2020 Remote Learning May Leave a Positive Legacy
No one saw it coming, but COVID-19 may prove to be a permanent game changer when it comes to education. In March and April of 2020, teachers were not prepared for the sudden closing of schools in an effort to control the spread of this virus that created a global pandemic.
Students were sent home to a wide range of remote learning realities. Some had packets of hard copy worksheets to complete. Others had teachers who tried to deliver at least some curriculum content using Internet tools and platforms. Many parents struggled with the technology and the fact that much of their child’s learning was now up to them. For many, the end of the school year did not come fast enough.
By the time summer break rolled around, the realization was starting to set in that we would be dealing with COVID-19 for a long time. School districts and public charter schools were directed to plan for the worse even though everyone was hoping for the best.
Teachers focused their professional development on effective practices for remote instruction and remote learning. Districts invested money to beef up their technology infrastructure and come up with ways to bridge the digital divide that still leaves many students without access to computers or the Internet in their homes. Special educators and related service providers had even greater challenges as they tried to figure out how to remotely deliver specially designed instruction and therapies to students with all types of disabilities.
Even before COVID, there were students who were unable to attend school in person for a variety of reasons, including health issues and disciplinary actions. Many of these students were only provided with a few hours of instruction per week. In North Carolina, it is common for home bound students to only have four hours or less contact with their teacher, sometimes after schools are closed for the day. Teachers drop-off and pickup assignments that the students complete between visits. There is no way to cover the full general education curriculum in that amount of time. Hopefully, this type of experience will become a thing of the past.
So what part of this is positive? Schools have learned how to do remote learning better!
Schools now know that quality instruction and learning can be delivered in a variety of ways to students who remain in their homes. Best of all, the vast majority of public school teachers continue to gain experience and improve their skills when it comes to distance learning. Remote instruction is no longer limited to a handful of specialists. Parents are also gaining experience navigating various internet platforms and apps, and using on-line communication tools and resources.
There are many variations in how remote/hybrid instruction is currently being conducted. Almost all of them are an improvement over what was happening before COVID. It should be possible to find a mode or strategy that will be a good match for almost any student. This is a real opportunity for schools to re-imagine and raise expectations for at-home instruction. There is no longer a reason to accept that students will fall behind, or that there is only enough time to focus on a couple of subject areas, such as language arts and math.
To everyone involved in planning education for students who are not able to come into the school building, we now know that you can, and should, do better.