EdSurge Research: Forces and Trends Shaping K12 EdTech

Mar 2, 2016 1:55 PM ET

We all have a huge stake in education, as parents, as community members and as learners ourselves. The only way we can collectively move education forward is if we start trading lenses and begin building a better understanding of how other communities see teaching and learning. EdSurge has spent months researching the predominant edtech trends, exploring data and engaging many voices including educators, administrators, entrepreneurs, investors, parents and policy-makers. We wanted to share the perspectives, hopes and, at times, frustrations of others as we all move forward to shape the future of teaching and learning.

What has emerged?

  • K-12 Student Assessments: The current testing ecosystem is in flux and everyone is frustrated from teachers to students; change is on the way. The industry is looking toward smaller, ongoing assessments, and the development of alternative measures of achievement is accelerating. Edtech assessment platforms and tools (and the data they produce) can enable the assessment evolution.
  • Edtech Business Models: In 2015, investors put more than $1.1 billion into K-12 edtech companies, the most significant year of investing ever for the sector. There is increasing pressure on business models and the landscape for edtech entrepreneurs is changing. While “freemium” models still abound, companies with the “sell to admins” model are becoming popular, particularly among financiers.
  • Computer Science in Schools: Big districts are adopting computer science and the President himself is writing code. Computer science now counts towards high school graduation requirements in 28 states. Is the next generation of K-12 core curriculum ready for a new subject?
  • Student Data Privacy: In 2015, educators, parents, legislators, and companies began moving from mining student data for insights to minding who could see and use student data. By the end of the year, 15 states had passed 28 student data privacy laws, outlining stricter rules around how to handle student data.
  • Free for Schools Movement: Edtech usage has soared with the proliferation of free content and products. While free is nice, there are challenges for companies and users alike. In 2015, the movement for “free and open” resources grew in strength and depth. At the same time, the for-profit world’s production of “free” products has grown more complex.
  • Infrastructure in Schools: America’s public K-12 schools are plugging in and juicing up. In two short years, the number of districts meeting the FCC connectivity goal has more than doubled – 20.5 million more students and 1.4 million more teachers are connected to the broadband needed for digital learning. In 2015, the emphasis evolved away from mere access to technology to smart use of reliable technology.
  • Innovative Learning Models: This past year was a turning point as a growing number of educators began talking about technology as something that freed them to holistically transform how they teach--not just gizmos to speed up (or slow down) what was already happening in schools. Researchers are still trying to assess whether these changes will make a difference in student achievement and learning.
  • Grassroots Professional Development: K-12 professional development is changing and it’s driven by the people who consume it: Teachers. Like traditional PD, the grassroots variety has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it’s free (for the most part), intensely immediate and easily accessible It puts teachers in touch with ideas and trends, and fosters collegiality among teachers. On the down side, it’s time consuming, fragmented, quality controls are limited, and while it supports tech savvy teachers, there is still a large number of teachers who are not engaged.

The education technology trends that have emerged are responding to problems and forces which have shaped the world of education for decades. These problems range from the financial constraints faced by schools and districts to the changes in employment and skills opportunities, to the emerging factors that impede--or open up--access to high-quality education.

Explore why these edtech trends matter for you. And please let us know: Your input will shape and re-shape the research as we go--just as your voices and experiences are pushing forward the evolution of teaching and learning.

The State of EdTech: Forces and Trends Shaping K12 EdTech is available here.

This research is supported by AT&T through their signature education initiative AT&T Aspire.