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14th September 2021
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The Role of EdTech Providers in a Post-Pandemic K-12 Landscape 
Dr. Shawn Smith, Chief Innovation Officer, McGraw Hill School Group

We’re in a transitional moment in K-12 education. As an institution, education has always had an incremental relationship with change. But within that relatively static institution, individuals – teachers, students, principals – have been making their own changes at the scale of their classrooms, schools, and learning communities.  

Those changes, sometimes small and sometimes radical, have been building towards a larger shift at the scale of the institution for a long time – and between rapidly advancing technology and shifts in norms brought on by the pandemic, it’s time for EdTech and curriculum providers to keep pace with the teachers paving the way for a new age of K-12 classrooms. 

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A Post-Pandemic K-12 Landscape 
Let’s start with a look at the changes brought on by COVID-19, many of which are still taking shape as teachers gear up to return this fall:  

Flexibility for teachers and students. Just as in many other sectors, the pandemic illustrated for many school and district leaders that learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom, during set hours, according to a specific schedule. Embracing flexibility for teachers and students could make a difference for students that thrive in alternative environments, and even play a role in preventing teacher burnout or demoralization. For curriculum and EdTech providers, it will be critical that our tools meet this new flexibility with agility to adapt to the “classroom” spaces and schedules of the future.  

Ubiquitous blended learning. Educators have been practicing and refining blended learning models for years. But COVID forced them to adopt a blended learning approach overnight, working through challenges and identifying advantages in real-time. Even as many students return to the classroom, I expect to see blended learning become a permanent fixture in many schools – particularly those that have found success with using a mix of in-person and online learning as a driver for more personalized instruction 

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Where Are We Now: In Flux with Tech 
Taking a step back from the impacts of the pandemic, where blended learning has become ubiquitous out of necessity, we can see a wider picture of the classroom technology landscape: the work in refining blended learning models prior to the pandemic was always part of an ongoing effort to personalize instruction, in the context of educators’ quest to accommodate varying student needs.   Personalized and blended learning are often treated as interchangeable, so to examine their relationship, let’s quickly level set: 

Personalization: The learner and the teacher collaborate to drive learning and determine needs, plan, and learning design. 

Blended Learning: A mix of technology and face-to-face instruction. It combines brick-and-mortar classroom learning with online learning, and students have some control over the time, pace, and place of their learning. 

Blended learning is a model within which personalized learning can take place – but blended learning is far from the “last word” in EdTech. Personalization does not occur simply because students have new flexibility to choose between a classroom or their homes, or because they have some control over the pace of their learning. Truly personalized learning is a much loftier goal, involving advanced technology and precision insights. To get educators to a point where true personalization is scalable, EdTech providers have work to do: With the right tools, we can move personalized learning from a conflated buzzword to an actionable, realistic, everyday framework for teaching and learning. 

Read more about the future of blended and personalized learning here.



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