Classroom Technology

Schools Are Battling Tech Fatigue. How Are They Responding?

By Alyson Klein — December 02, 2021 2 min read
Conceptual image of an in-person classroom in front of a virtual class
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Are schools suffering from tech fatigue?

Recent survey data from the Clayton Christensen Institute about blended learning—a mix of face-to-face instruction and use of digital learning tools—suggests that might be the case.

Nearly half of the educators surveyed by the nonprofit think tank said their schools offered blended learning in the past, and 29 percent said they offer it currently. But just 9 percent say they plan to offer blended learning once the pandemic is over. That’s according to a survey of 1,074 educators conducted in October.

The recent data also suggests declining interest from last spring to October in offering blended learning.

A report based on survey data from April and May concluded that the huge emphasis on digital learning during the pandemic would provide a boost for blended learning going forward. For instance, while just 12 percent of teachers said they used an intensive blended learning model known as the “flipped classroom” prior to the pandemic, 18 percent said they expected to use the strategy once the pandemic ends. Flipped learning involves students covering class content online at home, and in-person instruction is used for discussions, projects, practice, and individualized help from teachers.

One possible explanation, according to Thomas Arnett, a senior research fellow at the Christensen Institute and the author of both reports: Schools are stretched thin and not ready to dive into less-familiar forms of instruction, such as blended learning.

“If a school is back [to full-time, in-person instruction], they’re struggling to get everything to work. Having to do blended learning on top of that is a real challenge,” he said.

What’s more, the legacy of the 2020-21 school year, in which many kids failed to make much progress learning virtually full-time or in hybrid programs, might have left many educators disappointed about the value of online learning.

“Generally, there’s a sense that like, ‘Oh, we tried that online learning stuff, and it wasn’t great. We need to leave that behind,’” Arnett said.

So how are school districts prioritizing other types of instruction?

According to the Christensen Institute survey, 65 percent of educators surveyed in October said they are currently offering tutoring services, and 22 percent say they plan to continue that work post-pandemic. Twenty-nine percent said they offered tutoring in the past.

The vast majority of districts offering tutoring—93 percent—say tutoring is being provided at least in part by certified teaching staff, while 16 percent are allowing some K-12 students to serve as tutors. Just 9 percent say they are working with an outside organization that specializes in tutoring, and even fewer—6 percent—say they are using an online platform that facilitates tutoring.

While full-time virtual education remains an option in many districts, commitment to it appears to be declining. Forty-three percent of the October respondents said they currently provided students with the option of a full-time virtual school, while only 13 percent said they plan to stick with the option once the pandemic ends.


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