The use of educational technology surged during the global pandemic as teachers swiftly shifted from in-person classroom teaching to virtual learning environments. However, in many cases, the crisis sped up an existing trend involving the growing application of innovative digital tools in the classroom.

One of the drivers of this shift is Generation Z. Today’s students never knew a world without computers, tablets, smartphones, social media, and virtual reality. They feel comfortable with digital tools, making their use in the classroom even more effective for teachers.

Earning a graduate certificate in educational technology allows teachers to learn ed tech skills for the classroom while also earning essential professional development credit. Offered 100% online, a certificate program prepares teachers to become technology leaders in their schools and better educators for the current generation of students.

The Evolution of Ed Tech

Most media reports on educational technology during the pandemic revolved around virtual classrooms. But technology has evolved to the point where it offers significant support in the physical classroom, providing students with a richer and more engaging experience.

School districts differ in what they offer in ed tech. But some of the biggest trends in ed tech involve deploying digital tools in traditional classroom environments.

Immersive education. The term “immersive” applies to virtual or augmented reality technology that allows students to explore 3D environments. The possibilities range from touring ancient ruins and visiting science museums to walking through a modern city or landscape.

Gamification. While using games as learning tools is not new, technological innovations continue to make them more effective. The creation of point systems and putting individuals or groups of students on “missions” makes learning more fun and motivates students to higher performance.

Asynchronous learning. A central facet of online learning, asynchronous learning can also help traditional classroom students. For example, teachers can post lectures or information online and assign that as homework, freeing up time in the classroom for more one-on-one instruction.

Schools can also focus on teaching computational thinking, creating learning modules with dynamic AI based on a student’s ability level, and using technology to develop more flexible curriculums.

Engaging Students and Parents

In all the different areas of ed tech, the running theme is finding better ways to engage students and parents. A simple but effective example developed at many schools in recent years is an online classroom website that allows students 24/7 access to classroom materials and allows parents access to grades and other information.

Also, the ability to have students experience 3D environments using virtual reality, including education-focused metaverses, typically leads to higher levels of engagement. Walking around the pyramids is more engaging than just hearing about them.

Tech industry business strategies also benefit schools. Most tech companies use an agile product development approach that calls for putting new versions of apps and programs on the market to test them, then make changes as users give them feedback. This means that educators have access to new versions of digital tools every school year.

Merrimack College Graduate Certificate in Educational Technology

For many teachers, the fast-paced world of ed tech can seem overwhelming. Earning a graduate certificate in education technology can help teachers become more grounded in using digital tools, helping them better engage students.

Many who have gained experience and insight as online teachers share their expertise with colleagues. However, the certificate course allows educators to focus on digital tools exclusively. They also can earn professional development credit required by states to maintain a teaching certificate.

The program has six start dates a year, and teachers can choose three eight-week courses that reflect their interests and goals. Students can complete the program in under six months. A master’s degree and licensure are not required.

Educational technology has become a part of classroom education. It’s a trend that will only increase in the coming years. By educating themselves on edtech best practices, teachers better prepare themselves for the classroom of the future.