From healthcare and entertainment to engineering and transportation, technology has revolutionized every industry on a global scale, impacting not only businesses, but also families, students, and educators. Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, online education was already on the rise, with “enrolled college students who took at least one online class…edging up to 34.7 percent in fall 2018 from 33.1 percent” in 2017, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Today, with millions of U.S. students completing at least a portion of their coursework online, the need for technology in education has never been more pronounced. Educational technology, or “edtech,” is a hybrid of educational theory and technological innovation that has emerged to meet that need.
Even in a post-COVID landscape, edtech will likely continue to remain relevant as technology becomes more integrated into our workplaces, our society, and our daily lives. Whether you teach remotely, instruct in-person classes, or are still in the process of earning your teaching credential, edtech can enhance your curriculum and facilitate better learning outcomes for students at all grade levels.
If you’re interested in finding creative and efficient ways to incorporate technology into your next lesson plan, continue reading to learn about edtech’s pros and cons, edtech resources for teachers, and the future outlook for the edtech industry as a whole.
What Is Educational Technology, and Why Is it Important for Teachers?
As its name suggests, edtech occupies the intersection where teaching and technology meet. Depending on what purpose it is intended to serve, edtech can take many different forms inside or outside the classroom, including educational apps and games, podcasts, learning management systems (LMS), video conferencing software like Zoom, and online discussion forums, to name just a few. Even social media platforms, which are often dismissed as time-wasters, can serve educational purposes, such as course-specific Facebook groups.
When used appropriately, edtech can make learning fun, memorable, and accessible, leading not only to better student engagement, but also improved career preparedness. In addition to K-12 and college students, edtech also has benefits for teachers, families, and administrators, which we’ll explore later in this article. For now, let’s take a closer look at some of edtech’s drawbacks and challenges — which educators must be able to prepare for.
What Are the Challenges of Using EdTech?
Along with its many advantages, edtech challenges will inevitably confront students and their teachers. For example, technological issues are commonplace, such as poor wi-fi connectivity, audio or video distortion, trouble uploading or downloading files, difficulty installing programs, slow internet speeds, lost passwords, and incompatible apps or updates.
When used ineffectively, edtech may also pose challenges to student engagement. For example, confusing or hard-to-use programs can cause students to become overwhelmed and give up on assignments, especially without the normal social support from their peers.
While there are definite pros and cons of teaching cyber school, fortunately, there are various ways that educators can overcome both the social and technological issues posed by edtech.
What Are the Benefits of Using EdTech?
Edtech offers benefits for students, educators, administrators, and parents alike. For example, online courses make it easy for students to learn from anywhere in the world, which can have major advantages for military students, international students, adult learners who travel frequently for work, or students who are practicing social distancing. Additional benefits of edtech for students and families include:
- By using edtech, students increase their level of technological literacy.
- Edtech can make it easier to do research effectively, putting worlds of information at students’ fingertips.
- Edtech empowers students to learn from home.
- Parents can have more involvement in their child’s education, which can be especially impactful during the child’s early stages of development.
- Students can receive alerts and notifications to help keep them on track.
- Students can set their own pace for learning, without impacting the rest of the class.
Technology can also be leveraged to benefit educators and administrators, potentially making edtech a good investment for school systems. Here are some more examples of the advantages that edtech can have for for teachers and schools:
- Automated grading makes it faster and easier for teachers to score assignments.
- Cloud storage makes it effortless for educators to securely store and organize data, such as course materials and completed assignments.
- Educators can find numerous lesson plans, course materials, and teaching tools online (or in the app store), many of them for free or at minimal cost.
- Translation becomes faster and easier online, creating a better experience and more inclusive environment for English Language Learners (ELLs).
- With paperless assignments, schools can save money on printing while reducing their carbon footprints.
20 Top EdTech Essentials for Online Teachers
In our article discussing why it’s important to teach children technological literacy, we also included a list of 20 popular edtech examples, including Zoom, Flipgrid, Kahoot!, Blackboard, Trello, Dropbox, and Google Hangouts. Here are 20 more examples of edtech essentials for teachers to explore in 2021:
- Khan Academy
- Microsoft Teams
- Parlay Ideas
- PowerSchool SIS
- Remind: School Communication
- Sleuth IT
EdTech Industry Growth: Are EdTech Jobs in Demand?
According to Grand View Research, not only was the edtech industry valued at over $76 billion in 2019 — it also has a robust future outlook, being “expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.1 percent from 2020 to 2027.” Factors that researchers identified as driving this growth included “the proliferation of smart devices” (such as iPhones), “seamless internet connectivity,” and “increasing awareness” around “the advantages of technology integration in the education sector,” some of which we discussed earlier in this article.
Notably, the researchers also pointed out “a tremendous shift…from conventional exam-oriented learning to a personalized and interactive learning approach,” a trend that may continue even after the COVID-19 crisis ends. In fact, Grand View Research went so far as to predict, “The education sector is on the cusp of a digital revolution,” adding, “EdTech is expected to play a crucial and significant role in creating jobs for future generations.”
That’s good news not only for teachers who plan on leveraging edtech in the classroom, but also for students who will be joining the workforce over the coming decade. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not supply projections specifically for the edtech industry, it does expect “much faster than average” growth of 11 percent in the computing and IT industry, which is estimated to add more than half a million new jobs from 2019 to 2029. During the same period, education jobs are expected to grow by 5 percent, which is considered “faster than average,” with the BLS projecting over 440,000 new jobs.
Get Certified to Teach Online with an Education Degree from National University
Edtech has become indispensable to countless school districts during the COVID-19 crisis, presenting unique challenges, but also unique opportunities — not only for students and teachers, but also computer network architects, educational software designers, game and app developers, and other IT professionals. Discover where an edtech career can take your talents.
Whether you’re passionate about technology, education, or both, you’ll find plenty of majors to explore at National University. With online course options available, NU offers more than 75 accredited degree programs for graduates, undergraduates, and transfer students, including the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education (BAECE), the Master of Arts in Education (MAE), the Bachelor of Science in Information Systems (BSIS), and the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS).