Back to School: 4 EdTech Trends to Watch This Year

1) Data insights that help schools improve.

Good decisions are made using good data. Panorama Education is one startup that’s helping school districts gather data from students, teachers and families; analyze it; and then help districts put plans in place to affect real change. Some of the issues Panorama is helping districts explore and address are Social-Emotional Learning, Family Engagement, School Climate and Community Engagement. More than 6,500 schools across the U.S. are already working with Panorama, including some of the nation’s largest districts.

2) Gamifying learning to code.

Teaching students how to code software is one of the most valuable skills you can give them, and will virtually guarantee them employment once they’re in the workforce. CodeCombat is one company making learning to code as easy as playing a game – it’s a great classroom tool that enables teachers without any computer science background to teach coding. Students learn quickly, and much more than they would with drag-and-drop tools such as Scratch, or Minecraft (which doesn’t teach coding at all). CodeCombat is already used in thousands of schools.

3) Professional development evolves.

Ironically, teachers don’t typically enjoy classroom-style PD events, which tend to be all lecture and little action. This is another area where Panorama Education shines, with a tool called Playbook that’s filled with actionable advice from teachers, for teachers. Teachers can look up a particular challenge – for instance, engaging students in a dialogue about preventing bullying in class – and find strategies that have worked for their peers.

4) Paperless preschools.

Ed tech is now moving downstream, with companies such as brightwheel and others targeting preschools and daycares with software for automating check-in/check-out, invoicing and communicating with families throughout the day. These tools are saving teachers and administrators hours of work each week and removing much of the paper from the process. Brightwheel is also in use at thousands of preschools and daycares (and was recently featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank”).

Michelle G. Faulkner is the principal of Big Swing Communications (