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5 edtech trends to watch in 2020 (and one to leave behind)

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In 2019, there was a huge shift in consensus on how vital technology has become to education. Educators strongly believe it helps them to do their jobs better, engage students and improve behaviour.

According to the annual State of Technology in Education report, more tech is being used in even more creative ways in schools. Thanks to this, we expect to see greater tech-savviness, smarter investments and improved accessibility in schools next year.

Here are 5 edtech trends to watch in 2020:

1. Improved information accessibility

With such advances in accessibility tools, there’s a controversial argument as to whether pupils even need to learn to read these days.

The answer is yes, of course. But it does help you realise how well technology aids students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Next year, expect to see more accessible information and knowledge through tech. This includes voice-to-text and text-to-voice tools that are especially helpful to pupils suffering with dyslexia and other learning issues.

2. Circular economy of edtech

With improved tech-savviness but stretched budgets, schools are getting smarter with their edtech investments.

To direct budget to where it’s most needed, next year more schools will learn to harness what edtech they already have. This means, instead of the common ‘buy, use, dispose’ approach, more schools will adopt a reuse model.

This could mean refurbishing devices or investing in upgradeable tech like a Promethean ActivPanel. This will create a more circular economy, and put schools in better control of their IT strategy.

3. Evidence-based tech procurement

As well as maximising their existing technologies, we expect schools to make more informed procurement decisions in 2020.

Schools are much more likely to invest in technology based on evidence that it supports their school’s learning requirements and challenges. At a time when budgets are incredibly tight, school leaders want to know that the technology they spend money on will support them with the outcomes they need, as well as integrate easily within their existing infrastructure.

4. Tech to improve collaboration

Technology that pupils use outside the classroom is collaborative and social, so why shouldn’t edtech mirror this?

According to our report, the use of collaborative tools like interactive panels and tablets continues to increase, together with apps—all of which have seen see their highest use rates yet.

More and more, educators expect edtech to foster connections between students and their peers. Technologies that encourage teamwork, collaboration and social skills will set children up with the soft skills to succeed in the workplace beyond education.

5. More ‘ed’. Less ‘tech’

For over a decade, there’s been an explosion in startup companies offering cutting-edge tech for schools. Many of these small enterprises will proudly demo technical capabilities, clever tricks and amazing graphics. Unfortunately, a large number forget to link their product back to a core pedagogy.

These tools have minimal longevity as they are too detached from the primary job that teachers do every day; planning, assessing and teaching. Now that educators see how technology can make their jobs easier and enrich their pupils’ learning, they have less time for gimmicks or fads.

Next year, in line with schools looking for evidence-based procurement, there will be a higher number of genuinely educational-based tools available. These will be entirely focused on learning goals and the curriculum. This means less funding for ‘one-trick pony’ edtech developments.

And finally, which edtech trend might schools leave behind?

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model rose in popularity a few years ago. As so many students owned smartphones or tablets, schools saw an opportunity to introduce more tech and reduce costs at the same time. But according to the State of Technology in Education report, in 2018/19 we saw the popularity of BYOD dipping off; 12.1% in 2017/18 and 9.2% in 2018/19.

Although this is only a small decline, personal devices are sometimes considered a distraction in schools. If pupils are using phones for everyday social activities, they are focusing less on their learning. In some extreme cases, the benefits of the technology are not outweighed by the challenges.

Technology has its benefits in the classroom but, unless a school is using it specifically for learning, perhaps with an interactive hub in the classroom, mobile devices are minimally collaborative. Some schools realise that there are a far wider range of educational technologies than personal smartphones. Or at the very least, schools need more than just smartphones to meet the educational needs of the pupils.

On top of this, connecting a number of personal devices to a school network can be a far greater security risk than using a school-owned fleet of devices, or one interactive display. Unless thoroughly firewalled with enterprise-level security, schools may open themselves up to data theft or GDPR non-compliance.

So, what’s next? Instead of relying on BYOD, schools may consider reuse or refurbishment of school-owned tablets or laptops, using collaborative technologies, interactive displays like a Promethean ActivPanel, all supported by free or low-cost educational apps. The bottom line is that schools need choice — a combination of devices, apps and software to meet pupils’ pedagogical needs.