Ed tech use continues to climb ahead of ESSER fiscal cliff

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Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • School districts on average tapped into 2,739 different ed tech tools during the 2023-24 school year — up 8% from an average of 2,518 tools the previous school year, according to a recent report by Instructure’s LearnPlatform, an ed tech platform that helps districts research and choose digital learning products.
  • The average number of unique ed tech tools used by students and educators saw a slight uptick, according to the LearnPlatform report. In 2023-24, students accessed 45 different tools compared to 42 in 2022-23, while educators used an average of 49 tools in 2023-24 versus 42 the previous year. 
  • Among the 40 ed tech tools most commonly used by districts in 2023-24, 60% focused on individual learners through activities that include studying, creation, research and games.

Dive Insight:

While questions remain as to how the funding cliff for pandemic-era Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds will impact future ed tech investments, LearnPlatform’s findings show the overall use of ed tech continues to balloon since 2020.

Before COVID-19, districts used an average 841 unique ed tech tools during the 2018-19 school year, according to LearnPlatform. That figure more than doubled the following year to 2,195 and steadily rose over the next four years. 

Schools and districts have until Sept. 30 to allocate the last of the $189.5 billion dollars from the ESSER funds, some of which schools have used to purchase ed tech. On top of that, global ed tech venture funding hit a low in Q1 2024 not seen since 2014, according to an April analysis from global market data platform HolonIQ.

There are some signs that artificial intelligence could continue to drive investments in ed tech, as LearnPlatform found indications that the use of AI-related technology is on the rise for schools. Should schools continue to embrace AI similar to other industries, ed tech “may not be far away” from seeing an influx in investments, according to a February analysis from ed tech investor Reach Capital.

As more schools rely on widespread digital landscapes, districts are increasingly vulnerable to cyberthreats — particularly ransomware. The integration of AI in ed tech tools further complicates student data privacy protections.

Given concerns surrounding schools’ ability to secure their sensitive data, the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum created an AI vetting checklist for districts to ensure student data privacy is safeguarded. The process is fairly similar to what districts should be doing when vetting general ed tech tools, FPF said in its guidance released in April. 

LearnPlatform also suggests K-12 leaders create clear policies for AI usage that include ethical guidance regarding bias, privacy and transparency. 

The findings from LearnPlatform’s ed tech report in 2023-24 are based on a data analysis across 436 school districts, which included nearly 493,000 educators and 3.58 million students.