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Matter of Life & Tech: COVID-19 ushered in a new era for teachers. How will we respond?

You’ve heard about that $2 billion in federal COVID-19 aid South Carolina schools are trying to spend, right? If you’re working somewhere in the ed tech continuum, you’re probably already salivating over it.

When it comes to technology, battle-hardened teachers already know what they want. They learned a lot last year. That mad rush for software and devices just to keep remote students and staff connected has evolved into a tempered evaluation of how, exactly, those technologies improve students’ academic and social experience.

For example, being forced to upgrade their video — or use video for the first time — has teachers thinking about video as a tool to help students learn at their own pace from now on. And, maybe high-end displays should be more than just whiteboards. And how do we keep engaging those kids who happily used videoconference chat functions but never said anything in the classroom?

Schools spent big on tech but now they have the breathing room to spend smart. They want to trim down a sprawling vendor list to a solid few who can deliver better educational outcomes. Period.

So, any innovator, manufacturer, integrator, or managed service provider who’s going to keep riding this funding wave has to get neck-deep into an educator’s world. You’ll need to be as well versed in pedagogy and baseline data as you are in cybersecurity and interoperability. You’ll have to know the needs by district, which vary wildly throughout the state.

And, by the way, schools got a ton of extra technical support and professional development from tech providers and that is now their bare-minimum expectation.

The schools’ budgets are due to the federal government this month, but they’ll be spending the money for a couple more years. Meanwhile, our tech community has an opportunity to help propel our schools far beyond where they were before the pandemic. It just might take a lot more work than it used to.

This article originally appeared in Upstate Business Journal.


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