Whether it is through helping school systems cut connectivity costs, or navigate the ever-changing digital landscape, 8x8 has always been focused on how emerging technologies could solve problems. We're passionate about curing your headaches. But we're even more passionate when the problems are solved, and we're left to wonder even further–how can technology not only come to the rescue but provide brand new educational possibilities that have yet to be realized?

Much of the world is rightly anxious at the moment at the prospect of kids needing to return to school. Fully in-person learning just seems out of reach for much of the country. Yet many parents and educators also worry that the end of the last school year was largely a trial-run for distance learning, and the results were not as encouraging as they would have hoped.

Initial research by the Northwest Evaluation Association suggests that students will be entering the next school year only having made 70% of the learning gains that had been expected, with that number much lower for certain subjects like math where it was below 50%.

These are the kinds of figures one might expect if tech were being brought in last minute as a cure, or a bandaid, for this particular, unprecedented, global headache. The world was caught off-guard, with little to no training in how to take advantage of remote learning platforms. If remote learning was expected to replicate the experience of the classroom, then it didn't do a very good job.

But replicating the classroom is not where today's tech solutions shine. If this next school year is going to prove any better than last year, we think it's time to ask, "how can technology not only come to the rescue but open up brand new possibilities?"

Bring the World to You

Field trips have always been a way to inject liveliness and fun into a subject while placing it in a real-world context. They're also expensive and time-consuming. This crucial experience of getting to see the relevance of your subject in real life has been so valuable to students over the years, and yet they get that experience all too rarely.

Well before this pandemic, when classes started to wonder how tech might connect them back to the classroom, 8x8 has been encouraging classrooms to think about how technology could bring the world to them.

Using cloud-based video, teachers can bring in experts from anywhere in the world to discuss their subjects. It doesn't matter where they are, if they have an internet connection, they might as well be in your classroom. With the click of a button, you can bring students an experience that was all too rare in the time where real-world experience meant loading onto a bus and seeing what you could find.

Anything done over the cloud can be recorded and reused. Flexibility like this provides tools teachers have never had before.

Along with connecting your students with experts or outside educators for lectures and conversations, you can also more easily connect students. Cross-class connections can encourage collaboration in a way that incorporates some of that needed social education kids get from school. Projects might include having middle and upper school students interviewing each other, and harnessing their handling of knowledge by attempting to teach it to the other.

Again, any presentation given over the cloud by a student can be recorded and reused for future material. The exercise of creating these presentations is one of the best ways for students to synthesize what they're learning, and it all adds up to even more educational material for the teacher.

Be Secure in your Connections

In this day and age, where so much of our private lives are intertwined with our digital lives, some educators have shown hesitation about the security of cloud-based tech. 8x8 prides itself on the privacy we provide on our platforms.

For instance, the 8x8 mobile app allows teachers to call students' homes at their convenience. Their names will appear on caller ID. Parents will know who is calling, but the teacher's number remains hidden.

Back in 2015, Tim Goree, Director of Technology Support Serves for Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, made the switch over to 8x8 and had this to say:

"Our teachers love the mobile app because it gives them the flexibility to place calls after hours in a professional manner. Parents can see from the caller ID that the school is trying to reach them, and teachers can keep their cell phone numbers private."

Enjoy Real Ease of Use, Accessibility, and Flexibility

Any platform that is going to be relied upon to this extent had better be supremely effective and easy to use. People have an extremely low tolerance for poor app experiences, usually deleting an app after only a brief look at an ugly or clunky interface.

8x8 Meetings couldn't be easier to use with a straight forward design, teachers and students can begin to take advantage of right away. It is a part of our X2 license, which is already in use around the world to help quarantined teachers thrive. Additionally, the X2 license provides teachers with a business number they can use to contact and communicate with parents, administrators, and other teachers via voice, team messaging, department rooms, or SMS. This kind of multi-module approach provides much-needed flexibility. Parents gain the ability to connect teachers via SMS, voice, or even video messaging, allowing the most effective communication choices based on need. Teachers gain flexibility, manageability of their time, and tools of communicating, but now with privacy shields around personal devices and personal contact information. Administrators gain the same benefits but also get reporting information around these dialogues.

Moving Forward

The current moment is hard, and technology can help to see us through it. But thinking of distance learning simply as a bandaid will only result in suboptimal learning gains for a whole generation of students. If schools must work with distance learning for some time, the best thing to do is ask ourselves, what doors can this technology open for us? How can distance learning be, in some ways, even better than the classroom? Digging into that question will not only result in the most positive experiences for students and teachers in this upcoming year but might also help grow our perspective on education in a way that outlives this pandemic. Brand new technologies are great for solving old problems or even getting us through hard times. They also offer fascinating new possibilities. We want to help you explore those possibilities easily and securely.