As the 2020-21 school year opens, schools and classrooms across the country are eerily quiet. Millions of students are beginning the school year remote learning from home. Teachers have spent weeks and months preparing for this change as COVID-19 failed to dissipate over the summer. Instead of back-to-school shopping, parents frantically worked to figure out how distance learning would be possible in their home due to work commitments, space constraints, computer and internet limitations, and just overall sanity. Teachers have been taking their curriculum and figuring out how to transition to online teaching while not losing instructional rigor, engagement, and a sense of classroom / school community.
These are strange times. However, we must embrace this new normal for what it is: our current reality. While we all want children back in school, we must wait until it is safe to do so, not just for them, but for teachers, staff and parents. We must accept this reality and do our best with it.
With that said, here are 5 educational concepts we need to eliminate in 2020:
- Saying That Distance Learning Doesn’t Work
We teach our students to have a growth mindset, to overcome obstacles, and to problem solve. We must do the same during these unpredictable times. For most teachers, the move to remote learning has been eye-opening. It has been difficult to pivot from in-person instruction, to remote teaching. While not the same, online tools do allow for back and forth communication, small group collaboration, whiteboard demonstrations, and the sharing of videos and pictures. While it is not perfect, it does work. It might not be what is best for all students, but it is what we have for right now. We need to have a growth mindset about remote teaching and learning in order to provide the best educational experience for our students.
- Not Having One-To-One Devices For All Students
One lesson that is being learned during this pandemic is that all students need access to a device for learning. School districts must make one-to-one initiatives a priority, not just for right now, but for the future. Districts have been scrambling to provide students with remote learning devices for months. Many manufacturers of laptop and tablets are now reporting shortages in availability due to need. This expenditure, along with Internet hot spots, needs to be a top priority for districts. Access to learning should not be an issue in 2020.
- The phrase “I don’t use technology in my classroom”.
This one is self explanatory. No discussion needed.
- Underestimating the Technology Skills of Children
One of the common concerns of remote learning is about students’ ability to navigate the technology. However, we have seen our students rise to the challenge, navigating through various LMS, email systems, and online portals. This is undoubtedly due to teachers providing expert demonstrations and tutorials to their students. We must remember that this world is more natural to children than many of the educators working with them. Digital Natives understand how to navigate this world seamless and effortlessly. When 7 year olds are creating, designing, and submitting Google Slides presentations, you know that something is working right.
- Homework As We Know It
Students are spending hours in front of a computer screen every day engaged in distance learning with their teachers. It is inevitable that Zoom fatigue will set in and eyes will become strained from spending so much time in front of a screen. Therefore, it is time for us once again to reconsider the concept and application of homework. Do we want, or need, students to spend more time in front of a screen after a long day of distance learning? Do teachers want, or need, to spend additional hours in the afternoon and evening grading more work online? While there will still be the need for students to submit writing samples and completed math problem sets, they don’t need to be doing them at night. After being inside all day, children of all ages need to get outside into the fresh air. They need to be able to see their friends, with social distancing protocols in place. Locking them up with homework will lead to more mental health concerns due to social isolation, depression, and anxiety. Once the school day is over, children need to unplug and disconnect.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.principalsdesk.org.