We often think of technology as a new app or the latest smartphone, but few of us think of the power tech has in education. Although some time might have passed since you were last in school, tech is being used to update and advance our current education system.
Teachers and students use technology in the classroom in various ways to boost the learning experience and make education smarter than ever, and education technology, “EdTech,” is now an industry of its own.
During the pandemic, education technology transformed from a perk to a necessity overnight. Before, Edtech could be seen as a somewhat distracting element to the classroom. Now, the best examples of EdTech don't deter from the lesson plan. Instead, these tools create seamless learning environments for all students and educators, regardless of where they may be participating from on any given day.
EdTech is designed to integrate directly into a class's lesson plan to enhance the educational experience. It’s not there to cause more distractions or disconnects than it solves. If it does, it may be a sign to switch over to some more effective tech. The good news is, with an abundance of education technology available today, there are tools designed to support any classroom - in-person, remote, or hybrid class.
Education technology is a classification of technology used to promote and access education. This can encompass hardware, software, and other related items used by educators and students during the learning process. These tools help students attend their classes, collaborate, engage with remote students, or learn in a new way, inside the classroom or outside of it. EdTech is often a synonym for education technology.
Education technology as an industry is growing exponentially, valued at almost 123.4B in 2022 and rising at a projected rate of 13% year over year through 2030. Industry experts predict continued growth in EdTech tools and a boom in AI-powered, AR-enhanced, and VR-integrated educational technology products in the coming years. Specifically, K-12 has seen a rapid increase in game-based learning that relies on EdTech, which is evolving alongside more project-based learning in schools.
McKinsey data found that students in schools with sufficient technology devices performed better than those without access to technology and high-speed internet. EdTech enables teachers to support hybrid learning, which creates an inclusive classroom environment that provides access to learners, no matter their location or ability to physically be present in class.
The easiest area to see the benefits of education technology is in remote learning. Remote learning— attending lectures or classes virtually with video or audio communication to participate— requires the use of EdTech to keep the classroom engaged. Having a video call set up for a class of students allows people to attend no matter where they're located, bringing education to even more people.
EdTech software brings a new degree of flexibility to remote learning. Thanks to the variety of online courses and digital textbook libraries that students have access to through EdTech tools, students can access their work virtually, turn in homework online, and learn at their own speed. If a student has trouble with one section or really knows another, they can move ahead or relearn sections as they need it— allowing all students to tailor their learning experience to their needs.
Using EdTech platforms, teachers can create digital repositories of teaching materials, videos, and slide decks used, then provide access to students and caregivers to review on their own time. It's easy to see what material you have available to teach with and saves energy of having to look through piles of old paper resources. When all classes are being taught remotely, they have a tendency to bleed into one another. For teachers juggling multiple remote and hybrid classes, EdTech allows them to show up to each new class and lesson prepared and organized.
Here are some popular EdTech companies and products expanding options for technology in the classroom. These examples of education technology in the form of learning management systems, hardware products like video conferencing cameras for the classroom, and educational gaming platforms show the range of how technology can be infused in both teaching and learning.
The Meeting Owl is a video conferencing camera for classrooms that enables hybrid collaboration for students and teachers. The Meeting Owl turns any classroom environment into a hybrid classroom with its unique 360-degree camera that can capture audio and video from everyone in the room.
The Whiteboard Owl is a dedicated whiteboard camera that pairs with the Meeting Owl to showcase the in-room whiteboard. The Whiteboard Owl allows remote students to easily view the in-room whiteboard by making the speaker transparent and reducing glare.
Cengage is an online textbook and course distributor that also focuses on testing. Students can buy textbooks for their specific courses and take notes and quizzes all within the Cengage portal. This makes it a one-stop shop for learning tools for students.
Civitas Learning is a company dedicated to improving student outcomes in colleges and universities. Their tools are used to track student data to see which subjects or areas they might need help in, as well as what fields they might work well in.
Teachers can use Google Classroom to organize assignments and create a collaborative online learning environment for students. It's an all-in-one online tool where educators can create classes, distribute and grade assignments, provide feedback, and connect with students.
Kahoot! is a quiz game that can be created by teachers and answered by students about any topic they want. Students answer questions together and win points for the more answers they get correct. It's a fun way to get students learning in a format they're interested in.
Apex Learning has online courses that accompany middle and high school classes. They can be assigned by teachers to supplement what students are currently learning and keep students on top of their subjects if they need more help.
Chegg is a marketplace for textbooks, allowing students to buy or rent physical or digital copies to save money. The site also has tutorials, online tutoring, and practice problems for students to work on.
SMART Technologies makes a host of technology solutions for schools and students. Their most popular item is the SMART Board, a digital screen that functions as a whiteboard for students and teachers to write and demonstrate on. Drawings can be recorded and copied for further use and study. It does everything else a whiteboard does, plus it has the functionality of a projector screen and a computer.
As more EdTech companies sprout up to support remote and hybrid classes, the world of education technology expands. And as with any new world comes a new language (this one includes a lot of acronyms and fairly new terms). Some may be familiar already but with a slightly different context for education technology.
Asynchronous learning includes lectures, classes, projects, or seminars that don’t happen in real-time. Instead, with asynchronous classes or coursework, lessons are pre-recorded and students can consume educational materials on a self-paced schedule.
Some courses are completely asynchronous, but asynchronous classes can also be used in a remote or hybrid learning model to supplement live discussions and activities.
The education technology used in an asynchronous learning environment may include:
Blended learning refers to a course of study that combines online and live and/or in-person learning. The distinguisher between online learning and blended learning is that blended learning must involve live discussions or lectures, whereas online learning can be completely asynchronous.
A content management system (CMS) is software that lets users create, publish, and share online content. Colleges and universities that publish online course content might post assignments or reading material using a CMS as the backbone of their website.
Distance learning refers to students who take courses without physically sitting in a classroom on campus where courses are being taught. Distance learning can take the form of hybrid learning, fully online learning, or taking courses at a satellite campus.
Education technology is a classification of technology used to promote and access education. This can encompass hardware, software, and other related items that help students and teachers gain more from their classroom experiences.
Education ICT is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for educational purposes. Examples of education ICT include using cloud-based learning software, apps, blogs or discussion boards, digital whiteboards, and other interactive online tools for students and teachers.
A flipped classroom is an educational model that changes the traditional learning method by having students complete what would be considered "homework" in class with a teacher present. Instead of doing homework after school hours are over, students watch instructional videos or other pieces of content and activities and come to school to do actual work with their teachers.
Students can learn at their own pace, and use their class time to have questions answered and get help with their work. A flipped classroom model is ideal for hybrid learning, where in-person class time is valuable for teacher-student connection and in-person collaboration.
Hybrid learning is an educational model where some students join class in-person while others join remotely. Hybrid learning can combine synchronous learning with asynchronous learning elements like online forums, discussion boards, and other pieces of digital content.
Instructional technology is a field that creates classroom technology tools to assist in instruction and learning. It covers the software and hardware needed to make instruction as easy and dynamic as possible for teachers and students.
ISTE is the International Society for Technology and Education, a community of global educators who use education technology to transform teaching and learning, innovate in the educational technology space, and solve challenges in education.
A learning management system is a software application that covers the administration, tracking, and delivery of educational courses or lectures to students. As students complete their work, the LMS moves them along in the process that is mapped out. It usually includes textbooks, related material, and online tests and quizzes all packaged into one online portal.
A massive online open course is a course that is intended to have as many virtual participants as possible. It's a free ungated resource for anyone interested in a topic to join. MOOCs allow for a wider range of communication and virtual collaboration due to the sheer amount of users involved.
The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) is a government policy from the Office of Educational Technology that seeks to “ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology.”
Online program management is an area of digital learning in which an outside company or resource builds out courses or educational products in advance for students to use. It's easier than having one teacher set up a whole online course and figure out how to program it all. Online course access can be purchased through the school for students or by students themselves.
A student information system is a software system devoted to tracking and making analyses of student data. It keeps track of information like student test scores, attendance, and subjects they've taken. Student information systems can be used to see where students need more help or how to best assist them.
Synchronous learning includes classes in which all students and their teachers are online at the same time. Unlike other online classes where students attend at their own pace, these have designated start times and are intended to mimic a normal physical classroom. Students participate in lectures and discussions in real-time without having to wait until later to respond.
The education technology used to support synchronous learning may include:
A virtual classroom is an online room where students attending a virtual class learn and ask questions. A virtual classroom lets everyone hear or see the others that are there and answer questions as they come up. It brings the benefits of a physical classroom online. Think of a virtual classroom as the object of fully remote learning. When you are engaging in fully remote learning, you are participating in a virtual classroom.
A webinar is a presentation focused on a specific topic that is hosted and attended virtually. Attendees can sign up ahead of time and are taken to a digital lecture where slides, video, or other multimedia will be presented. These are done with the help of video conferencing technology and software and can be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on if the webinar in question is live or pre-recorded
Educational technology that supports students and teachers encompasses tools designed specifically for education and those that weren’t necessarily created for educators but are effective in pursuits of learning. For example, many schools use programs like Microsoft Teams, which was originally designed for professional teams but works well as a video conferencing software platform for collaborating.
Some of the most used EdTech tools to support students and teachers include:
Education technology is designed to improve the learning experience for all educators and students who are engaging in remote, hybrid, and even in-person learning. It is an industry that will surely continue to evolve as tech continues to play a role in our classrooms.