As the new school year starts amid fresh uncertainty, educators are grappling with how to navigate what I’ve come to call the “And Era.” The And Era is not about going only remote or returning to purely in-person experiences, but adopting the best of both. While many schools are bringing kids back into classrooms this year, the spread of the Delta variant and other factors out of their control mean they must again be prepared to support a mix of virtual and in-person learning.
That means focusing on what they can control–developing and deploying a strong technology strategy that will give them the agility to combine varying degrees of in-person and remote elements into a seamless learning experience. The heart of that strategy should center around three interdependent components: hardware, software, and the network.
While the stakes are enormous, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and its $130 billion in new K-12 funding offers great hope that schools will be able to secure the technology, expertise- and resources they need to build an educational infrastructure for the next generation. Given the possibility that many students will spend one-fourth of their learning journey under these trying circumstances, making best use of those funds to implement a thoughtful technology strategy is more important than ever.
When it comes to technology, think “three” and prioritize
When drawing up a technology strategy, the elements of hardware, software, and the network must be considered together. If any one of them gets overlooked, learning can grind to a halt. For example, when schools are evaluating form factors, they can choose from tablets, Chromebooks, full-blown laptops, and more. But whatever they pick, it’s important to ensure those devices can support the software tools and network connections needed to enable a rich physical and virtual learning experience. A device without connectivity will only get a student so far when it comes to keeping up with the schoolwork from home.