Special Report

Optimizing Digital Learning for the New School Year

July 20, 2021
RESET SERIES 4 SQ Illustration
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (Images: Getty)
During the pandemic, all kinds of technologies helped save K-12 education from completely collapsing. Zoom and Microsoft Teams empowered educators to deliver live instruction and talk with students face to face virtually, many teachers who previously saw no need to use their learning management systems became regular users of them, and digital devices were distributed in record numbers to students all over the country.

The result is that teachers’ and students’ technology skills have leapfrogged to the next level and the tech infrastructure in schools is now far more robust than it ever was before the pandemic.

But with the crisis easing and most schools planning to return to full-time in-person instruction in the fall, educators now have to make some very important technology decisions. What digital tools should they continue to use, and which ones should they ditch? How should technology be used to accelerate learning? What steps should schools that embrace personalized learning take to rebound from a very disappointing year and a half? And how can school and district leaders make smart tech purchasing decisions?

These stories examine all those questions and provide a roadmap for how schools should approach the use of technology for the 2021-22 school year and beyond.

Reporters: Benjamin Herold, Alyson Klein, Mark Lieberman
Designers/Visual Artists: Laura Baker, Emma Patti Harris, Gina Tomko, and Vanessa Solis
Project Editor: Kevin Bushweller
Visuals Project Editor: Emma Patti Harris
Series Editor: Lesli A. Maxwell

Sources: John Bailey, founder, Vestigo Partners; Marcus Belin, principal, Huntley High School, near Chicago; Keith A. Bockwoldt, chief information officer, Hinsdale High School District 86 in Hinsdale, Ill.; Shari Camhi, superintendent, Baldwin Union Free School District, Baldwin, N.Y.; David Chan, director of instructional technology, Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Ill.; Jeff Charbonneau, principal, Zillah Middle School, Zillah, Wash.; Bailey Cato Czupryk, a vice-president at TNTP, a teacher certification and advocacy organization; John Davenport, social studies teacher, Corte Madera School, Portola Valley, Calif.; Todd Davis, chief academic officer, Aldine school district, near Houston, Texas; Diane Doersch, director of technology, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools at Digital Promise; Cory Epler, Nebraska’s chief academic officer; Heather Esposito, district teacher technology coach, Cherry Hill Public Schools, N.J.; Mindy Frisbee, senior director of learning partnerships, ISTE; Bill Fritz, executive director, Learn 21, and director of technology, Sycamore Community Schools, Cincinnati, Ohio; Marlo Gaddis, chief technology officer, Wake County Public Schools, N.C.; Saba Ghole, chief creative officer, NuVu Studio; Dan Gohl, chief academic officer, Broward County schools, Fla.; Trevor Goertzen, principal, Spring Hill Middle School, near Kansas City, Kan.; Theresa Goltermann, STEM teacher, Tabb Middle School, Yorktown, Va.; AJ Gutierrez, co-founder, vice chair, chief of marketing & communications, Saga Education; Keith Krueger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking; Matthew Lentz, chief financial officer/board secretary, Upper Moreland School District, Upper Moreland Township, Pa.; Gia Leon, student, Odyssey STEM Academy; Aaron Loniasz, NuVuX fellow; Farrah Mahan, assistant superintendent for preK-12 curriculum & instruction, Cherry Hill Public Schools, N.J.; Keith Nuthall, co-founder, Odyssey STEM Academy, Lakewood, Calif.; John Pane, researcher, RAND; Blue Phillips, student, Odyssey STEM Academy, Lakewood, Calif.; Becky Perez, principal, Odyssey STEM Academy, Lakewood, Calif.; Marc Plevinsky, assistant director of technology, Cherry Hill Public Schools, N.J.; Kathryn Procope, principal, Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, Washington, D.C.; Tricia Proffitt, language arts teacher, Belvidere Central Middle School, Ill.; Rocio Rodriguez, student, Odyssey STEM Academy, Lakewood, Calif.; James Robinson, assistant superintendent for business and administrative services, Baldwin Union Free School District, Baldwin, N.Y.; Peggy Schwinn, Tennessee education commissioner; Doug Vander Linden, director of educational technology, Burlington school district, Kan.; Devin Vodicka, CEO, Altitude Learning; Kelly May-Vollmar, assistant superintendent for educational and technology services, Desert Sands school district, Calif.; Leslie Wilson, president & CEO, Wilson Public Sector Consulting, and founder, One-to-One Institute.

Documents: Technology Sustainability Toolkit, Verizon/Digital Promise; Making Decisions Is Harder Than Ever. How District Leaders Can Manage Tough Calls, Education Week; Solving Complex Education Problems: A Guide for Better Decisionmaking, Education Week; Understanding Learning ‘Acceleration’: Going Slow to Go Fast, Education Week.

This installment is sponsored by the Center for Internet Security. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.