The shadow of the COVID pandemic lingers long over K-12 and higher education. Young children impacted by school closures and remote learning are now making their way through higher grades and college. Those children experienced the most disruptive 18 months of their educational lives and are still trying to play catch up to meet many of the milestones set by state, province, and national agencies for their educators. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes, and in many areas of K-12 and higher education, the necessity of catching those COVID students up has driven the search for new, effective strategies. That often means new learning technologies. 

In its annual report on technology trends in education from early last year, Gartner Research observed, “It is unlikely organizations will ever be able to completely reverse the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic learning loss. However, strategies should be adopted that look to mitigate the long-term impacts as much as possible. A combination of digital technologies and analytic capabilities will be needed to help address this global problem.” 

Based on our conversations with education and technology experts, that strategic change will underlie many challenges and opportunities education can expect to encounter in 2024. This article explores those trends, with a particular emphasis on smart technology and the role it will continue to play in the educational landscape. 


Technology transforming learning 

The incorporation of digital tools into traditional, real-world environments is called digital transformation. This concept is often applied to the business world but should be equally applicable to education. 

Educational institutions already engaged in digital transformations will likely intensify their efforts in 2024. Those yet to embark on a transformation of their schools will certainly consider whether this year is the right time to start. 


Rise of digital education in K-12 institutions  

While higher education was an early adopter of mobile technologies and digital learning tools, K-12 education trailed behind. However, in recent years, K-12 has caught up and even surpassed higher education in digital integration. The advantages of digital learning platforms have become increasingly evident at younger educational levels.  

Despite this progress, the surge in digital tools has resulted in a challenge for public and private schools as they struggle to manage the large volumes of Chromebooks and tablets requiring constant maintenance. 

Shift from STEM to STEAM 

A noticeable trend in K-12 education involves an expansion from the traditional STEM-focused approach to STEAM. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The focus on this curriculum has dominated education for the past decade. While its benefits are well-acknowledged, STEAM integrates the arts into the STEM framework. Unlike the traditional mode of a well-rounded primary education, STEAM programs strive to merge the arts seamlessly with science and math, emphasizing a unified approach rather than isolating each subject.


Classroom AI technology   

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to shape educational technology trends in 2024 and beyond. As with major technological revolutions, there is always a degree of unrealistic hype, but AI is a truly powerful, transformational technology that, if applied correctly, will be a positive force in education at all levels. 

In 2024, the integration of AI will remain a focus for technology providers catering to teaching and learning. AI's role is expanding within classrooms, primarily as a support tool for educators. Post-COVID, K-12 teacher burnout rates remain very high, largely attributed to the increased workload resulting from staffing shortages. 

AI technology offers educators valuable support by streamlining repetitive administrative tasks and enabling more efficient analysis of student data. Instead of that administrative busywork, teachers can spend more time adapting their curriculum to individual learners’ needs. Though these AI tools may not entirely resolve the complex issue of teacher burnout in K-12 educational systems, they significantly alleviate the burden by providing crucial assistance in today’s classrooms.


More emphasis on data-driven strategic decision-making   

Educational institutions increasingly use data analytics as a foundation for important decision-making processes. This reliance on data transcends strategic planning and extends throughout various levels of educational administration due to tightening budgets and—whether deserved or not—calls from activists, political groups, and private citizens for more oversight and governance. 

While higher education institutions are familiar with the concept of Big Data in research contexts, its use in day-to-day education environments and business operations may still be novel. Currently, organizations have the capacity to gather extensive data from a wider array of sources, uncovering insights that were previously unattainable. 

Looking ahead, a rising trend will involve educational institutions harnessing data from all corners of their organizations to power analytics initiatives. Smart management tools will serve as pivotal components in these endeavors, serving as reliable sources of actionable data for informed decision-making.

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Wearable technology    

Wearable educational devices are poised to reshape learning environments by simplifying progress tracking, allowing more timely reminders for deadlines and important lessons, and providing real-time feedback to students and educators. These tools have the potential to revolutionize how students take notes, interact with peers and teachers, and engage in experiential learning. As public and private educational options become more unified and convenient, IoT devices will enrich learner data, capturing preferences and styles to tailor education effectively. 

Institutions looking to set themselves apart in what has increasingly become a competitive education marketplace will need to consider how they integrate wearables into their curriculum. However, ensuring the affordability and comfort of these wearables for learners across various age groups means considering their physical and learning environments. As well as how you store and manage these devices to maximize lifecycles. 

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are also anticipated to impact education significantly in 2024. These immersive technologies will likely witness increased adoption by educational institutions, offering interactive and engaging learning experiences. From exploring historical events in VR to dissecting virtual organisms through AR, these tools present unique opportunities for experiential learning in diverse educational settings. Most of these applications will rely on wearable devices.


Increased focus on device lifecycle management    

The surge in federal pandemic relief funds has led to a significant expansion of tech infrastructure in school districts. To ensure sustainability and avoid future budget constraints, schools are increasingly considering strategies like leveraging affordable cloud solutions and planning well-timed device replacement and upgrade cycles to prevent a sudden technology funding shortfall. 

Specifically, schools that utilized ESSER funds for one-to-one device programs are now challenged to maintain many new devices over long life cycles in 2024. As these districts gear up to refresh their devices without the safety net of ESSER money, they will need to seek cost-effective solutions to extend the devices' longevity. IT departments are exploring tools to optimize device lifespans, manage device use more effectively, and provide expert services to assist in strategic device purchases for better returns on investment. 

In this pursuit, services like break-fix support and asset tagging can significantly prolong the effective life cycle of devices, offering schools an additional couple of years before replacement becomes necessary. Moreover, schools are seeking cost optimization strategies through these services to reallocate funds for essential technology updates when needed.

Learn More: Managing Asset Lifecycle Better With a Smart Asset Management System


Network performance and security management    

In 2024, the security and management of school networks will become an increasingly critical concern for IT staff and school leadership. As networked technology becomes increasingly important in education and administration, its infrastructure must be treated as essential as water and electrical utilities.  

Despite the continued increase in the number of devices requiring network connections within schools, there's no significant surge expected in adopting the latest wireless upgrade, Wi-Fi 7, among K–12 IT professionals. Instead, schools are anticipated to focus on employing more advanced technologies to monitor and analyze network traffic. Utilizing such tools facilitates remote adjustments by IT departments, effectively saving valuable time and streamlining workflow. 

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Campus Security
Higher Security on Campus
The US Congressional Research Service recently published a report on Federal Support for School Safety and Security with a comprehensive list of such programs. They support many school safety initiatives, including anti-violence measures, training, and support for schools to acquire broader safety and operational technology.
See some of the key funding programs identified in the report.

The Future is Filled with Adaptable Education 

Adaptable Education

Educational institutions must adapt and be flexible in fulfilling their missions in 2024 and beyond. Flexibility has long been part of educators' and administrators' skill sets. Yet, the specific aspects demanding adaptability—such as evolving learning methods, emerging technologies, limited facilities, and financial constraints—may present novel challenges requiring fresh perspectives. 

Tomorrow’s education leaders will require various new tools to navigate these changes effectively. This includes implementing appropriate policies and curricula and leveraging suitable technologies. When integrated strategically, these resources have the potential to generate a promising future for education. 

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