Two industry experts share their insights into the new technologies enabling remote education and what educators need to know for the future.
Co-Founder and CEO, Hoot Reading
Head, Google for Education
What should educators know about future trends in technology?
Carly Shuler: It’s unlikely that hybrid models of learning will go away. While there is hope that post-pandemic lifewill go back to normal, we’ve seen educational institutions adopt many new technologies that were previously just on the periphery and for future consideration — technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and deeper investments in hardware and software that enable learning from a distance. Remote learning in particular has put at least some kind of tech into the hands of all learners, including those in K12.
What is interesting is that younger students (elementary school-aged) actually report wanting to use digital learning tools more often than they currently are, according to NewSchools’ report. This trend suggests there’s an opportunity for educators to better align the way that ed tech is implemented, especially with tools specifically designed to address the needs of students in this age group.
Shantanu Sinha: At Google, we’re focused on building technology to help teachers and students pursue their personal potential. One area that we’re excited about is adaptive learning technology, which uses AI to enhance teacher instruction and provide students with individualized support—from useful hints to relevant videos. Learning can often feel like an isolating, one-sided process, especially if you’re a student struggling to answer a question or comprehend a new concept. We envision a more interactive future, where technology can help students get in-the-moment support and build confidence in their ability to learn new material.
How can educators ensure students are prepared for upcoming technology trends?
CS: I think educators can ensure students are prepared by finding ways to normalize technology, specifically for the use of learning and improving learning outcomes. It is important that students know what learning time is versus playing time given that both can be done with technology. For example, watching a YouTube video of a child’s choice is a very different experience than a one-to-one reading lesson, though both can be done with the exact same device.
Another thing that educators need to be aware of is the disparity in access to technology despite upcoming trends. While there are many benefits to introducing more ed tech into our education systems, the last thing we want to do is create larger gaps and more inequities in educational opportunities.
SS: The students of today have more information at their fingertips than ever before. This presents an incredible opportunity for them to drive their own learning experience, whether it’s checking out supplemental YouTube videos or taking a walk through new geography using Google Maps, or diving deep into completely new subject matter. This is why digital literacy is so important. It’s why we’ve developed programs like Be Internet Awesome, which helps educators teach students how to be responsible digital citizens and stay safe online. In our Teacher Center, educators can explore a range of free content to foster students’ broader digital knowledge, from CS First, our free computer science curriculum, to digital skills for the future of work.
What forms of technology were most helpful during the pandemic, and how have they changed the trajectory of education?
CS: I think the most helpful form of technology was undoubtedly access to tutoring for students over the pandemic. The disruptions with school closures combined with the learning curve associated with online learning had a real impact on students, especially those in K-4 who are learning the most fundamental skills for future learning — literacy skills. This has created a real problem across the board, but especially for students who didn’t have access to extra learning resources over the past two years.
The demand for tutoring continues to accelerate, and we’ve seen funds like ESSER emerge specifically to address pandemic-precipitated learning loss. School districts have also created line items in their budgets for online tutoring tools and software, and it is clear there has been a paradigm shift based on evidence that high-dosage micro tutoring can help students recover some of the lost ground.
SS: Learning can happen anywhere, at any time. Nowhere was this more obvious than during the pandemic, when students relied on technology to connect with classmates, teachers, and content, whether they were completing coursework on Google Classroom, attending class on Google Meet, or learning something new on YouTube. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the concept of “school” can take many different forms. Even as schools have returned to in-person learning, it’s clear that the role of technology in the classroom has forever changed. My team and I are excited to partner with schools to explore what this means for the future and together build the next generation of teaching and learning tools.