Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned

How COVID-19 is making me re-think my outlook on Education

Some of the things I’ve learned were predictable. Even though many schools have online learning instruction in place for certain classes, no school was prepared for the sudden and massive shift toward online learning. There were issues of computers, software, access, the learning curve for teachers and students. As we move on, it is essential to continue to build the online learning infrastructure. That means that we have to ensure we have the proper equipment, learning software, and teacher training.

We are forced to make reassessments to our content delivery. The restriction has enabled improvements. Since communication between students and teachers is more limited than in a traditional setting, communications and instructions have to be clearer and more nuanced.

Funds

Colorado has added relief funds that addressed three categories; prevention, impact, and recovery. These funds helped with small businesses, behavioral health services, and early childhood education. In May, Governor Polis directed $510 million federal CARES Act dollars to be distributed to public K-12 schools in Colorado on a per-pupil basis and $450 million to the state’s colleges. The $32M from state Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE), is going to most needed, which fall to race (here we go)and geography. Additionally, $510M Fed dollars (Fed Cares Act $150B) to be distributed for K-12 schools on a per-pupil basis. The per-pupil basis will hurt rural communities.

All of this funding is competing with budget cuts, so this may even things out. In other words, after cuts, this funding may only even things out, and little to no improvement will be made.

Innovation on the rise

I believe that restrictions or changes that force us to adapt actually helps to drive innovation. We are forced to answer questions such as resourceful content delivery, best practices for teaching methods, and discovering what is needed for a robust technological infrastructure.

Certain things will not go away after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The entire country will be more cognizant of the virus, and face masks and shields in stores will remain. Various Asian countries have worn masks for years, and I think that masks will be permanently part of our landscape in some form. Distancing in public places will remain. Schools cannot retrofit to allow for proper distancing. For this reason, alone, schools will not open fully until the pandemic is over. While the pandemic I still raging, keeping a distance is impossible in a school setting.

Technology infrastructure priorities may shift as a result of the Covid experience. In the past, we have made adjustments after disasters that benefitted us. During the 9–11 terrorist attacks, communications between emergency agencies were disastrous because of the different platforms used for communications and ignorance of sister agencies' leadership structures. Disaster recovery and contingency planning were not on most executives' minds because it was one of those things that did not generate revenue. All of that changed for the good, and those issues have been corrected.

I predict plans will be made to incorporate distance learning into all schools and courses. More money will be put into training; Adaptive learning will become a huge and permanent part of the educational landscape.

Positive and Negative Aspects of going virtual

Some of the positive aspects of everyone “going virtual is something we should concentrate on. The most positive aspect is the most obvious: We can still effectively communicate. It is not as effective as being face-to-face, but it is more effective than a simple conference call. Going virtual also keeps us safe at home, saves money, and the mission can still be completed. Mostly.

Some of the challenges are classroom control and monitoring. Students who were not doing well in face-to-face classrooms are being left behind, trust is not always there, and one-on-one instruction is more difficult, technical problems, cameras, computers, etc., distractions at home.

People use multiple platforms to execute their daily work, such as Zoom, Skype, Teams, GoogleMeet, etc. Even though the platforms are different, for the most part, they are very similar as far as the baseline of what each application offers. And once you get used to using them, you will find that they are intuitive. This is in the same way that we can basically switch to different Word Processing software or spreadsheet software. Each may be a little different, but the basics are already there. And this is also the same concept of how gamers can almost seamlessly switch between different games with little or no prior experience with a particular game.

In my home

For work, my day is stretched out. School is much more structured as far as time is concerned. I may start at 5 am, and I may send an email at 11 pm. For me, the structure of what a workday looks like has melted away, and I am in a land now occupied by both work and home. Sometimes the two come together as mismatched metaphors. My grandchildren are staying with us and watch them, literally the same time I am teaching, and they are learning online and watching me teach online at the same time. I believe this situation actually helps them cope better because they can get a hint of what their teacher has to do behind the scenes to help them. I hope that this view they are receiving will give them a little empathy and understanding of the work needed for their benefit.

There is no shortcut. You still have to teach effectively. Students still have to learn. Students still have to be engaged. The technology is not in place to teach students without human intervention. There was a rapid switch from traditional to online learning to distance learning. The technology is not going to conform to us. We will have to conform to the technology.

Educator, writer, photographer and modern-day Luddite. http://thomasholtrussell.zenfolio.com/

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