The impact of COVID on the future of education

students working on laptop in classroom

Published: December 15th, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially turned the education system in the United States upside down. Never in the history of the nation have children, families, and educators experienced such widespread disruption to schooling. And never have Americans been forced to rethink the way education is delivered so quickly and dramatically.

Once the virus is under control and schools can fully reopen again, it’s doubtful that things will simply go back to business as usual. This moment of crisis has exposed many problems with the current system that need to be addressed, and it’s providing all stakeholders with the opportunity to tackle those issues moving forward.

As part of Promethean’s 2020 State of Technology in Education report, we asked 1,200 educators what they thought the future of education would look like—both in the near term and the long term. Over the coming decade, 82% of respondents predicted an overall increase in the use of technology combined with more traditional teaching methods.

Over the next three years, 63% said remote learning would see the biggest growth, while 54% pointed to virtual learning, and 50% said online content and resources. This emphasis on remote, virtual, and online learning reflects what’s happening in classrooms all over the world right now. And because educators are having to focus on these basic, essential technology needs, they appear less enthusiastic about “nice-to-have” technologies such as robotics and coding.

Texas school district rises to the challenge

Still, that doesn’t mean schools and districts here in the United States and around the world aren’t coming up with some truly innovative solutions to the problems posed by the pandemic. For example, the Eagle Mountain – Saginaw Independent School District north of Fort Worth, Texas, was able to pull together an effective plan for its students and teachers in record time. Just 24 hours after finding out they’d be going fully remote, the IT team began working with district leaders to find the funds to ensure each student had access to either a laptop or tablet. The team also focused on preparing teachers for remote learning with extensive training and support.

Once the district shifted to a hybrid model, wherein some students went to school in person and some remained remote, teachers and administrators discovered new, imaginative uses for the technology they currently possessed. Since each classroom in the district had a Promethean interactive panel, they were able to use the panel’s screen share feature so that remote students could share their screens with the rest of the class, facilitating a more immediate connection to their peers. Eagle Mountain doesn’t see these developments as strictly a response to COVID-19. Instead, it considers the distribution of devices to all students, coordinated teacher training, and improved use of current technologies as welcome and necessary advancements that will remain intact going forward. In fact, the district’s remarkable success under such duress gives educators greater confidence that they can create a learning environment that is both more equitable and better prepared for any future disruptions.

Learning that won’t go to waste

During a recent Tech & Learning Leadership webinar, Steven Halliwell, Chief Product Officer at Promethean, marveled at the ingenuity and commitment the Eagle Mountain team demonstrated in its response to the COVID pandemic. But he pointed out that actions taken now will by no means be lost once this crisis is over. “It’s clear that there is a desire to try and learn from this current situation with COVID,” said Halliwell. “We’ve had to do a bunch of things to go back to school now. How do we learn from that and take the good things and incorporate them into our teaching practice every day?”

Halliwell continued: “Teachers are learners. They’ve had to go through an enormous amount of learning and questioning and adaptation over the last six to nine months. You want that to be valuable. You want to be able to continue to use that and leverage that and be a better teacher in the future.”

For more in-depth insights into key issues facing schools, download the full State of Technology in Education 2020 report.