Remote learning has revealed gaps in how educators access technology. Thankfully, the CARES Act provides funding to close that gap.
Distance learning has drastically changed the landscape of K-12 education. This year highlighted the resiliency of students, the dedication of educators, and, in many cases, the gap in resources for the most venerable students.
Recent funding through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan provides schools with millions in funding for much-needed technology updates, which can increase engagement and educational outcomes for all students both during and after COVID.
Here is what educators need to know about the impact of technological innovations in the classroom — and how the CARES and American Rescue Plan can provide funding for your school.
Note: Learn how InGenius Solutions can build, install, and support educational technology solutions such as Zoom Rooms, Neat Boards, Neat Pads, and more.
How educational technology (EdTech) improves the learning experience
EdTech has been on the rise for years. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 81 percent of teachers, 88 percent of principals, and 92 percent of administrators agreed or strongly agreed that digital learning tools provide great value. When most schools moved to fully remote or hybrid distance learning in 2020, the importance of technology became even more apparent.
Many schools were thrown into remote learning and had to make do with what they had. That had a real impact on students, with just 60% of students engaging in distance learning regularly. In addition, 75% of teachers reported that student’s lack of access to technological tools has been a serious hurdle to distance learning.
AV educational technology, like interactive whiteboards, Zoom Rooms, projectors, and professional sound systems aren’t just a nice-to-have feature — they are becoming increasingly necessary for improving safety and educational access for all students.
Here are four ways technology is changing the K-12 classroom.
#1: It’s safer
Newer educational technology systems are safer both technologically and physically. Today’s solutions provide better online privacy safeguards that protect against hacking, privacy issues, and more. For example, Zoom allows teachers to require a code to enter a room, enable domain verification, or disable private chat.
There are also fewer things to touch with options such as Bring Your Own Device, which allows teachers to connect to any classroom from their phone, laptop, or tablet. Zoom Rooms, an integrated solution for audio conferencing, also offers a voice-activated feature so teachers can start classes by simply saying “Zoom Start the Meeting.” This also allows teachers to enter any room and immediately set up a classroom without plugging in cords or learning a new system.
#2: It improves educational access
Remote learning may continue for months, as younger students may not be fully vaccinated until 2022 or later. Other students, including those with medical conditions or who learn differently, lacked educational access even before COVID.
With the CARES Act’s help, schools can now invest in technological solutions that make remote learning more effective. For example, with Zoom Rooms teachers can start lessons with the touch of a button, allowing remote and in-person students to interact and learn together with crystal-clear audio and a camera that automatically focuses on speakers.
This isn’t just an expensive solution to a temporary problem. These solutions also make it easier for students with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or other challenges to participate more fully in the classroom from a distance, even after COVID is over.
#3: Allows students to collaborate more effectively
There has been a large focus on how technology can improve distance and remote learning. In reality, we have little idea what the future may hold for classrooms in the coming months. However, the benefits of AV technology solutions go far beyond remote learning.
Imagine hosting a roundtable discussion with students from around the world, collaborating with teachers across your district, or teaching students with a digital whiteboard from across the country. Features like break out rooms allow teachers to host group projects or small study groups no matter where students (or teachers) are located.
AV and meeting solutions like Zoom Rooms erase geographical constraints, allowing students to work on group projects, collaborate, and learn from teachers and students worldwide.
#4: Improves teacher training
Technology can help teachers connect with students, but it can also help them learn themselves. EdTech solutions mean teacher training can move to a blended model that combines the power of online, on-demand learning with in-person practice sessions. This is a significant departure from the current on-schedule, annual training most schools use.
As a result, teachers can further their education, learn new teaching methods, and complete required continuing education requirements from the comfort of their own classrooms.
Funding options for EduTech in K-12 schools
Despite the benefits of educational technology, many districts simply don’t have the funding to improve or expand access to technology in their classrooms.
Two recent federal bills may cover upgrading audio-visual and online learning systems to improve virtual school or interactive on-site sessions.
The American Rescue Plan for K-12 Schools
The American Rescue Plan provides $126 billion for K–12 schools and $40 billion to support institutions of higher education. Governors will receive $2.75 billion to share with private schools, and more than $6 billion is allocated for programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The CARES Act for K-12 Schools
CARES Act funding, available through September 2022, provides additional funds for schools looking to expand technology solutions. Guidelines were released in December 2020 outlining how the funds can be used. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund (ESSER) can be used to cover technology that supports learning loss, mental health issues, and more. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) covers technology costs associated with remote learning.
How can the funding be used?
Schools that qualify can use these funds for a variety of educational technology, including:
- Virtual & Hybrid Learning Solutions: Flexible video conferencing and virtual classrooms for students, educators, and school leadership, including Microsoft Teams and Zoom certified accessories.
- Active Learning Solutions: Accessories and devices to help instructors and students actively engage with content and with each other. Imagine a space where all devices and displays are connected, providing seamless interaction from instructor to student, student to student,and group to group.
- Lecture Capture: Record and share exam reviews, circle time, or lectures to allow students to rewatch material or power asynchronous schedules.
- Professional sound systems: Update audio for classrooms, auditoriums, and public address systems to improve sound for virtual classrooms, recorded lectures, and meetings.
- Digital signage: Clearly communicate COVID-19 health and safety messages, announcements, wayfinding, and more.
- Projectors, screens, LED displays: Add larger displays to improve visibility and engage in-person and remote learning and collaboration.
- Interactive displays/carts: Improve flexibility with moveable carts and interactive displays like the Neat Board, a portable solution that includes features like annotations and whiteboard functionality in a portable solution.
Technology drives the future of education
Education is changing. Technological solutions like Zoom Rooms and Neat Bars make it easier than ever to engage students and improve educational outcomes for both in-person and remote learning.
InGenius Solutions is a nationwide full-service audio/visual and education technology integration firm. We partner with schools like yours to provide education collaboration solutions that keep teachers and students engaged and collaborating and enhance productivity no matter where they are.