In the wake of an unprecedented global pandemic, there are breakdowns occurring in the public education system which shed light on areas that will require significant consideration and revision as we move forward. It is clear that no contingency plan previously or currently in place has been sufficient to deal with such large-scale events as we are presently experiencing. And it has (and likely will continue to) revealed significant issues and inequities in our system.
The question, then, becomes how do we use this event as a learning opportunity to strengthen the system as a whole, to make public education more equitable, and to create a more effective and efficient strategic plan to set in place were something of this nature to happen again?
This event will change the face of public education (and the world) as we know it. That is unavoidable.
While eLearning and accessibility are only a portion of the answer, moving forward, all teachers need to be trained on how to plan, organize, and produce curriculum and materials for eLearning solutions. School board budgets need to be revised to allow for this training. And it needs to be extensive, thoughtful, applicable, and practical. Not the typical unhelpful PD training we are used to enduring. It needs to be more of a workshop than a professional development. By the end, teachers should produce material they will actually execute in an eLearning scenario. Teachers need to be introduced to storyboarding for planning purposes and provided courses that walk them through how to create digital content on whatever platform their districts are using.
Moving forward, all students should be supplied with one-to-one technology at all grade levels. The time for excuses has passed. If this means reworking the budget to make it possible, than that is what we do. Not only should devices be provided to all students, but connectivity should be addressed as well. There are districts who provide students with hotspot devices to ensure students have internet access at home. There is no reason why, if we try hard enough and establish appropriate community partnerships, this cannot become a universal component of the American public education system.
Addressing these two components will ensure that if for any reason a school district needs to move to distance learning at a moment’s notice, they will have the knowledge, materials, and ability to do so with little to no interruption in the educational process. In fact, I would even suggest that we should institute practice days once per semester, at minimum, where teachers and students engage in distance learning for a full instructional day, as we would practice any other drill.
But, as I stated previously, eLearning and accessibility are only the beginnings of the systemic changes we need to see occur in the public education system. I want to know: What do you think needs to change systemically, moving forward? How would you suggest we go about this? Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the conversation on Twitter: @teachtwdchange. I would love to write a follow-up discussing your contributions! If ever there was an opportunity to create change, it is now.