The transition to distance learning has been a huge undertaking for teachers, and you’ve needed to rapidly adapt and innovate to support your students. Looking to learn more about this transition, TpT’s research team talked to educators about your experiences with distance learning and how you think teaching might evolve long term. Through these conversations, we learned that teachers anticipate several changes in education will persist — through this back-to-school season and beyond. Keep reading to find out more about the three predictions your colleagues made for the future of education.

1) Technology Use Will Increase

When schools closed, many teachers increased their use of digital tools in order to support distance learning. The teachers we spoke with who already felt comfortable with technology said that they relied on these tools more than ever before, and less tech-savvy teachers said they looked for opportunities to grow their technical skills. Many educators said they attended professional development workshops offered by their schools, and they spent time on their own getting up to speed on video conferencing platforms, learning management systems, and other online tools. Some teachers also found useful guidance on going digital from TpT Teacher-Authors, including Not So Wimpy Teacher and Lucky Little Learners

As a result of this shift, the teachers we spoke with expect that the use of technology in instruction will increase over time. “If anything, it’s probably going to make education go even more digital,” said Erin, a 3rd grade teacher in Illinois. In a survey on our site, 59% of teachers said that they’re preparing for the 2020-2021 school year by brushing up on new digital tools. Already, Teacher-Authors have been quick to respond to this growing demand, adding over 190,000 new resources for Google Apps and creating over 25,000 TpT Digital Activities with TpT’s new annotation tool between March and the end of July.

2) Issues of Inequity Will Continue to Need Attention

The teachers we spoke with also said it will be crucial to address issues of inequity during this moment of transition. We’ve witnessed how school closures have had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable student populations, including students from low income homes, emerging bilingual students, special education students, and others. Many of these students lack access to the resources they need, such as devices, internet access, and proper learning supports. To this point, Beverly, an educator in California, expressed, “Distance learning across our country is not going to be the same — it’s not equitable, because the resources aren’t out there.” To add to this, police violence against Black Americans and the responding protests around the world have shed light on the critical need to discuss racial justice in our daily lives. In the classroom, these conversations are necessary for an equitable and inclusive learning environment. As the teachers we spoke with looked to the future, they shared their hopes that the transition to distance learning would shine a light on the urgent need to address these inequities in order to support every student.

3) Connections Between Home and School Will Deepen

The educators we interviewed also shared that relationships with students’ families changed during distance learning and that they think these relationships will continue to evolve over time. Like these teachers, you may have found you were reaching out to student families more than ever before. The teachers we spoke with said, for example, that they sent out surveys to gauge student access to technology, and they relied heavily on students’ families to pick up packets or to help students submit assignments online. Several of these teachers anticipated sharing more resources with families for in-home learning and encouraging their continued support for their child’s learning. To this point, Andrea M., an early elementary teacher in Florida said, “I’ve never really shared with parents what websites and what learning sites we go to… So I think maybe [I’ll let] parents know what’s out there for them to do it at home.” 

Teachers expect that challenges will remain for communication between teachers and families. A majority of the teachers we spoke with said they had one or more students that they had difficulty getting in contact with. Additionally, schools will need to consider ways to support families for whom English is not the first language and families dealing with various struggles at home. But teachers like you have demonstrated a commitment to finding ways to more meaningfully connect with students’ families. For example, Dominique B., a 3rd grade teacher in North Carolina, knew some of her students were home with grandparents or great-grandparents, so she said she asked herself, “How do you foster relationships with the older generations to support our students with technology as well?” By considering these questions of equity and access in relationships with caregivers, teachers like you are discovering how to better strengthen the connection between home and school. 

In just a few months, the education landscape has changed significantly, and we’re continuing to see teachers respond to dramatic shifts to support student learning. But as always, teachers like you are innovating, advocating, and problem-solving through it all. You’re creating the future of education as you live it — adapting to new technology, connecting with students and families in new ways, and so much more. While we can expect even more changes to come, the dedication and resilience of educators will always be a constant.

Confidently navigate the 2020-21 school year with expert Teacher-Author and educator advice in TpT’s Back to School 2020 Guide: For Teachers Creating Tomorrow.