Ask people working in education what they expect will happen in the new year, and the outlook is (mostly) hopeful. A few common themes emerge for these expectations: a pronounced focus on staff and student wellness; a continued exploitation of new technology; placing greater emphasis on professional development; a blossoming of student creativity and ownership of learning. Here we present a baker’s dozen of predictions from teachers, school leaders, and district technology and IT leaders.
We’ll See Investments in Skill-Building and Support
Am I allowed to say that my prediction was just swiped by the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Youth Mental Health? The good news is, his voice carried more than mine could — predicting that the lingering effects of the pandemic would cause anxiety, depression, and lost motivation to skyrocket. With an abundance of hope for 2022, I predict that schools and families will invest in proven programs that can make a lasting difference for kids and teenagers. Teaching evidence-based skills and providing expert support to young people will change the trajectory of this crisis, as well as our families, communities, and nation.
Kelly Curtis is an elementary school counselor, recipient of the 2021 Wisconsin Equity in Action Award, and EmpowerU coach.
Students Will Rise to the Occasion
The spring semester is fast approaching and it has been a wild ride. Getting students acclimated into the school setting again has been the priority of this fall semester. I feel the students are now ready and in the mentality of learning again. The fall semester was used primarily to address the social and emotional needs as well as digest what it was that we were going into. Now that we have analyzed and put additional systems into place for learning gaps and behavior intervention, the expectations on the student end will be increasing.
Students have shown that they know how to navigate technology to help learn, so I am thinking we will continue to move down this route. I also feel that going in and knowing what to expect is going to allow teachers to plan and implement the second half of the year more accurately. The students have shown that they are willing and capable of rising to the occasion. I am very much looking forward to starting the spring semester with a new game plan.
Parvinder Singh is the science department chair, teacher of AP Chemistry and Advanced Chemistry, and Esports and senior class sponsor at Seguin High School in Texas.
Programs for Wellness Will Come to the Forefront
While students were remote as the pandemic started, and through a good portion of the year, school districts will continue to adapt and provide additional support for students to make up for learning loss.
Staff has become burned out. Shortages of teachers and bus drivers continue to be a concern. School districts will have to become creative to hire teachers. Programs for mental health and wellness for both students and staff will be at the forefront.
The CARES and ESSER Grants have provided funding for technology to support digital tools, staffing, and facilities improvements. The Emergency Connectivity Fund has provided access for students at home. These funds will continue to be used strategically to help our students.
Jessica Rosenworcel was recently appointed as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. She will continue to be a staunch supporter to provide adequate funding for technology for school districts.
Keith A. Bockwoldt is the chief information officer for Hinsdale High School District 86 in Illinois.
Instructional Support and Training will Ramp Up
The COVID disruption taught K-12 that “digital” — digital infrastructure, digital pedagogy, digital curricula — needs to be an essential, not just a supplemental, component of school. Delivering packets of paper curricula simply is not sustainable. And, the Alpha Generation, who will increasingly dominate classrooms and who are the “digital-first” generation, are expecting “digital.”
We believe that K-12 has learned from COVID, and thus we believe the following will happen:
- First, professional learning experiences for teachers and administrators, an absolute key to the transition from supplemental to essential, will be ramped up significantly; and
- Second, investments will be made to significantly bolster schools’ infrastructure, e.g., devices and networking; but also, personnel, to support instruction, will be added.
Transitioning “analog-first” teachers and administrators to being “digital-first” is not an option: it is essential if we are going to meet the needs of the children coming to populate our K-12 schools!
Cathie Norris is a professor in the Department of Learning Technologies in the College of Information at the University of North Texas.
Elliot Soloway is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering, professor of education in the School of Education, and professor of Information in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.
Together, they run the Intergalactic Mobile Learning Center, which focuses on collaborative learning and 1-to-1 learning.
Student Creativity Will (Once Again) Reach a Wider Audience
2022 will mark a resurgence in student-created media and provide students with opportunities to publish their stories, ideas, and art for a wider audience. In order for our students to be creative communicators, they must have the ability to explore and experiment with a variety of different types of media and express themselves using those tools. During the last two years, many of the projects where we ask students to create using multimedia have taken a back seat. But we are figuring out how to manage the uncertainty of our everyday classroom lives and will begin to incorporate those techniques back into our instruction more intentionally and regularly.
Bill Bass is the past president of the ISTE board of directors and innovation coordinator for the Parkway School District in St. Louis.
Students Need More Education on Climate Change
On in-person versus remote learning, so far this year, I have taken the entirety of my classes in person. While the transition back into all-day socializing has been difficult at times, I definitely prefer it this way. If all goes well, I am planning to continue attending school in person for the rest of the year.
Regarding what I’m learning, I am currently taking a climate justice course through Portland Public Schools and in partnership with Portland General Electric. This is offered as a year-long elective course, but the curriculum covers many different topics which are necessary for being an informed and equitable climate advocate. Some of the projects we’ve gotten to do this year include a model UN Summit of island nations impacted by climate change, analysis of the PPS Climate Crisis Response Policy, and lessons on the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases.
From my experience, climate change is not sufficiently or accurately presented to elementary and middle school students. The way that I was first taught about climate change was with videos of melting glaciers, emaciated polar bears, and hurricanes. I was only shown the disastrous and depressing consequences of fossil fuel consumption without knowing that’s what was causing it. I think that a lot of young people, even more than those who show up to the strikes or bring signs to city hall, care deeply about climate change. But if we are still being taught from a young age that the only cause and solution to climate change is to make better personal choices then the spark that many students, like me, must have felt when watching those videos seems pointless to pursue.
Some people may argue that climate change is too intense or intimidating for young people to learn the truth about, and to some extent that’s true, the realities of climate change can be intense and intimidating. But that’s exactly why when we teach this subject, we must also teach emotional resilience and collective responsibility.
Grace Gaddy is a junior at Leodis V. McDaniel (formerly known as Madison) High School in Portland, OR, where she was born and raised. They are a writer and editor for their school’s newspaper, which they use as an outlet to express their passion for social and climate justice. She is currently a co-leader of the McDaniel Eco Club and a member of the Youth Conservation Crew with Portland Parks & Rec.
Classroom Sound Enhancement Deserves Attention
I think one of the most important things we learned during this pandemic in K-12 Education classroom technology, is how important sound enhancement equipment is. We know that for both the hybrid and in-person environment, the hearing was impeded by the teacher and students wearing masks. Sound enhancement equipment solved the hearing issue. In fact, we have always known that the students seated in the back of the classroom would struggle to hear the teacher and would not learn as well as the students in the front of the classroom. When funding became available to assist our K-12 district with instruction, we knew that we needed to finish the expansion of sound enhancement equipment to ALL classrooms. I am happy to report that by the end of December, roughly 98% of all classrooms in this district will have sound enhancement equipment installed and operational.
Christian Converse is the AV program manager in the Technology office at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland.
Take What Worked and Create New Practices
My prediction and my hope are that as school system leaders we will build intentional time to reflect upon our experiences. We need to remember the urgency of remote learning that illuminated conversations around digital equity and access. We need to not forget how teachers and school and district leaders literally overnight transformed their work so that learning would not be lost. Finally, we need to remember the tremendous impact upon our students as their educational experience was so dramatically affected.
The past two years were challenging but, in that struggle, new practices were born. Rather than trying to get back to a version of what was, 2022 needs to be the year where we take what worked and create new practices that better serve students, families, and staff. This should be the time where we apply all we have learned from this experience.
Steve Langford is the chief information officer for the Beaverton School District, serving 40,000 students and their families. Steve serves on the Board of Directors for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and is currently board chair. Steve additionally serves on the board for the Association for Computer Professionals in Education (ACPE) and Education Nexus Oregon.
Less Focus on Content, More on Critical Thinking and Curation
I predict that as more students use more technology in schools, they’ll need less content delivery from teachers. Instead, the classroom instruction will turn from content “regurgitation” into deeper, more critical thinking about what content is valid, necessary, and meaningful to the future of our students’ lives. Information and media literacy will need to be taught in earlier grades so that time with the teacher in the classroom is more about information analysis, thoughtful discussion, problem-solving, and understanding of biases. The interpersonal skills of collaboration and empathy will play a significantly larger role in classroom activities. Agility and the ability to make decisions with less information due to unexpected changes in the world will also be pertinent for students to develop and practice.
Students Will Take More Ownership of Learning
Anytime, anywhere learning that fosters collaboration, creativity and real-world problem solving will become more and more the norm as technological advances continue to blur the boundaries of when and where learning can occur. Personalized learning will expand, with teachers guiding and empowering students to take ownership over their individual learning journeys.
A December 2020 survey from Education Week found that 87% of teachers reported that their ability to use technology grew by “a lot” or “a little” during the pandemic. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and educators who were able to leverage technology to personalize instruction saw the value in terms of higher student engagement.
I am convinced that a holistic, learner-centered approach to education will continue to unfold through a combination of educator vision and innovative technology tools that help us to honor the wholeness of our students; nurture their unique skills and talents, and connect them to each other, their local communities and the larger world.
Cathy Collins is a technology teacher at Sharon Middle School in Massachusetts and serves on the board of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
Districts Must Listen to Teachers
In 2022, I project that schools will invest more in technology. Many districts across the country address the digital inequities by providing all students with laptop devices. My district provided all students with laptop devices so that the school could continue for students. Communities and districts will need to continue to address these inequities by doing more for our marginalized students. Districts will need to continue investing in technology to keep students current with the trends. They will need to invest in the right tools to help bridge the COVID learning loss. Technology will be instrumental in providing intervention and interesting/fascinating learning experiences to students. Therefore, schools, districts, and states will need to listen to teachers to reimagine education to make suitable investments.
Technology will continue to meet the needs of our non-traditional learners. Teachers, families, and students will continue to learn how to implement technology and resources in the classroom and create new options that did not exist before the pandemic.
Districts will need to lean on teachers for advice to address the learning loss. Districts must listen to teachers. Students will continue to be assessed to identify the learning gaps. Unfortunately, the assessments will only measure what has been traditionally taught in classrooms. What students achieve will not show up on the assessments. For instance, students have developed technical skills during COVID-19 and learned to persevere through challenging circumstances. Students are also readily using technology!
Because COVID-19 impacted many students, because they have experienced losses and couldn’t socialize or have their emotional needs met, schools will need to invest more heavily in social-emotional learning, to address students’ trauma brought about by the pandemic.
Teachers and Students Will Learn to Filter What’s Useful from the Noise
What does the future hold? Having been pushed into using various digital platforms for teaching, learning, and communication during 2020, I predict that 2022 will see the continued use of these platforms, post-COVID and post-lockdowns. Having been inundated with many resources and opinions on social media, learning to filter what is noise from what is useful within a specific context is going to be a skill that both teachers and pupils will need to learn. Traveling miles for face-to-face meetings will be a thing of the past. I hope that during 2022 teachers will learn that they are not on call 24/7 365 days a year.
Jenny Woolway is the deputy principal for Bracken High School in South Africa. She also teaches grade 11 and 12 Life Sciences.
Education Will More Readily Accept New Forms of Evidence of Learning
Competency-based education will emerge across K–12. After the pandemic, schools will need to find a way to measure where their students are academically, developmentally and socially, to make their best efforts to remediate learning loss of all kinds.
Technology will be tailored to support through-course assessment. Rather than an end-of-year, single, high-stakes test, conversations are picking up around scaffolding the high-stakes testing model, whereby students take pieces of exams as they progress. And, those exams — as the learner progresses — will include questions from previous assessments to ensure information is being retained. Technology will be better equipped to evaluate threads across time as well as single point-in-time measures.
Performance assessment will gain in its share of the spotlight. With every living room, bedroom, or community center becoming a classroom during the pandemic, the education arena became more open to accepting new kinds of evidence of student learning. This has helped to break down barriers to the perception that there is only one way to prove what a student knows and is ready to learn how to do next.
There will be a simplification of the teachers’ technology toolkit. Districts drowned in apps during the pandemic in an effort to quickly assemble a virtual learning strategy. In 2022, institutions will start to commit to specific programs (Zoom versus Microsoft Teams) or buy into a comprehensive learning management ecosystem. Schools will pull in the reins on what was the proverbial “Wild West” of technology experienced over the past few years.
Advancements will emerge to support simultaneous synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The technology to support the delivery of live in-person teaching with online instruction remains clunky (sound, small groups, camera tracking, whiteboards, etc.) Someone will see the opportunity in filling the need to improve these systems.
Keith Look and Terry Schrader served long careers as district and site education leaders. Now, they’re with education technology company Territorium, as vice president of equity and innovation and vice president of K-12 growth, respectively.