Making the Most of Your CARES Act Funding for Educational Technology

Cheryl Miller and Steve Halliwell

The World Economic Forum reported that more than 1.2 billion students were learning outside of the classroom globally in late April. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching has gone remote, taking place on digital platforms.

Increasingly, U.S. schools, many of which are already out for summer break, are investing in technology and resources to respond to today's new remote learning reality. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, school leaders have the opportunity to invest in educational technology and professional development services to help stabilize the current decrease in student engagement and support a mix of in-person and remote learning.

The bill provides $13.2 billion in K-12 formula grants to states and is distributed to them based on their share of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA) Title I-A funds. Funds to local districts can be used for coronavirus-response activities, such as purchasing educational technology (EdTech) to support online learning for all students, and additional activities authorized by federal elementary and secondary education laws.

Even before the pandemic, there has been a significant uptick in education technology investments. And now, having such tools is even more important as teachers are trying their best to keep students engaged and on track. However, it’s important to avoid common barriers and pitfalls when selecting new school technology that promotes remote learning.

Challenges to consider before investing in new learning tools

A recent survey of nearly 1,000 education professionals shows several barriers preventing effective use of edtech in the classroom. Although 67 percent of respondents identified learning technology as a key means of increasing student engagement, 41 percent of administrators cited budgetary issues as the main reason they don’t have more teaching resources – such as EdTech – and training in their district.

However, since today’s K-12 EdTech tools are so abundant, it can be difficult knowing which ones to invest in: Cutting-edge computing or data-driven instruction? What about adaptive learning, 3D printers, interactive displays and whiteboards, or robotics?

Consider the following tips before taking the edtech investing plunge:

  • Try before buying: Ask vendors to ship you their solutions before you select the best fit for your district/school – it is a critical piece even if teachers and students are out of the classroom
  • Map your edtech investment to your district/school educational technology roadmap
  • Ensure adequate training will be available so your teachers are comfortable using whatever edtech tool you decide to implement
  • Partner with providers that are focused on innovation and dedicated to deepening the learning experience
  • Reach out to other school districts to find out what solutions worked best for them and why
  • Gather testimonials from students and teachers to measure edtech success – consider an annual survey to find out how your edtech investment has boosted learning success
  • Ensure new tech tools will help engage students in creative and innovative ways since doing so will boost their chance of success
  • Think about tools that can help get your classroom back-to-school ready and can be used remotely as well

Once you’ve selected EdTech to promote in-classroom and remote learning, ensure the vendor offers training to teachers on such things like enhancing lesson plans, creating new content, and ensuring sensitive information is protected. Investing in new classroom technology is a huge undertaking – and one that should not have to be done alone – so take advantage of any training and help that a vendor will provide.

Balancing in-classroom engagement with remote learning

According to McKinsey & Company, U.S. students lose a month’s worth of learning over the summer. Further, despite school systems’ best efforts with remote learning, school closures forced by COVID-19 stay-in-place measures could be even more detrimental.

School system leaders around the nation have many important considerations to make related to getting students and teachers safely back into the classroom. Transitioning back into the classroom will be challenging. It will include heightened sanitation protocols and might include alternating school days for different groups of students to help with social distancing. And what about teachers and students who are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19? Will some have to work or learn from home?

Because of the unknown, schools investing in EdTech should try and strike a balance between in-classroom engagement and remote learning.

The time to plan is now

A Blueprint for Back to School, released in May 2020, reports how crucial is it that school leaders plan for when public health officials deem going back to the class safe.

It states, “Technology is never a substitute for an engaged classroom teacher, it can support instruction – and remote learning can be a lot better than nothing at all … The coming months provide an opportunity to assess what worked and did not work with remote learning, address home connectivity gaps, and provide teachers the training they need to succeed next year.”

As deadlines approach for schools and districts to apply for funding provided by the CARES Act, consider how the U.S. education landscape has changed and how edtech tools can best support essential educational interaction both in-classroom and in remote learning. Doing so will help you remain ready for the school year to come – whatever it might look like.


About the authors

Steve Halliwell is Chief Product Officer, Executive Vice President at Promethean. Prior to joining Promethean, Steve most recently held Executive Leadership roles at Amazon Web Services (AWS) since 2011. Steve started the Education and the Healthcare/Life Sciences verticals in addition to running the West Area commercial business. Prior to Amazon, Steve held progressive sales leadership roles in the technology sector with both Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.

Cheryl Miller is Chief Marketing Officer at Promethean. Cheryl has over 20 years in the tech industry and joined Promethean from Microsoft where she was the GM of the One Commercial Partner Team, leading the worldwide go-to-market efforts. Prior to Microsoft, Cheryl was VP of Marketing at F5 Networks and also spent 11 years at Symantec in various product teams including four years leading the Huawei Symantec Joint Venture program office and investment.


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