As schools are preparing for what is certain to be the most difficult start to the school year ever, many are wondering what to expect.
Parents are nervous about protecting their children while also allowing them the opportunity to connect with their peers and, for their sanity’s sake, get out of the house. They are also stressed trying to figure out how to help their children learn from home.
Teachers are anxious about protecting themselves and their students while managing a complete shift in their day-to-day job, whether they are fully remote, hybrid or fully in-person.
Students are sad wanting to see their friends and experience the typical joys of the school year.
Despite all the anxiety and fear that this school year brings, one thing is clear: remote learning will play a prominent role in education this year.
Yet even when the dust finally settles and schools are able to reopen and conduct education as usual, the impacts from this COVID learning experiment will persist.
So although I know that an all-virtual education isn’t the best option for students, parents or teachers in general, I do think there will be positive outcomes to the seismic shift this global health pandemic has imposed on schools.
Here are four ways that I predict full-time virtual learning will transform education:
1. Bring on innovative and globalized learning
Until now, learning standards have been very localized and traditional. The subjects, learning objectives and teaching methodologies have all remained relatively similar for hundreds of years.
Now, technology has the power to free students and teachers from the chains of traditional textbooks and from the confines of a traditional classroom.
Virtual learning will demonstrate the ability for students and teachers to connect with experts around the world and unleash a whole new way to learn.
Of course some teachers have already been doing this, but in my experience these teachers were the exception and not the rule.
In the future, innovative and globalized education will be the norm.
Schools won’t need to have specialists in every subject area, but students will have to ability to learn a variety of unique topics in a variety of unique formats from an unlimited pool of experts around the world.
The COVID learning experiment will be a jolt to the education system that will unlock the potential that’s always been there, but that traditional education has kept at bay.
It’s no longer possible to ignore the infinite possibilities of technology in education, so let the learning revolution begin!
2. Say goodbye to standardized curriculum and testing
Technology has the potential to be a great learning tool. The problem, however, is that while many schools have tech tools they don’t necessarily use them to their advantage.
When I was a teacher, I saw a lot of “lift and shift” education. Teachers taking what they did regularly “the old fashioned way” and simply scanning or uploading it into a digital format to use on a computer.
This is not virtual education.
There are many learning platforms and tools that have the power to individual instruction and personalize learning to engage students in ways that many teachers haven’t even begun to take advantage of.
Part of this is simply a product of the way school is designed — with formal curriculum standards and standardized tests that are supposed to measure the progress of children as if they are the same, teachers are sometimes bound to follow rigid curriculum guides.
But technology has the power to disrupt this trend and prove once and for all that highly-individualized instruction is not only attainable, it’s actually easier to implement than standardized curriculum.
This year will prove out that maybe standardized curriculum and tests aren’t the answer.
Instead it’s time to allow students the opportunity to drive their own education and measure their own progress.
3. Flexible school schedules are here to stay
Full-time virtual learning is tough and should never replace in-person education for many reasons.
Because education is so much more than curriculum standards and testing. It’s also social and emotional learning. It’s personal relationships with teachers. It’s collaboration, creativity and communication skills too.
However, there is a time and place to use virtual education in a way to rethink how schools operate and how kids learn.
Hybrid education is when students go to school for in-person classes, but also have time set aside for virtual education.
This method of learning can take advantage of the best of both worlds: teachers have more time and flexibility to engage with students on a deeper level while students have more time and flexibility to direct their own learning.
Until now, most schools — especially public schools — have continued down the path of using technology to replace textbooks instead of using technology to revamp the way students learn.
The COVID experiment will show that there are benefits to both types of learning and that there is a way to allow for hybrid options in the traditional school setting.
Furthermore, the trend of working from home seems likely to stay. So giving students the option to experience virtual learning becomes not only a way to improve educational outcomes, but also a way to prepare students for their future jobs.
Virtual learning and working rely on a completely different skill set, so hybrid learning will become a necessity to ensure we prepare our children to be successful beyond school.
As a teacher, I longed for a flexible schedule that would give me and my students more freedom. It’s time for schools to welcome that reality.
4. Teachers will start to get what they’re owed
In the beginning of quarantine, I heard from many of my colleagues in business just how thankful they were for teachers.
Suddenly, adults working from home who also had to care for and teach their children realized just how difficult it is with one student— let alone 25 or more at the same time.
Many parents told me they expect teachers to be paid more and they developed a newfound respect for teachers and their work.
Now that teachers find themselves in the situation of going back to school — whether all virtual, all in-person or a hybrid option — teachers yet again get the short end of the stick.
This school year could cause a mass exodus of teachers who can no longer justify the high costs of the profession against the low returns of poor pay and recognition.
With more teachers bringing to light the injustices of their everyday work, the pressure will intensify on not only schools and administrators, but the teaching profession as a whole.
It’s time for teachers to get paid what they’re due for the incredibly challenging work of managing a classroom of students — whether virtual or in-person — and helping them grow personally, professionally, socially and emotionally every. single. day.
And, ultimately, it’s time for the teachers and the teaching profession to get the respect they deserve so that our students get the best education.
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