Message to the Teachers after Remote Learning
Remote Learning has definitely been a challenge for us all in schools. Teachers had to quickly adjust to different methods of teaching. Students were challenged to learn at home. Administrators had to keep their schools above water by keeping everyone together on a goal to continue learning. From my perspective, this has been one of the most difficult times in education. I would also like to say, that Remote Learning has uncovered many situations that educators and students faced before COVID. In my opinion, I believe that Remote Learning has exposed some of the inequities that exist in education. There was so much that was lacking before COVID - lack of internet connectivity, lack of technology and devices, lack of meaningful content, lack of engagement, lack of a structured plan, and the list goes on.
As a District Technology Director, I have experienced many restless nights wondering what will the next day bring, as schools are trying to prepare for a situation that no one saw coming. However, as I mentioned before, there were some concerns that were needing to be addressed, and even after Remote Learning, hopefully, they are brought to the forefront.
Let’s start with the achievement and homework gaps. The issue with the homework gap and achievement gap is that many school districts did not have the proper tools to help students or parents with homework, because of the lack of internet, not enough technology devices or resources. Because of this, it wasn’t truly defined whether or not teachers should actually give homework or if they should scale back on assignments. This situation ultimately impacted homes because students had to share devices and the internet that was possibly given to them.
Next, we move on to the issue of properly preparing our public educators (say that 3 times fast) with the resources they need to create meaningful learning opportunities in their classrooms. In order to create meaningful lessons, teachers needed meaningful professional development that was determined by them. Now, because of Remote Learning, teachers were quickly thrown into virtual workshops, were told to reproduce all lessons and jam them into an LMS. Then they were given two words to reflect on; synchronous and asynchronous.
As wise people would say, “and the list goes on.” I would like to add “and on, and on, and on.” Now, this may seem overwhelming, and indeed it is. But, if we can take something from this experience, hopefully, when we do go back to school in a “normal” setting, together, school systems can now prepare themselves. Of course, I am not speaking of another pandemic, I am simply speaking about the future. Here are some ideas to help move us forward.
Embrace Education Technology
We must know that education technology isn’t going anywhere. So many schools are eager to go back to “normal”, but I hope we can take away from this situation that Education Technology is not Remote Learning. Digital tools and digital skills are indeed still needed, and teachers will still need them to engage their students and integrate them into the curriculum.
Keep Equity at the forefront of every decision
Everyone who makes decisions in a school setting, from board members to central office staff, administrators to teachers, alike, has to have equity in the forefront. From racial discussions to digital disparities, achievement gaps to just showing empathy, there can never be a one size fits all approach. I submit to you that the inequities that exist in schools (make this a personal statement if you have to and say “my” school) were exposed or uncovered during this time of Remote Learning. If you haven’t done so already, this is the time to build those teams and relationships, to help conquer them.
Have an effective and efficient professional learning model and build a professional learning community
As a District Technology Director who correlates technology integration with meaningful professional learning, I will always believe that having ongoing professional development is key to understanding education technology. In order for this to be successful, it will require buy-in from administrators and leaders. Professional learning cannot be a one-time or a two-day workshop, and then you have high expectations for teachers. Instead, administrators must treat professional learning as a journey, which means they first have to embrace education technology and model it for their teachers. Administrators are then to help teachers create a professional learning community that will continue to grow teachers and support them.
Respect one another
Besides getting through 2020, one of my few accomplishments during 2020 has been receiving my Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology. One of the major lessons that I have learned throughout this experience is understanding Adult Learning. Understanding how adults learn has opened my eyes tremendously, especially on how I develop professional learning models. When I create or offer professional learning, I try my best to respect each other’s thoughts, experiences, and what they can bring to the table. I encourage this behavior with everyone. Yes, Remote Learning has tested everyone and even brought on a level of stress we cannot imagine, but that doesn’t mean we have to treat anyone unfairly. I’m speaking to those primarily in leadership positions or who have some sort of power, which means teachers as well. We all have gifts, talents, ideas, and feelings. Before you can give any demand, or expectation, or challenge to someone, please take a second to put on their shoes. Make certain that you listen before you direct, and like the principles of adult learning, do not forget to accept the experiences from everyone in your school.
If you don’t hear this enough from us, we want to say thank you. I know we can thank everyone who has endured struggle during this time, but I would like to give thanks to all educators. You are the ones who made this work. For those who learned a new skill, embraced a new concept, reached out to every student or parent, to those who taught virtually and in person, I would like to say thank you.