During the abrupt switch to online school last spring, everyone learned a great deal. Most of it, however, was not in any formal curriculum.
Here are a few lessons I hope we retain going into the new school year and beyond.
For one thing, I’m pretty sure that most teachers, students, administrators, and parents learned pretty quickly that online schooling is not as easy as it looks. And that people are far more important to the process than is the technology being used.
Unfortunately, there are still far too many politicians, pundits, and social media trolls who believe that working online means that teachers and students are slacking off and that little “real” instruction is happening.
Every good teacher already knows that building a strong classroom community is one key to successful face-to-face schooling. That doesn’t change when you move online but I hope everyone has learned that the process is very different, requiring more time and some big adjustments, especially to expectations.
At least most teachers had an advantage last spring since they had likely spent most of the school year with their students in a physical classroom. Starting in the fall with a new group of kids will be much harder.
I really hope teachers have learned (finally) that kids are not as tech savvy as they thought, at least not when it comes to online schooling. Most students are certainly very capable of learning online, and many do it all the time when we’re not looking. But that’s not the same as doing the kind of work expected of them in school.
Maybe we can learn to bring the two closer together.
I also very much hope that everyone has learned that one-to-one computing is no longer a nice-to-have, someday-when-we-have-the-budget, choice. Even when it’s possible to get everyone back in the same building, the need to properly equip every student, teacher, and classroom will not go away.
But we still very much need to understand that, when every student has a connected device, many things about school much change. Including much of our traditional pedagogy and large parts of the curriculum that are increasingly obsolete.
Hopefully, we will also come to understand that it’s not necessary to have students always physically present in a specific building in order for learning to take place.
Finally, all those politicians, administrators, business people, and parents who are pushing to reopen schools need to learn that most school buildings have been designed to bring kids and adults closer together. And that learning, at its best, is a very social process.
Which is something even a pandemic will not change.
The image, from an article about distance learning platforms, is what too many people envision when talking about online schooling. Reinforcing the idea of a teacher-directed, lecture/demo classroom.