February 18, 2020

EdTech Trends to Look for in 2020 and Beyond

Prannoy Nambiar
A teacher works with a student on a tablet

Education technology is always informed by broader shifts in the education landscape. The mechanics of actual people and processes within a state, district, and school level determine the eventual technology solutions that are invented and implemented. In this way, we can say all technology is influenced by ongoing shifts in market forces and dynamics of human behavior.

So, what shifts are happening at this very moment in the education landscape? These subtle (or completely obvious) changes in market dynamics and preferences will help shape our understanding of the future for education-related technology products. The product approach to addressing these trends may vary from individual to individual, but the fact remains that the opportunity to bring about innovative solutions is exciting and evident.

Procurement Power Dynamics at the School District Level

With over 15,000 school districts in the United States alone, the market for educational technology is always vast and ever-increasing. However, ask any entrepreneur or technologist in the education space, and you’ll hear a bevy of concerns regarding district sales cycles and the nature of procurement at the enterprise level. Each school district makes its own decisions about what to purchase and, as such, there is no common methodology or approach when it comes to buying technology resources for those schools. This results in a largely segmented market with considerable waste in spending. Case in point: according to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of software licenses purchased by school districts go unused.

Now, District CTOs and CEOs have more power and authority over purchasing decisions than they ever had before. This type of consolidation in purchasing power undoubtedly affects the way technologists will choose to build and sell products to school districts. The common areas of concern for these buyers are around privacy concerns, brand awareness, integration feasibility, and an overall vetting of technology products. Much of the time, the products they purchase are already being used on some level by teachers, so the products have gone through a sort of informal vetting process. What remains to be seen is how these purchasers at the district level will continue to use their teacher and administrative bodies to inform their purchasing choices.

What has increasingly become clear, however, is that technology with enterprise-level management and C-suite appeal has become a much better use case for districts to purchase on the fly than any other type of educational tool. Due to this established buyer profile, technology companies looking to break into districts should think more intentionally about how administrators can use their tools across a wide range of users, permissions, and other applications.

Evidence-Based Methodology Driving Product Adoption

Not only is there waste in monetary resources on educational technology that isn’t actually used, but there is also a tremendous amount of technology being used that has been found to be completely ineffective as well. With all of the options out there (a recent report found that school districts use over 700 EdTech products per month), educators are facing increasingly more noise and decision fatigue in the technology adoption process. How do we know what is high-quality learning technology and what is not?

A trend that will take place in the next year that will not only drive spending trends, but also adoption trends, will be efficacy testing. A better methodology to determine the quality and effectiveness of various learning tools, applications, and use cases will be required. Much of this is done informally through teacher and school referrals, but that process will soon be codified to a much more stringent degree. Accessibility, privacy, and quality compliance will all determine the “best of” in the education technology landscape, and the noise will start to diminish. GoGuardian formed its Research and Insights Team to address this very need.

In the meantime, teacher (and administrator) referral networks will continue to drive adoption of technology and the understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Simply put, teachers know best (especially at scale). Additionally, there are more research efforts being done to identify the best ways to assess learning technology. For instance, the Center for Children and Technology conducts research and provides valuable insights on how to make informed, measured purchasing decisions when it comes to educational technology.

Focus on Whole-Child Learning Technology Implementation

Until recently, most of the education technology that caught the attention of the industry was focused around content-based development and skill-building. Assessment, practice, and content consumption accounted for the majority of the education applications in the market. These all brought learning and classrooms into the 21st century, but now that a new decade has begun, there is a new phase for technology in the classroom.

Now, more and more technologists and teachers are looking beyond simple learning technology to support their students. Though the math and grammar practice applications have done their jobs as supplementary tools to classroom learning and collaboration, they are simply not enough to move the needle toward whole-child development. In many people’s eyes, the fundamental point of education is to learn how to learn, and that is where whole-child learning and SEL comes into the picture. The trend toward supporting deeper learning—the kind of skills that students need beyond just a standardized test—will inform the next wave of products for the classroom. This next wave would include technology that supports the development of critical thinking skills, research ability, content creation (not just consumption), and social-emotional learning as well.

There is much to look forward to in the coming years as it relates to educational technology. The innovations are endless. However, the processes at the district and classroom level will determine what type of technology is actually feasible and adoptable. These processes also play a large part in bringing learning and education mightily into the future.