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  • Writer's pictureMike Hanna

4 Ways Software is Changing K12 Education



Labor Day is over, and a new school year has begun. For some families, that means back to the routine of sending kids to school. School has changed a lot since the days of the one-room, clapboard schoolhouse. And like any other area of life, software has made some inroads. But how exactly has the software industry impacted K-12 education in America?


VR and AR


Field trips are one of the most memorable parts of school. To be fair, some of the memories are made on the bus ride. In any case, field trips often complement in-class education about local history, such as a visit to the Alamo in Texas or Independence Hall in Philadelphia.


But what about visiting ancient sites like the Roman Forum or the city of Carthage? What about visiting sites that are just too far away, like the Palace of Versailles or the Taj Mahal? This is where virtual reality can come into play. Companies like Meta and TMobile are providing student headsets for these in-class, virtual field trips, as are startups like ClassVr.


Augmented reality solutions (AR) might also become commonplace learning tools. AR involves projecting virtual images onto the surrounding (real) environment. Applications in this area could assist with creating immersive experiences to clarify complex concepts. It can provide more tangible examples of certain topics like anatomy, physics, and geography.


Classroom Management


You’ve heard of CRM and ERM and HCM. But what about software for classroom management? We typically think of classroom management as how a teacher keeps order in the classroom (flashbacks to nuns and rulers for some readers). But classroom management is actually much more than discipline between 9 AM to 3 PM.


Attendance, grades, and monitoring student progress are all part of classroom management. Traditionally, teachers have put these things in spiral notebooks filled with pages of tiny checkerboard patterns. These books can easily get lost, stolen, or sabotaged by enterprising future accountants of Enron. By contrast, a cloud-based software can store this information at home, and be accessed securely from multiple locations (for instance, a teacher inputting grades at home).


While big names like Google offer solutions, so do startups like Lumio, Edly, and Blackbaud. These software solutions can also provide concrete performance metrics, so that teachers are better equipped to respond to student learning needs. These platforms can also make it much easier to communicate with parents and keep them in the loop. Fewer forms of evidence are more compelling than a pie chart culled from input data.


Artificial Intelligence


AI is an industry-wide disrupter in many industries, including K-12 education. One of the biggest problems, as you might guess, is students using open-source codes like ChatGTP to write their essays. Around 12% of high school students have used AI to write an essay (a statistic we somewhat ironically culled from Google’s AI assistant).


The prevalence and accessibility of AI may inspire other tech solutions such as advanced plagiarism checkers, which (more irony) will probably have to rely on AI to detect patterns. Perhaps teachers will go back to the old hand-written essay, or in-class, supervised written tests. But wait…it gets weirder.


AI might also replace teachers as well. A Texas school experimented with using robots during a teacher shortage, to broadcast (actual human) teachers to a larger student body. However, the time may not be too far away when teachers are actual robots. This sounds somewhat bizarre and dystopian, especially if the teachers are equipped with actual laser vision (e.g. eyeballs that shoot lasers) so maybe we’ll just leave this one alone for now.


Adaptive Learning and Gamification


One of the biggest complaints that students and parents have is that the curriculum is not perfectly attuned to their child’s needs. The unfortunate reality of one teacher leading a classroom of a dozen or two dozen children (hopefully not more) is that you can’t make everyone happy all the time.


Until now. Adaptive learning is a type of technology that can gear lessons to the trajectory and abilities of each student. Examples of this include apps like Duolingo, which teaches foreign languages. Lessons are based on student progress and built out of previous mistakes. Adaptive learning helps students avoid feeling bored on one end and lost on the other—a sort of Goldilocks Golden Ratio that keeps them perfectly engaged.


One aspect of adaptive learning is gamification. Gamification is basically what it sounds like…making a game out of something. Lessons are turned into games in which the player is awarded points to unlock further progress, and ultimately, prizes. Everybody knows that a pizza party is THE most effective way to motivate students. In fact, 67% of students said that gamification made them more motivated.


Will You SLED Your Way Into 2024?


Does any of this sound interesting to you? Exciting new trends are going on in the SLED and K12 spaces right now. We haven’t even covered university education, but we’ll look at that in a separate article. These solutions are exciting, and there is a captive market out there in need of new tech to keep up with societal demands.


School districts creating well-adjusted members of the future workforce will need the right tools for cultivating new forms of innovation and collaboration. In addition to government-run businesses, there are also private institutions all around the country with big budgets to spend on ed-tech.


Maybe this space is something to explore. Or perhaps you’re already in this space and looking for a new company. As the weather changes, the leaves start changing colors, and the aroma of pumpkin spice fills the consumer atmosphere, you might be wondering: what’s next for me?


With close to four decades of software sales recruiting experience, I am poised to help you answer that question. Whether you’re a job seeker or a manager, let’s connect and discuss your job-seeking or hiring needs. Send an email to mike@michaelblair.com and let’s talk about your plan for the rest of 2023 and beyond.

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