The 2020 school year saw some of the most difficult circumstances ever imagined as schools across the country pivoted in a moment’s notice to provide a remote learning bridge to over 50 million K-12 public school students. With this “hard over” to remote learning came an irreversible change in how and what role technology will play in our kids’ education.

Closing the Technology GAP in 2021

During the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, supply chains were struggling mightily to meet the high demand for devices. School districts were aggressively trying to close the technology gap as many K-12 students in the U.S. remained without adequate devices and broadband. According to NPD’s U.S. B2B Technology Vertical Reseller Tracking service, K-12 combined hardware and software revenue increased 52% year over year and 64% vs. same period in 2019. Hardware specific purchases during the first half of 2021 increased by 60% vs. last year and 69% vs. 2019.

Expectations for the Balance of 2021 and Beyond

Expectations for B2B technology sales for the balance of the year remain positive as many school districts received only partial shipments of the devices they previously ordered. Specifically, Chromebook channel inventories are improving as aging backlog continues to clear. Windows based notebooks remain a challenge as core components continue to be in short supply. However, supply is expected to begin to normalize by the end of the first half of 2022 and will continue to improve.

Looking ahead to the 2022 – 2023 school year, the annual budget from the White House proposes $102.8B for K-12 schools alone. The proposed budget provides schools with the funding levels necessary to continue to support the critical technology and non-technology needs for each student, as well as providing significant investment in funding and resources for school counselors, nurses, and other mental health professionals. Some potential technology areas of investment include:

• eSports hardware and software purchases will likely increase as gaming continues to be a significant driver in sports and in technology development and programming.
• Gamification is also an area of increased focus as students feel that they have more ownership and control of their own learning and seem to be more comfortable in gaming environments with less concern about making mistakes than in traditional learning.
• Live tutoring systems and platforms are showing increased demand as students are responding positively to more personalization.

Moving forward it will be important for schools to look to drive more personalization and experiential learning to enable students to learn at different rates and through more varied experiences. Based on the lessons learned from the unconventional 2020 – 2021 school year, it will be critical to take the best and most effective uses of technology and fold them into our existing structure.