In the world of public school education, all eyes are trained on New York right now. The city is one of the hardest hit in the current corona virus pandemic, with an estimated 1.1 million children to educate in the midst of a stay at home order.
How will they do it? Will they do it? If they can do it, this spells hope for other school districts large and small and in-between all across the country and around the world.
Nationwide, more than 20 million students grades K through 12 are in exactly the same remote boat, while parents and teachers struggle to adjust with home classrooms and virtual learning materials.
In this article, learn what is unfolding as the threat of COVID19 closes schools, potentially through the end of the current school year and beyond.
Education Is Not All Students Are Missing With Remote Learning
If the only corona virus-based challenge facing teachers and school administrators was remote learning, perhaps the shift wouldn’t feel so all-around overwhelming.
But for schools where some or most students come from undeserved communities, the public classroom is serving up far more than ABCs.
At school, students from poorer families can look forward to a hot meal, routine medical attention, even laundry services. And what about students with developmental or learning issues who need personalized instruction?
At the moment, there are far more questions than answers on the educational table nationwide when it comes to students whose need for school extends beyond reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
Access to Technology May Be Remote Education’s Biggest Stumbling Block
An even bigger potential challenge in many areas is whether students learning from home have access to the basic technology they need to participate in virtual classrooms.
Stable broadband internet and access to a computer or tablet is vital for students learning in a remote setting.
As NPR points out, the sudden necessity of shifting to virtual learning must start with a survey of students’ technology needs if it is ever to get off the ground.
In many areas, students may not have broadband internet in the home. In this case, the student is not able to participate in remote learning at all.
If the family does have broadband internet and a laptop or tablet is present, it may be shared among all family members. Whether due to work schedules, language barriers or other responsibilities, parents may not have the ability to assist young students with the necessary tasks of setting up the virtual classroom and learning how to log in to participate in lessons.
It is all on the table to be tackled. Meanwhile, teachers and administrators are sitting up and taking note of other remote workforce models that may be ripe for adaptation for different grade levels.
Teachers Are Also Facing a Huge Learning Curve
When deciding how to best approach adapting in-classroom lesson plans to a virtual format, it can sometimes seem like each school or school district for themselves.
Many different theories exist and the same model may not work for students of all age groups. For example, with younger students who have shorter attention spans, it may work better to present shorter “live” or video lessons interspersed with independent work study assignments.
For older students it may be possible to pack in more learning with a more traditional classroom model, albeit in a “live” remote or video-based setting.
In either case, one thing most educators seem to agree on is the need for students to have access to the teacher during normal classroom hours. This is especially key in situations where the parents are not able to assist with questions or even be present to supervise remote learning sessions.
This means teachers have had to adapt their home spaces to accommodate a remote classroom. For some, this has meant converting a corner of the bedroom or kitchen or perhaps the living room area. For others, it has meant working around another family member’s need to work from home as well.
Slowly But Surely, the Transition To Remote Learning Is Taking Place
California is another state where coronavirus has hit hard. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) has issued unmistakably clear and strict instructions for what must take place to protect teachers, staff, students and families: remote learning must be distance learning only.
Teachers must find a way to do “educational triage” – emergency remote learning.
But under this protective language is another, much more hopeful message: “be creative.” Administrators are making it clear to teachers that they have free reign to use what they’ve got, giving it all they’ve got to make remote learning happen as best it can right away.
The key takeaway here is that expectations must be adjusted. Will lesson plans look different? Yes. Will everything get covered in the same “business as usual” manner as it did in the in-person classroom? No.
School districts that decide to adopt this flexible, creative, solutions-focused strategy are likely to transition more quickly and effectively to a remote learning model. Their students are likely to get more out of the process and also find it less stressful moving forward.
When the only other option is no learning at all, the remote classroom actually starts to look pretty good. One thing is certain: remote learning is happening. How well it is happening, only time will tell.