“A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that'll talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”
Last March, when America closed its schools, it would have been hard to imagine that we could be just a few weeks from Christmas with no real resolution in site. But maybe things aren’t as bleak as they would seem. COVID-19 may indeed be the Grinch, but Christmas will not be stolen. And even if Barney and Ben don’t get that snazzy new pair of Hopalong boots, rest assured that they are getting a good education, and perhaps a better education than if the pandemic had never happened.
School districts are making their lists, and America’s brightest and best are figuring out ways to not only cope with remote and hybrid learning, but to use this interruption as a catalyst to make the changes we have needed for many years.
It would have been easy to just throw in the towel. But you, the men and women of EdTech, don’t do easy. You do what needs to be done. And you do what you do for a reason, to benefit our children and ensure a better future.
So, here’s what is on America’s education Christmas list this year
Special Needs Engagement – for those of you working in the special needs space, we are hearing from our school districts that children on the spectrum and many others with special needs are having a tough time connecting online and feeling like they are part of the action. As we know, many in our special needs population have a hard time with changing routines and changing situations. If you have a solution to this challenge, our districts need to hear from you yesterday.
Student Wellbeing – most of us could not have predicted just how strongly our children’s sense of wellbeing would be affected during the lockdown and subsequent move to remote and now hybrid learning. Everyone has been touched by circumstances – administrators, teachers, parents and especially students. Can your company help? Please, let our districts know.
A New Pony – okay, just seeing if you were paying attention.
Online Literacy Tools – Perhaps more than any other time since before the invention of the television, our kids have time and the motivation to read. Relevant, engaging content is sorely needed, especially if it is leveled for different reading abilities. Our schools are asking for good reads. What do you have?
Civics Education – All you need to do is look around, watch the news or speak with young people and you will see the need for Civics education. Years ago, Civics used to be mandatory in most school systems. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Perhaps if more people knew the way our democracy works, we would not have the civil unrest we see each night on the news or looking out our windows. Schools are realizing this and are on the lookout for quality Civics curriculum for their learners.
Safety materials – Schools are still buying plexiglass dividers, flexible furniture and almost anything that can make their physical spaces safer. If you sell anything that can help, please let them know. Don’t assume they have everything they need, or that they wouldn’t be open to a better idea.
Computer Hardware – The buying spree is still going. Many schools have not been able to find everything they need. They are still looking for Chromebooks, laptops and tablets to take home, as well as hardware for the classroom including desktops with over-sized monitors, and flat panel displays.
Software – Learning Management platforms, Single Sign On solutions, conferencing software, AR/VR and more.
Professional Development – The transition to virtual learning created a major-league need for professional development. If you have PD that can help make smooth the transition for our learners, let them know.
Connectivity – Connectivity is still an issue for many learners. Mobile hotspots and discounted or free Internet broadband are sorely needed right now. If you have products to sell, let our districts know.
Curriculum – Schools are buying everything right now. They are scouring the digisphere for new and better curriculum across every subject area. Many districts are using the pandemic as a reason to upgrade and improve their curricular offerings. Without teachers in the classroom everyday for every student, the need for the best courses and courseware has never been greater.
The EdTech spend is expected to be almost 40 percent greater this year than last. In addition to the CARES Act and state and federal grant money, school and district purchasing luminaries are rethinking the effectiveness of all learning materials, so even the districts that told you no may have changed their priorities.
Don’t let little Barney and Ben, Janice and Jen go wanting this Christmas season. If you have what they need, let America’s school community know. Tell them, in no uncertain terms, what you have and why it matters. This means raising your visibility like never before. Seek out podcasts and schedule a guest appearance at least monthly. Participate regularly with a speaking role in virtual events and webinars. Write thought-leadership articles in the education press. Issue press releases every time your company has an announcement. Issue whitepapers and briefs. Sponsor regional and national events held by relevant education associations and organizations. Create a strategy for your outreach and put it on your calendar. Announce yourself consistently to people who can buy from you – because now, they will.
All this outreach is must have, not nice-to-have. Schools are looking to buy from you, but there is a lot of noise out there. So, unless you have a reindeer with a shiny red nose, you’ll need to rise above the din.
About the author
Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.