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Unlocking EdTech Potential: What’s Stopping Your Students From Engaging With Your Learning Solutions?

November 20, 2023 4 min read
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ESSER funding solutions have poured into our school districts, but are we getting the desired results? The answer isn’t always a resounding yes.

Technology has the power to transform education in tremendous ways. As people who believe this, while Covid-19 brought with it tremendous challenges, we also believed that the silver lining for education may be the forced acceleration of technology integration and holistic student support.

However, a few long years later, educational technology and student support offerings have not reached their full potential in this regard. Many of the technology and student support investments school districts made with ESSER money have been under-utilized and under-leveraged by students and staff, thus not resulting in the desired impact on achievement and learning.

Our research and assessment has found three root causes that are core contributors to this lack of integration and impact, specifically focusing on the student lens.

Strengthen connections between academics and career

In order to better understand what students want or need in order to more fully engage in their education, Paper did extensive polling of recent graduates and found that:

  • 90% of high school graduates said that connecting courses to careers, personal interests, or college would increase their motivation to succeed in the class.

  • 60% of students said they would be more likely to take advantage of learning resources (such as tutoring) if they had more motivation.

Most districts are already aware of the importance of career exploration and readiness being integrated in academics, so what’s making students think it hasn’t yet taken root?

For starters, most career exploration is either not scalable or passive. The first matters because experiences like career fairs or job shadowing are often limited, in frequency and/or the amount of students participating. The infrequency of it and/or lack of ability for every student to participate contributes to students not making the continuous connections between their academics and career or personal interests.

On the passive side, research has shown that active learning yields far superior results than passive learning. Additionally, active learning is more effective at helping learners retain information in their long term memory.

So if the majority of career exploration that is scalable is happening through assessments, passive videos, and text-based descriptions – students aren’t likely to retain that information deep enough or long enough for it to truly drive connections with their academics over a long time horizon.

Help teachers provide guided practice—with backup

A lot of practice tools tend to assume students are self-motivated, that they will respond to push notifications, or that they care about keeping up their streaks. This might apply to some adults with tools like Duolingo, but the same cannot be assumed for all K-12 students. Students need teachers or other qualified adults to help them engage meaningfully.

Research has shown that guided practice is one of the most effective ways to drive student achievement. In the guided practice method, teachers allow students to learn and practice on their own, while stepping in to help as needed. The two biggest challenges are that (1) teachers struggle to scalably deliver guided practice to every student, and (2) most technology enables mere independent practice rather than guided practice.

Edtech tools that can step in to provide support and amplify teachers in offering students guided practice and just-in-time support in conjunction with their lessons, such as from virtual teaching assistants, can help teachers ensure more guided practice in the classroom. As students develop trust and comfortability in relation to such tools, they’ll turn to them without as much hesitation whenever they need extra help and these tools will be better positioned to deliver true impact.

Our own internal research validated this even further, yielding incredible gains across state testing, grades, and even standardized testing for students in both middle school and high school.

Most technology districts invested in relies on independent practice usage; however, tools that are structured in a way to deliver guided practice will have a higher likelihood of actually driving educational outcomes.

Consolidate tools to eliminate technology fatigue

If you work in K-12 education, you’ve probably already noticed this last one: surveys of teachers and students are showing that technology fatigue is undeniably real, and impedes even the best of edtech tools’ shot at impacting student outcomes. Moving forward, we predict that students will be even pickier with edtech, needing stronger reasons to become power users of the tools available to them. As well, students want solutions that can anticipate and serve their variety of needs. They’ll be hesitant to go back and forth between different tools for different use cases.

The influx of ESSER funding led districts to adopt a breadth of third party edtech tools. They might now be realizing they have too much redundancy and not enough unification between them. As a result, we expect tech consolidation to become a strategic priority for educational leaders.

In this case, less is more. The more you are able to consolidate tools and programs, the higher likelihood you have of getting teachers and students bought in and using them regularly.

See how Paper’s suite of support, practice, and future-readiness tools support student outcomes here.