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The Future of K-12 Education

An industry strategic foresight trends report

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  • Schools and districts are overwhelmed by the number of unprecedented changes and disruptions.
  • Leadership teams often lack insights to identify relevant and critical trends.
  • There are uncertainties about transforming the digital business to adopt rapidly changing technologies.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

When facing disruptions, schools and districts need to focus on strengthening their core business capabilities and embracing technology advancements to bolster business resilience.

Impact and Result

  • Perform a broader scan to highlight the demonstrated and relevant trends to education.
  • Help schools and districts identify the trends to follow depending on their maturity.
  • Highlight the impact of the trends on school and IT leaders.

The Future of K-12 Education Research & Tools

1. The Future of K-12 Education – This report highlights three transformational K-12 education trends to guide school and IT leaders through digital transformation.

Read our trends report to understand the changing IT landscape in K-12 education and discover what technology expectations need to be budgeted for and met by CIOs.

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The Future of K-12 Education Trends Report

The Future of K-12 Education Trends Report

AN INDUSTRY STRATEGIC FORESIGHT TRENDS REPORT

Analyst Perspective

The image contains a picture of Mark Maby.

K-12 Education is going through unprecedented disruptions and challenges, such as:

  • Increased public scrutiny.
  • Growing competition from non-public education.
  • Increased safety concerns.
  • Changing priorities in curricula and assessment.
  • Elevated parental expectations.
  • Global supply chain interruptions.
  • Increased use of technology in the classroom and workplace.

In K-12 schools and districts, technology has traditionally been seen as secondary to the primary focus of education. This is a challenge for IT departments because they must compete with better-funded industries for skilled staff while still protecting their schools against the same cyberthreats. Moreover, technology is becoming increasingly important to the delivery of education and changing the way IT works with its stakeholders.

Info-Tech’s trends report on the future of K-12 education investigates strategic foresights and highlights the relevant trends for school and IT leaders in education.

Mark Maby
Research Director for Education,
Industry Practice
Info-Tech Research Group

Executive Summary

Situation

Complication

Solution

  • Schools and districts are overwhelmed by the number of unprecedented changes and disruptions.
  • Leadership teams often lack insights to identify relevant and critical trends.
  • There are uncertainties about transforming the digital business to adopt rapidly changing technologies.
  • School and district leaders often think IT does not have an important role in defining and achieving digital business goals.
  • Risk-averse school districts do not see the value of trends and how they link to the digital business plan.
  • IT leaders might not think that industry trends have a significant impact on the IT organization.
  • Perform a broader scan to highlight the demonstrated and relevant trends to education.
  • Help schools and districts identify the trends to follow depending on their maturity.
  • Highlight the impact of the trends on school and IT leaders.

Info-Tech Insight

When facing disruptions, schools and districts need to focus on strengthening their core business capabilities and embracing technology advancements to bolster business resilience.

The future of K-12 education: Foundational IT elements

The business requires leadership from IT for the digital transformation to succeed

Home access connectivity

A major challenge during the pandemic was the access students had to connectivity at home. This will continue to be a priority as education shifts to digital and online channels.

Interoperability

With the increased reliance on digital tools and content, there is a need for technology standards that facilitate interoperability.

Advanced wireless

Having strong Wi-Fi is a top technology priority for teachers and administrators. As devices continue to proliferate and as Internet of Things (IoT) devices increase in their capabilities, the K-12 education technology will require a strong technology infrastructure.

Hybrid integration

A hybrid integration framework to support various integration patterns such as on-premises to on-premises, on-premises to cloud, and cloud to cloud is key to enable IT capabilities.

Cybersecurity

A robust cybersecurity program covering the IT landscape is critical to ensure organizational information and assets are protected against the onslaught of various forms of attack.

Advanced data analytics

Enabling an advanced data analytics platform to support data-driven analysis is the foundational step necessary to support any core business transformation initiatives.

The future of K-12 education: Three transformational trends

Comprehensive Security

Build a resilient physical and cyber security environment.

There has been an increase in both cyberattacks at districts and physical violence, especially within US schools. Districts are increasingly looking to technology to enhance the security of not only the data but also the students themselves.

Shifting Technology Priorities

The increase of digital and cloud-based technologies requires strategic changes.

Districts are adopting more cloud and mobile technologies. This requires both teachers and IT to change their work behaviors. Workload increases and funding shortages are adding additional pressures on technology priorities.

Maintaining the Digital Leap Forward

Sustain continued adoption of technology and practices post-pandemic.

The pandemic ushered in new technologies and new educational practices. Even with the return to physical classes, there is a persistent change in how education is now compared to just a few years ago.

“The only risk mitigation you have for cloud is a contract, so you’re at risk unless you’ve got a contractual framework that holds the vendor to account. The problem with education is that most of the products that schools use are free. … If it’s free, then you’re the product.”

Michael O’Leary
Assistant Director-General and Chief Information Officer
Queensland Department of Education

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NEXT STEP

Leverage this trends report to develop your digital business strategy

The future of K-12 education

Trends report

Business context & IT Strategy

IT Strategy

Digital Strategy

Leverage this trends report for priorities that drive measurable, top-line organizational outcomes and to unlock direct value.

The future will bring more trends and technologies, making it pivotal that your schools or district continues to establish itself as the disrupter, not the disrupted. You must establish a structured approach to innovation management that considers external trends as well as internal processes. Info-Tech’s Define Your Digital Business Strategy blueprint and Build a Business-Aligned IT Strategy blueprint give you the tools you need to effectively process signals in your environment, build an understanding of relevant trends, and turn this understanding into action.

Trend 01

Comprehensive security

Build a resilient physical and cyber security environment.

Demands for security are increasing among schools

School shootings have increased in US schools. In the first half of 2022, there were 27 school shootings in the US (Education Week, 2022), which is up from ten shootings in the first half of 2021 (Education Week, 2021). Regardless of the causes of the increase and whether it’s related to a return to face-to-face classes, there has been a growing call among lawmakers and the public for increased security measures in schools.

K-12 education has been slower to address cybersecurity threats. Schools often do not have the resources to support a dedicated CISO, nor does school data have the same black-market value as data from other industries. Nevertheless, cybersecurity incidents have been rising year over year. It is concerning to think that because of their financial limitations, districts and schools may downplay risks due to K-12’s differences from other industries.

Legislation is driving the need for greater security. Schools are increasingly required by law to comply with standards for both physical security as well as cybersecurity. This may result in greater funding to support compliance, but until that time, districts and schools will need to budget with existing resources.

50% of parents believe that their children’s school has a false sense of safety and security.
Safe and Sound Schools

Security is gaining importance in K-12 education

1,331 cybersecurity incidents have been publicly disclosed since 2016, which equates to more than one incident per school in the US (K12 Security Information Exchange).

43 states now require a school safety plan, most of which include a school resource officer (Education Commission of the States).

Physical security will be a higher priority than cybersecurity, but without a strong plan from leadership, neither will be addressed with any rigor.

Signals

What we are seeing

Increased legislation around school security

  • Alyssa’s Law has been passed in Florida, New York, and New Jersey and is pending at the federal level and in other state jurisdictions. It calls for installation of panic alarms in classrooms to alert law enforcement (Make Our Schools Safe).
  • School safety plans are required by law in most US states, many of which also require law enforcement’s involvement in the plans’ creation (Education Commission of the States).
  • The K-12 Cybersecurity Act was passed in 2021 to fund the creation of tools and strategies and to protect the data and privacy of the students (The White House).

Top five cybersecurity priorities for K-12

  1. Data governance – Where does the critical sensitive info reside?
  2. Patch management – iPads pose greater difficulties because of the shorter lifecycle support.
  3. Multifactor authentication (MFA) – Meeting with the union is necessary about the use of personal devices for MFA, using an app, text, or phone line or otherwise not allowing remote access.
  4. Password policies – Password policies are needed for all students and staff if they can use a physical keyboard.
  5. Privacy impact assessment of all third parties – This is becoming a requirement of privacy legislation.

Drivers

Why you should care

That schools should be a safe place is universally accepted. Without physical safety at school, the mandate of the school to deliver education will also fail. Learning and imagination cannot develop in a state of danger.

Schools who suffer a security incident risk damage to their public reputation. The public reputation can affect the jobs of school officials and parents’ decision whether or not to withdraw their children from the school.

Just as important as any preventative measures is the communication that the school has with its stakeholders. Through good communication on safety, the school or district establishes itself as a responsible public institution.

Opportunities and challenges

Opportunities

Increase in resources

Legislative support

Insurance standards

  • IT can make the case for more resources to support security measures. IT professionals in the K-12 space often wear multiple hats, which means that strategic projects get deprioritized. As security gains visibility, IT will have a better chance of getting a dedicated resource and thus freeing up time for other priorities.
  • New legislation indicates commitment from government to support safety initiatives at schools and districts. This also indicates that there may be dedicated funding to support these initiatives.
  • Both cyber and traditional insurance will become increasingly common for schools. The benefit of insurance firms is that they have a vested interest in promoting best practices to ensure the security of the students and their data.

Challenges

Achievable measurements

Increasing end points

Lack of funding

  • Business and IT leaders should collaborate on key performance metrics and plan viable pathways for their organizations. There are risks for organizations making commitments that cannot be monitored, tracked, and achieved.
  • The number of endpoints continues to increase, including those like security cameras that are meant to provide added safety. This means the number of security vulnerabilities also continues to increase. However, despite the increased burden on IT, resourcing struggles to keep apace.
  • While public funds may be coming in the future, for the time being schools and districts will need to make do with the budget that they have. It is challenging because money spent on security is money not spent on teaching and learning.

What the comprehensive security trend means to Info-Tech members

School and District Leaders

IT Leaders

  • Effective communication practices are essential. It is essential to share information about cybersecurity incidents and best practices in school security in general.
  • Communicate with parents, guardians, and students about the security measures the school and district has taken to ensure their safety.
  • Prioritize both physical security and cybersecurity. The IT department is often left to make the case for better cybersecurity, but their voice doesn’t carry the same weight as leadership when dealing with faculty, administration, and unions.
  • Implement commonsense baseline cybersecurity controls and work with vendors serving the K-12 market to improve their cybersecurity practices.
  • Work with district and school officials to develop emergency procedure plans and identify the areas where technology can improve accountability and overall increase safety.
  • Implement an emergency response system that can integrate with security technology, such as video surveillance and panic buttons. This system should also support the execution of school safety plans.

Key technologies associated with this trend

  • Endpoint protection
  • Visitor management systems
  • Emergency response systems

Recommendations

Collaborate internally and externally. School security requires the participation of both the internal and external community. Collaboration among Info-Tech members across the globe to share pathways, actionable insights, and learnings is essential to reimagine the future together.

Assess priorities and build a roadmap. Based on the organization’s commitment, build an equitable and viable pathway with identified priorities and guaranteed investments to support technology advancement.

Develop a socialization plan. Communication of security plans, whether cyber or physical, is crucial to successful implementation. These measures are only effective if people put them into practice.

Info-Tech resources

Trend 02

Shifting technology priorities

The increase of digital and cloud-based technologies requires strategic changes.

Changes in technology affect resource changes

Classroom technology demands increased resources and funding. As schools adopt a 1-1 device-to-student policy, demands within the classroom for technology support and replacement funding are increasing.

Teachers have a continual need for development. The increased demands on teachers through the pandemic are seen in the low job satisfaction numbers. Part of this is due to the challenges of teaching with unfamiliar technology.

IT’s role is changing. As infrastructure moves increasingly to the cloud, the role of IT is moving from traditional maintenance to new roles requiring skills in vendor management, cybersecurity, and strategic planning. Reskilling the IT team for a cloud-centric approach will be an increasing priority.

95% of districts now support off-campus services, compared to just 49% in 2020.
“EdTech Leadership Survey Report,” CoSN, 2021

IT is understaffed for supporting the classroom

65% of districts are understaffed to provide instructional support around classroom use

55% of districts are understaffed to integrate technology into the classroom
“EdTech Leadership Survey Report,” CoSN, 2021

IT is focusing increased attention on the classroom and on supporting home access to technology services. While these developments were motivated by the pandemic, they are likely to remain.

Signals

What we are seeing

A substantial increase in classroom technology.

  • Schools are supporting many devices. One half of school districts now support more than 7,500 devices. This is up from 2020 when just one third supported this number (“EdTech Leadership Survey Report,” CoSN, 2021).
  • Cybersecurity, devices, and curriculum software subscriptions were the top three budget categories with the most reported increases (“EdTech Trends 2021,” CoSN, 2021).
  • Cloud-based applications are on the rise. Thirty-seven percent of percent of districts added software as a service (SaaS) products, such as LMS, to their district ecosystem (“EdTech Trends 2021,” CoSN, 2021).

Data is gold

  • Data is gold in the digital world, and the enterprise data platform will become an increasingly important asset in the future.
  • It doesn't matter what the application is. The most valuable asset will be the data that is stored in that application.
  • With an enterprise data platform, a district may change their front end, such as a learning management system, while the data that describes the student journey remains intact.

Drivers

Why you should care

Changing technology services require new skills from IT staff to better support not only the faculty but also the new technology itself.

As technology is increasingly adopted in the classroom, IT will need to find effective ways of supporting the teachers’ instructional needs and securing privacy compliance.

With the increase in technology requirements for education come equity concerns about digital poverty. All students need to be treated equally.

Opportunities and challenges

OPPORTUNITES

Technology coaches

Leadership buy-in

Application rationalization

  • Technology coaches are becoming increasingly prominent. The technology coach is becoming a standard FTE in many districts. Technology coaches are often teachers who have decided to take on a new role. They adhere to a code of standards established by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
  • IT now has more opportunity to work strategically with leadership. With the increased prominence of technology in education, leadership in K-12 is more likely to engage with IT at a strategic level since the impact of technology on educational outcomes is now more defined.
  • Cloud-based applications are common but costly. As applications continue to proliferate, IT needs to set strong policies on procurement and limit the duplication of functionality across products.

CHALLENGES

Budget constraints

Siloed operations

Relevant training and professional development

  • The funding for hybrid instruction is uncertain. During the pandemic, public funds were made available to support technology initiatives to maintain instructional continuity. While the funding may not continue, the cost of supporting the technology does.
  • The lack of cross-functional collaboration has been highlighted during the pandemic. Going forward, better methods will be needed to support departments working together.
  • Both faculty and IT staff need more training. However, with the increased budget items for technology, funds for training will often be the first to get cut.

What the shifting priorities trend means to Info-Tech members

School and District Leaders

IT Leaders
  • Establish a shared vision between the faculty and IT. Regular communication is essential for effective use of instructional technology.
  • Involve IT in the strategic planning process. The strategic plan should include a technology-specific vision and plan.
  • Prioritize professional development for both instructors and IT. Leadership has to prioritize the professional development initiatives because training too often falls between the cracks of other priorities. A technology coach might be required as a new FTE.
  • Stakeholder focus. IT needs to establish strong connections with both administration and school principals. These relationships are key to any type of technology planning and implementation.
  • Develop new career paths for IT professionals. As cloud adoption increases, traditional infrastructure roles become more obsolete. IT staff need to have a clear idea of where their career progress will be, as older paths are no longer viable.
  • Replacement cycles will become increasingly important to maintain a 1-1 device-to-student ratio. Proactive districts will keep a number of older devices in inventory as temporary replacement devices for students.

Key technologies associated with this trend

  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Synchronous instructional technology
  • AI to reduce teacher burden

Recommendations

  • Align funding and support. The greatest challenge for technology in K-12 education is to meet the demands for support within the constraints of funding.
  • Transform physical and digital together. There will need to be a careful balance between maintaining the current physical technology while at the same time developing the digital capabilities of the schools or district.
  • Develop a reskilling plan for IT professionals. As the skills required for the IT department continue to change, it is imperative that existing staff are given a clear picture of how the technology world is changing and what skills are required to work within it.

Info-Tech resources

Trend 03

Maintaining the digital leap forward

Sustain continued adoption of technology and practices post-pandemic.

Returning to the classroom has brought new changes

Students are back in the classroom. The pandemic was the catalyst for a high level of innovation. This might be a positive outcome of the disruption, but a large degree of learning loss occurred while students were studying from home. The question now is whether innovation can support the recovery.

Increased use of the LMS. Prior to the pandemic, many teachers were unaware of what a learning management system was. With the return the classroom, this system is taking on an increased role in the delivery and management of instruction.

Parent communication has taken on increased priority. One major development the pandemic has brought to K-12 teaching is the increased expectation parents have for communication. Parents expect more interaction than they did in the past. This will put an increased burden on teachers and requires a comprehensive communications strategy from the district or school.

65% of teachers report using an LMS during 2022, which is up from 60% in 2021.
Instructure

A rise in mixed materials

68% used all or mostly print materials

Pre-pandemic, 68% of teachers reported that classroom materials were all or mostly print.

42% now use mixed materials

Having returned to the classroom, 42% of teachers now report their materials are an even mix of print and digital.
“Coming Back Together,” Bay View Analytics, 2022

Teachers have adjusted to the necessary shift online, but they still prefer to teach in person.
“Turning Point for Digital Curricula,” Bay View Analytics, 2022

Signals

What we are seeing

As technology increases, so do concerns around digital poverty

  • Economically disadvantaged students tend to be those who have struggled the most with learning loss due to the pandemic (NWEA).
  • Blended learning practices have persisted during the return to the classroom, somewhat against expectation. This indicates a further shift towards increased use of technology in the classroom (Christensen Institute).
  • Satisfaction with technology access and support was lower among low-income houses at 67% compared to 83% satisfaction among high-income households (K12 Security Information Exchange).

Persistent risk of going remote

  • There are many reasons why the infrastructure for remote teaching may be maintained. One major reason is the risk of another pandemic.
  • The risk of another pandemic will likely factor into strategic planning for the foreseeable future.
  • For this reason, the infrastructure for remote teaching will likely be maintained as a precautionary measure.
  • Because of the expanded capabilities, schools have expanded their remote learning offerings.
  • Remote learning is an alternative to homeschooling, where the district provides the instruction but the student stays at home.

Drivers

Why you should care

With the increased adoption of technology in the classroom, districts must address the economic disadvantages that this change brings.

Technology is becoming more and more an integral part of the education value proposition. No longer is IT a nice-to-have service for the classroom.

Parents, teachers, and administration will expect a higher degree of interaction post-pandemic, and IT will be expected to provide the communication tools.

Opportunities and challenges

OPPORTUNITIES

Accessibility checklists

Privacy guidance

Stakeholder focus

  • Voluntary accessibility checklists are a useful tool for checking vendor compliance with accessibility requirements for new edtech.
  • IT can support teachers with clear policy guidance on protecting student privacy. It’s useful to indicate how some practices make students’ personal information more vulnerable than others.
  • Build stronger relationships and trust with stakeholders as the IT department becomes more strategic and visible, particularly around technology planning and implementation.

CHALLENGES

Accessibility with learning tools

Alternative tools

Inventory

  • If new classroom technology does not consider accessibility, it can limit learning opportunities for students with physical or learning challenges.
  • The more available the tool, the more privacy concerns. Students in the US are using over 70 digital learning tools, which means that there are more ways information can be leaked (THE Journal).
  • New inventory methods are needed. As districts adopt a 1-1 student-to-device strategy, they may need new methods of inventory. Accounting for devices at the end of each year may be too much burden on the IT department.

What the continued adoption of technology post-pandemic means to Info-Tech members

School and District Leaders

IT Leaders
  • Leadership and vision will be required for the intersection of technology and instruction.
  • Strategic planning will need to include both the instructional and technology stakeholders.
  • Teachers will need a forum to discuss technology. Teachers have a range of abilities when dealing with technology. A forum to discuss best practices will be beneficial to professional development and will also support IT in its needs analysis.
  • Replacement cycles and inventory audits of devices will require increased attention.
  • Service ticketing will become increasingly important. Create accountability structures around ticket management and resolution.
  • Managing communication to parents about technology support is likely to continue. The website will be the primary source of technology information for parents from an IT point of view.

Key technologies associated with this trend

  • Student devices
  • LMS
  • Assessment platforms

Recommendations

  • Align the classroom needs with IT. Given the impact of technology on instruction, IT will need to work more collaboratively with teachers and parents. The priority will revolve around the service desk and making it the primary tool for communication.
  • Identify classroom technology needs. Teachers are increasingly seeking out technology tools on their own. IT will need to work with them not only on privacy concerns but also on application rationalization.
  • Measure and deliver. The changing technology needs will have ramifications on funding and resourcing. Maintaining accurate metrics around the technology usage and support will be critical for maintaining strategic and operational support.

Info-Tech resources

Contributors

John Armstrong

Chief Officer for Technology & Innovation,
Joliet Public School District 86

Michael O’Leary

Assistant Director-General,
Department of Education, Queensland

Andy Canty

Director Of Information Technology for Learning,
Greater Victoria School District

Abby Wolf

IT Strategy and Process Analyst,
Minneapolis Public Schools

Works Cited

Arnett, Thomas, and Jonathan Cooney. “How Are Teachers Blending and Personalizing Learning Post-Pandemic?” Christensen Institute, 2022, p. 18.
CoSN. “EdTech Leadership Survey Report.” CoSN, 2021. Web.
CoSN. “EdTech Trends 2021: Members Share Their Experiences.” CoSN, 2021. Web.
Education Week. “School Shootings in 2021: How Many and Where.” Education Week, 1 Mar. 2021. Web.
Education Week. “School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where.” Education Week, 5 Jan. 2022. Web.
Instructure. “The State of Teaching and Learning in K- 12 Education.” Instructure, 2022. Accessed 28 June 2022.
Kuykendall, Kristal. “Report: Students Used 74 Different Ed Tech Tools in Fall 2021 Semester, Educators Used 86.” THE Journal, 12 April 2022. Accessed 26 July 2022.
Levin, Douglas A. “The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: Year in Review – 2022 Annual Report.” K12 Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX), 2022. Web.
Lewis, Karyn, and Megan Kuhfeld. “Student Achievement in 2021-22: Cause for Hope and Continued Urgency.” NWEA, July 2022. Accessed 20 July 2022.
Macdonald, Heidi, and Zeke Perez. “50-State Comparison: K-12 School Safety.” Education Commission of the States, 25 Feb. 2019. Web.
Make Our Schools Safe. “What Is Alyssa’s Law?” Make Our Schools Safe, n.d. Accessed 19 July 2022.
Safe and Sound Schools. “2021 State of School Safety Report.” Safe and Sound Schools, 2021. Web.
Seaman, Julia E., and Jeff Seaman. “Coming Back Together: Educational Resources in U.S. K-12 Education, 2022.” Bay View Analytics, 2022.
Seaman, Julia E., and Jeff Seaman. “Turning Point for Digital Curricula.” Bay View Analytics, 2022.
The White House. “Statement of President Joe Biden on Signing the K-12 Cybersecurity Act Into Law.” The White House, 8 Oct. 2021. Web.

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Author

Mark Maby

Contributors

  • John Armstrong, Chief Officer for Technology & Innovation, Joliet Public School District 86
  • Andy Canty, Director of Information Technology for Learning, Greater Victoria School District
  • Michael O’Leary, Assistant Director-General, Department of Education, Queensland
  • Abby Wolf, IT Strategy and Process Analyst, Minneapolis Public Schools
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