The 2022-23 school year was the first “normal” school year since the pandemic—at least, that’s what most hoped. But the reality is that many of the challenges brought forth by the pandemic remain. After all, how could such a disruptive force not come with lingering effects? In the world of education technology specifically, the pandemic marked the beginning of an era. Today, leaders are faced with edtech solutions beyond their wildest dreams, but navigating the landscape has become much more difficult.
To that end, K12 schools are asking for guidance and funding in order to meet the demands of the latest edtech trends and IT issues—but state education agencies may not be doing enough to help, declares a new report from the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
According to the responses gathered from edtech directors, state superintendents, chiefs of staff and other senior state officials across the country, one IT-related issue continues to plague K12 schools, which is why it ranks no. 1 on their list of priorities this school year.
The “2023 State Edtech Trends Report” identifies four prominent trends both district and IT leaders must be addressing now:
Cybersecurity tops the list of priorities
At least 42% of respondents underscored the need for increased funding and support for addressing their cybersecurity needs, suggesting that they currently aren’t receiving enough help from state agencies.
Furthermore, 24% of respondents overall said cybersecurity was their state’s top technology priority, followed by equity (access to the internet) and technology for instruction.
“Improving K12 cybersecurity posture has become an issue of resources and equity,” Director of Education Technology at the Indiana Department of Education said in the report. “Understaffed districts and communities without access to a pipeline of cyber specialists will struggle to meet the requirements, often dictated by insurance companies, as well as the best practices necessary to implement a strong cybersecurity threat mitigation program.”
Guidance surrounding AI in education is still lacking
In the first five days of its launch back in November 2022, more than 1,000,000 users logged into ChatGPT to see for themselves what the hype was all about. Soon after, media headlines painted a grim picture of the future of education citing concerns about academic integrity and plagiarism.
Yet, that hype has since died down significantly as educators have realized its enormous potential to enhance student learning and engagement. However, leaders simply need more guidance in order to leverage this technology effectively in the classroom.
According to the data, 55% of respondents indicated witnessing an increased interest in AI policy development compared to last year. However, only 2% of survey-takers of this year’s survey said their state has an AI initiative in place.
The researchers are hopeful this number will rise in the future considering that AI has gained the attention of federal agencies, including the Department of Education.
States identified home internet connectivity as their top unmet need
Interestingly, last year’s report identified cybersecurity and professional learning on the use of edtech as leaders’ top unmet needs. This year is different as home internet connectivity surpasses these issues according to 29% of respondents.
“During the pandemic, home access was a major issue for schools desperate to ensure continuity of learning during closures,” the report reads. Although some progress has been made, nearly 17 million students still lack stable home internet access, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Effective edtech use remains a top priority for leaders
In 2022, most leaders explained that they don’t need more edtech tools. Instead, they want to find ways to use them more effectively, and that remains true in 2023.
Although professional learning in this area dropped to the no. 4 spot on their list of unmet needs this year, nearly 40% of leaders said their state doesn’t collect data on the “use or effectiveness of edtech tools.”
“When it comes to effective use of edtech tools, more leaders view this as a priority than last year, but they are doing something about it because providing professional learning opportunities on the effective use of edetch is no longer the top unmet need,” the report reads.