January 11, 2021


Dear Thought Leader,

Happy New Year! 2020 was a year to remember for many good reasons in education. The mass innovation and transformation, coupled with shining a light on student equity and inclusion, leveled the playing field in many ways. 
Teachers were empowered to embrace 'mission critical' learning technology tools, many of which will no doubt remain beyond the pandemic. The self-learning and co-learning that is happening with parents, classmates and colleagues is heartwarming. The notion that #wereallinthis together rings so true in 2021.
I hope you find our Top 10 Trends in EdTech that we see shaping the future insightful.  Hopefully, they broaden your perspective on teaching and learning beyond COVID, whether you are a student, educator, parent or EdTech solution provider. 
This marks our special lucky13th (born on the 13th!) Special Edition Top 10 Canadian EdTech Trends Report as I gaze into my crystal ball. Additionally, I rely heavily on my colleagues, peers, mentors, MindShare Report advisory board, C21 Canada members and my wife who keeps me grounded daily! 

Despite the devastating pandemic, as a passionate lifelong learner and parent of three Gen Z kids, I have never been more optimistic about Canadian education and the innovative spirit of our future leaders. We have accelerated and innovated learning by necessity that is propelled us at least 5 years into the future. It was exhausting, frightening, and challenging to everyone immersed in the ecosystem. We made it to 2021 and while it was not perfect, you, we collectively made an immense impact on students to become more independent learners, creators, and problem solvers. 

Our work is far from done in helping seal the learning gaps and provide crucial support to assure for teacher and student well-being.
I challenge you as a key education stakeholder to inspire your colleagues to support and nurture our future leaders to strive for excellence through engaging teaching and mentorship, to future proof their skills and to give them confidence to help them thrive in 2021 and beyond!

As always, we value your comments and feedback!  All the best for a healthy and impactful year in 2021!
Until next time, keep the digital learning curve steep!

Robert Martellacci, M.A. EdTech
President, MindShare Learning Technology™
Chief Digital Publisher, The MindShare Learning Report™
CEO & Co-founder & C21 Canada™

Follow us on Twitter @MindShareLearn

1. Virtual Learning Environments and LMS Plaforms  
Once considered a nice to have in K12 education, virtual learning environments and learning platforms are vital to sustaining learning and will become a permanent tool in the teacher's or professor's toolbox. At the elementary level, the Bitmoji classroom is a simple and intuitive way to help support students and parents during the pandemic with essential tools and resources. Mr. Lawrence's image above is a great example and inspiration for other teachers. It allows teachers to link off images. Click here to explore further. 
The LMS platform space in Canada, now mission critical, is becoming increasingly dominated by homegrown solutions, D2L, Edwin and Edsby
2. Teacher and Student Well-Being
A more holistic approach in these challenging times is vital to students thriving in the digital age. Hence, being mindful of body, mind and spirit during the pandemic is key to students and teachers navigating through the complexities of dealing with the pandemic and beyond. I'm a BIG proponent of infusing physical activity in your daily routine to help students focus and be energized throughout the day. 
3. Future Proofing of Education and Student Skills
The pandemic resulted in massive disruptions in education and it's not over yet. The notion of future proofing systems, teacher & student skills is vital to our country's success and well-being. 
Have a read of the C21 Canada CEO COVID Playbook Surviving and Thriving for a deeper dive into the vast resources to help you plan.
4. Online Learning Has Come of Age in Many Forms; Blended, Hybrid and Synchronous
Digital and online learning in all formats was predicted to grow at an exponential rate in the K12 and post-secondary space last year. The pandemic accelerated this this 10-fold and will only continue to grow.

Checkout the vast FREE resources from the OECD in collaboration with Harvard.
5. Professional Learning for Teachers & Parents
The Emergence of the Pedagogical Help Desk and A.I. Bots 
Although #5 PD could easily be at the top of the list. The pandemic has inspired teachers, (some kicking and screaming) to embrace tech infused pedagogy in the classroom and now online. Faced with crisis learning in the Spring, many teachers are now having to pivot online which has presented further challenges for newbies. Many school systems across Canada are struggling to meet the needs of teachers in an effort to ramp up their digital skills. Several Canadian EdTech companies are now stepping up to provide outsourced support such as Compugen, Logics and Paper Learning, to name a few. 
Not to be ignored, parents are now thrust into teacher support roles. Some districts have begun offering parent PD. This trend will gain significant traction in 2021. Also watch for A.I. Bots to pick up the slack in offering 24/7 service.
6. The Rise of Learning Communities and Experiential Learning
It takes a Digital Village to Raise a Child in the 21st Century 
The pandemic has shown many cracks in education and governmental support systems. There are emerging grassroots learning networks that are helping fill the equity, digital skills and lifelong learning gaps. A great example is Erin Mills Connects. Another worthy mention is Riipen an EdTech company focused on integrated work and learning experiences where projects are embedded directly into the curriculum. 
Strategic partnerships between education, government and industry will drive innovation to pivot and help students prepare for jobs of the future. Lifelong learning will be a key component beyond post-secondary, that become part of a larger SMART City Strategy. Or, The Learning country paradigm is one that will further evolve that will provide inspiration for life long learning and access to bandwidth and other supports in order for citizens to thrive in the 21st century. 
7. Digital Equity and Access to Stable Bandwidth 
Many districts have done an excellent job in addressing the digital equity gap in supporting remote and hybrid learning with the provision of devices and internet access. The Feds are stepping up with major investments to provide stable internet access for the continuation of learning at school and home. The pandemic has been a real catalyst where we will see further significant funding from provinces, the purchasing of devices and digital resources. Good news for the EdTech solution providers in challenging times. The key is to offer the right learning tools at the right time. 
ContractNorth has risen to the occasion with their vast research and resources to support online learning in remote regions. A shout out to TakingItGlobal who have expanded their ConnectNorth program to support First Nations communities. LearingBird also deserves an honourable mention as they provide customer digital curriculum to First Nation communities.
8. School Design Thinking Taking on a 'New Look' Broadcasting Studios Catering to Hybrid and Online Learning
As a result of the pandemic we're seeing a massive redefinition of a teacher workspace as evidence by the image of my workspace. We transformed my workspace into a podcasting studio as we launched MindShareTV. 
Inspirational and safe spaces are a key element of the student success equation. Functional maker space that are designed with essential tools for teacher and students to be creators and makers, sure to inspire the next talented engineers, coders, designers and entrepreneurs! Smith System, a Steelcase company has done wonders in this space.
As a bit of pioneer of podcasting, now in my 14th year, we're seeing a trend of this technology making its way into education at all levels from leaders, teachers and students starting their own podcasting channels. Teacher and student voice has never been stronger. Podcasting especially allows students to share their knowledge, discover their passions and thrive as individuals. 

Checkout our extensive library of podcasts! Of note, my very first podcast was while doing my Master's degree in EdTech in 2006, where I was honoured to interview legendary professor, Dr. Seymour Papert from MIT, a pioneer in computational thinking, who envisioned the first computer in education. Have a listen here.
9. Student Engagement Solutions for Deeper Learning 
Student engagement in a pandemic and beyond is extremely challenging for educators, when trying to balance screen time and well-being. 
Excellent FREE Virtual STEM activities have emerged from organizations such as Let's Talk Science, Ontario Tech University and other CanCode solution providers. 
The key for teachers and parents is to allow students to be creators and challenge them with 'hard' fun projects to build, design and problem solve. There are vast EdTech Tools to allow students to animate, design virtual worlds, create videos and podcasts too! Here's a link from the CCFLH to highlight a few.
eSports as a student engagement platform is also gaining a lot of traction in Canadian education, where students are competing as they would on other varsity teams. Dell Technologies has very much been a leader in this space.
The Flipped Classroom model is another concept that has come of age to bridge the gap with hybrid learning to engage students. The University of Waterloo has an excellent FREE resource available. Click here.
10. Evidence Based Research to Support New Paradigms for Learning 
2020 will go down in history as the most transformational period in modern times due to the pandemic. Teaching and learning in a crisis has not provided pause to allow for proper research to help drive future decisions in education. 2021 is the year for laser focused evidence-based research to be share with policy makers to make informed decisions to support school districts and professors.  Vast resources have been wasted and learning losses have occurred in 2020. There are many lessons to be learned and difficult to put the blame on any one individual. The OECD has done extensive research over the past year and will no doubt continue to provide insight and inspiration for leaders and teachers as they grapple with the continued crisis learning that we face across Canada. 
However, it is a delicate balancing act when one factors in student and teacher well-being. Case in point, the Ontario Ministry of Education requiring teachers to implement 3 hrs. of synchronous learning for elementary students and 5 hrs. for high school students is intuitively excessive. This is where the medical professionals need to be also consulted along with pedagogical experts from some of the top universities in Canada, in the best of students and teachers. Immense pressure will come to bear from unions and parents, who will help strike a better balance to meet the needs of teachers and learners in the way of best practice.

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