2020 was a rough year on everyone in education. Schools across the country were closed to in-person learning due to fear of virus spreading throughout communities. Instead of classrooms, students learned from their teachers from their bedrooms, kitchens, dens, and day care facilities open for essential workers. Teachers were forced to pivot quickly from in-person to remote teaching, without training, the proper online tools, or online curriculum. While some schools were able to slowly bring back students in a hybrid manner, many schools remained closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and into the fall and winter, and straight through to the end of 2020. As educators, we learned a lot about ourselves, what we are capable of, and what works and what doesn’t in this new and challenging learning environment.
In 2017, I published the first article in this series of concepts we need to eliminate in education. I have published an updated article every year, focusing on education reform and to challenge the status quo. Combined, these articles have been read in over 150 countries by thousands of teachers, administrators, classroom aides, curriculum designers, and parents. Now, I am proud to bring you the next and fifth installment of this series.
Here are 5 educational concepts we need to eliminate in 2021.
- Not Valuing 1-to-1 Devices for All Students
The pivot to online teaching and learning brought about the need for 1-to-1 devices for all students. While some families were able to provide their own devices for distance learning, some families across the country struggled to get their children online. For months, students waited for district issued devices, missing out of valuable instructional time with their teachers. Attendance rates plummeted in many districts across the country as students had no way of logging into their online accounts. While it was impossible to see this pandemic coming, we now know that districts need to be prepared to shift from in-person to remote teaching and learning quickly and efficiently.
School systems need to value the power of 1-to-1 devices. Instruction can be delivered in new and excited ways utilizing this technology. Furthermore, students will expect this integration even when they are back learning in-person.
- Brick and Mortar Districts Not Offering a Virtual Learning Option
Remote learning brought about the ability of students to learn from anywhere. A quick stroll through social media created an insight into some remote-working parents’ ability to take their children on the road with them. Children were able to learn in the real world, visiting national parks, historical monuments, and explore nature in new ways. While many parents are looking forward to having their children returning to school full time, others will be interested in virtual learning options. As some businesses have embraced the remote work environment for the long-term, so should school systems. Let’s be honest, the traditional setting in which the vast majority of students know and experience as “school” didn’t work for everyone. We can’t expect that it will work for everyone when we return.
- Not Having Technology Use a Part of Teacher Evaluations
As school systems began to shut the doors to in-person learning, many teachers struggled with the move to online teaching and learning. Not all teachers are at the same level of comfort in using technology with their students. However, this must change. Districts must support all teachers with dynamic and comprehensive training on using instructional technology as all students will not only benefit from their teachers using instructional technology in the classroom, but will also expect it. Teachers need to be comfortable in using learning management systems, collaboration tools, and asynchronous software as a way of delivering instruction. Training should be ongoing and not considered voluntary.
- Teachers Using Old, Outdated Technology
Another frustrating aspect of online teaching for teachers was that many of them were using outdated technology. Reports of laptops not having an internal microphone or a working camera were a frequent site on social media. If teachers are to be expected to utilize instructional technology to the fullest extent, they must be provided with devices that are current and in good working order. Districts need to create a robust device management system in order to track software updates, laptop age, repair tickets, and connectivity issues. Teachers should never be in the dark when it comes to using technology that they are required to use to reach all students.
- Measuring Instructional Rigor By Seat Time
Many districts struggled this past year with ensuring that students were receiving enough instructional minutes as articulated by individual board and state policies. Administrators changed “bell” schedules time and time again to attempt to meet antiquated time requirements. Instead of focusing on the amount of time spent in class, focus on how that time is being used. A student who is in class 20 minutes more per day than another student isn’t necessarily receiving a better, more robust educational experience. Educators should be focused on how time is spent each and every day. I’d rather my child receive 30 minutes of engaging, dynamic instruction than an hour of loose, vague learning.
Dr. David Franklin is District Strategy Consultant for Nearpod, an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter and has presented at national and international education conferences.