the modern, post-pandemic world. 

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