In her advanced placement psychology class at Springfield High School in Holland, Ohio, teacher McKenna Reitz began using Google Classroom during the pandemic. She's never looked back.
"Now I have the ability ... to be in constant connection with my students. I can upload the online textbook to Google Slides. They're able to turn in their homework that way," she says. "The technology has taken education to a deeper level."
Inspired by the need to connect remotely, and supported by $122 billion in educational funding in the American Rescue Plan, education technology, or edtech, has taken center stage in school systems across the country.
Tech giants have led the way with connectivity products like Zoom, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom, all of which powered remote learning in the early days of the pandemic.
But it doesn't stop there: Apps like Quizlet (a web-based tool that delivers flashcards and study aids) "smart board" interactive displays and learning systems like Canvas are changing the way the classroom operates.
"Teachers are much more tech savvy now than they've ever been before. They've received a lot more professional development around technology," says Adam Garry, Dell senior director of education strategy. "The pandemic probably accelerated this more than any other thing that we've ever tried in education."
A survey of more than 32,000 schools by The Learning Council, which is dedicated to researching the transition to digital curriculum, found 87 percent now issue students a personal computing device. And 54 percent of educators surveyed said they feel that technology is very useful, according to Dun & Bradstreet marketing division MDR.
Analysts predict a surge in demand for edtech, with the market expected to swell from $254.8 billion in 2021 to $604.4 billion by 2027.
The rise of learning management systems (LMS) has been especially impactful. These systems give teachers the ability to plan and deliver lesson content, monitor students' participation in the work and assess performance.
"Educators are using LMS to make sure students have a more personalized approach to the process of learning," Garry says.
In his classes, Kerrest McGraw, a first-grade teacher in Montgomery, Ala., public schools, every student has been issued a Chromebook. McGraw leverages an artificial intelligence (AI) tool, Amira, to teach reading. Amira recommends stories, listens to kids read aloud, assesses progress and offers helpful interventions.
"Kids at this age are very hands-on. With the Chromebooks, they are able to click on sounds, to click on vocabulary words to get the meaning, instead of just sitting there listening to me lecture," McGraw says.
"The technology gives them a chance to move around. They come up to the smartboard and write down letters and sounds. All of that helps to keep them engaged," he says. "With the AI, Amira helps them to build comprehension and vocabulary, and it gives me ways to monitor their progress."
In Reitz's school, all teachers use Google Classroom, which allows educators to make assignments and grade students' work.
Thanks to technology, "We're able to provide various resources to our students in such a different way," she says. "We have students that learn in every different way - from verbal to auditory, to kinesthetic and everything in between - and edtech helps us to meet all those different needs."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: These digital classroom tools are shaping how teacher's educate