How Tech-Driven Teaching Strategies Have Changed During The Pandemic

Over the course of two years, schools have greatly expanded their utilization of technology tools in K-12 education, driven by the need for remote and hybrid learning. This shift has resulted in both minor and significant changes to instructional practices in schools. A comprehensive review of surveys conducted by the EdWeek Research Center between March 2020 and January 2022, targeting teachers, principals, and district leaders from a nationally representative sample, highlights the key areas of growth in technology adoption.

One major focus has been the use of software programs to address literacy gaps among elementary school students. Educators have turned to these tools to bridge the gap created by interrupted reading instruction during the closure of physical school buildings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 45% of the surveyed educators reported that the digital resources they already had in place were highly effective for English and language arts instruction in a remote setting. Furthermore, 63% of educators involved in early literacy instruction indicated an increased usage of digital reading programs. This trend led to changes in usage patterns for educational technology giant Renaissance Learning. While their Accelerated Reader program, which relied on physical libraries, experienced a decline in usage, their digital library service, myON, saw a significant increase in student engagement. To adapt to this shift, Renaissance Learning integrated Accelerated Reader with myON and introduced new features to track and monitor student usage. However, as schools receive substantial federal relief funds, companies in the ed-tech industry are anticipating a more selective approach to technology adoption, with schools evaluating the ease of use, evidence of effectiveness, and flexibility of various tools in their technology ecosystems.

Another significant development is the widespread adoption of learning management systems (LMS) by teachers. Just two months after the initial school closures, 68% of survey respondents reported using online LMS platforms to collect and return student work. By the summer of 2020, three-fifths of principals and district leaders had provided training to teachers on basic tasks related to LMS usage.

Overall, the education landscape is evolving as schools transition back to full-time, in-person learning. With substantial federal funds aimed at addressing the learning loss caused by the pandemic, it is expected that certain ed-tech tools and instructional changes will endure. However, as schools assess and reevaluate their technology resources, there may be a regression as they eliminate tools that were hastily purchased during the pandemic.

Akshat Sharma, the lead product manager for Classroom, stated that as the pandemic took hold, their user base grew exponentially from 40 million to 150 million in just a few weeks. This realization led them to recognize the opportunity and responsibility they had in meeting the needs of millions of teachers. One significant change during the early months of remote learning was that Classroom shifted from being a supplementary tool to becoming a central hub. The company also observed a significant increase in first-time users, with many accessing the platform through mobile phones instead of computers.

To address these changes, Google engineers worked tirelessly to create a more seamless integration with their videoconferencing platform, Meet, as well as other commonly used third-party software tools. They also introduced new features to simplify the implementation of Classroom on a school or district-wide level. Additionally, an "offline" mode was developed to allow students with unreliable WiFi access on their mobile devices to still complete their assignments.

The results of these efforts were evident when the EdWeek Research Center found that 48 percent of survey respondents started using Google Classroom during the pandemic and intended to continue using it in the future. This was the highest percentage among all the products mentioned. Only 10 percent of respondents planned to stop using Classroom.

Sharma emphasized that Google is prepared for educators to continue using Classroom as a central hub or to revert back to using it as a supplementary resource. However, he acknowledged that the decision ultimately rests with the teachers.

In the realm of tech-based tutoring and supplemental support, math has emerged as a key focus. It comes as no surprise that many districts have turned to the nonprofit Khan Academy as part of their COVID-19 learning recovery plan. The nonprofit witnessed a significant surge in global usage during the early weeks of the pandemic, with "learning minutes" per day increasing from 30 million to over 80 million.

Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, highlighted that students can receive ample practice and feedback at their own level, whether they are in or out of the classroom. With 137 million users across 190 countries, the popularity of Khan Academy is evident. While usage levels have decreased as in-person learning resumed, it is evident that long-term changes are on the horizon.

Last summer, the EdWeek Research Center found that 66 percent of principals and district administrators predicted an increase in blended learning, which combines face-to-face instruction with digital learning. Additionally, 36 percent anticipated a greater emphasis on digital tutoring programs.

To adapt to these changes, Khan Academy has expanded its offerings, particularly with its "Districts" program. This program aims to facilitate systemwide implementation by providing extensive training, improved integration with student information systems, and digital dashboards to track student progress. Khan Academy also launched, an online peer-to-peer tutoring platform. The Long Beach Unified School District in California is already piloting this platform, and in some cases, high school students are being paid to serve as tutors.

However, the challenge ahead is daunting. NWEA, the organization that creates benchmark assessments for elementary and middle school students, has discovered substantial drops in math performance compared to pre-pandemic levels. These gaps are most noticeable in schools with a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Khan Academy has partnered with NWEA to ensure that its use is linked to interim assessments already in place and that student progress aligns with districts’ overall instructional plans.

Khan envisions that by 2022-23, there will be a return to a situation similar to pre-pandemic times, with increased independent online student work. He emphasizes that this is a long-term endeavor, and the goal is to be here for future generations.

The EdWeek Research Center provided the data analysis for this article. For more information about their work, please visit their website.


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    Jayce Adams is a 27-year-old blogger who loves to share educational content on her website. She has a passion for helping others improve their lives, and she hopes to do so through her writing.