Education and Technology in a COVID-19 World
While the education world is currently predominantly virtual due to the pandemic, the ultimate vision for the future of education is for a “hybrid learning environment” where “technology will be prominent in the curriculum.” “A blend of real-life and online learning will concur. Learning will happen at school, at home, in the community and beyond.” But for now, it is primarily being accomplished from home. This shift to remote learning that engulfed the education world in March signaled a new age in how education is delivered.
How can we make Technology work better to ensure that children are engaged and motivated?
Significant to any approach to remote learning is access to technology. Where districts were utilizing one to one computing (1:1) before the pandemic, the transition was easier. Where districts were more traditional, they most likely didn’t have the supporting pedagogy or resources to implement virtual teaching and learning. Providing access is a team effort. During the pandemic, we have seen districts share their technology with their neighbors. Applying for pandemic-related funding for financially-strapped districts to support the technology needs of students and teachers is critical at this time.
Connectivity is the backbone to learning whether it be remote, distance, and/or blended. The ability to log on, connect, video conference, or “search it up” online enables teachers and students to share and discuss information. This connectivity is available 24/7 and allows for distant parts of the world, from galleries and museums to online libraries, to be visited virtually.
Not all households were equipped to deal with technology requirements when the needs arose. Here are some tips for making sure your house has the necessary connectivity you need:
- Inquire with your local internet service provider and see if they offer assistance. Many providers are offering great programs at reduced prices to help with access.
- In households with multiple students, contact your school or district and get the appropriate support needed; hot spots can greatly improve the performance of individual devices.
- If possible, upgrade your home service especially when multiple users are on at the same time.
- Do not hesitate to contact your school if your device is not running properly.
An engaging digital learning environment is but one piece of the puzzle. Additional hardware may increase the ability of students to perform work, especially if they are working with a typical district-provided laptop. The screen size may be limited and in order to relieve strain, having a secondary monitor is beneficial. A larger screen provides better connection between classmates and their teachers, in addition to helping provide much needed eye relief. It is also recommended that students take time to look away from the screen frequently.Larger secondary screens are particularly important to educators, too. This visual connection provides a mechanism to monitor how a student is doing and potentially provide intervention when necessary.
The well-being of students and staff should remain a priority as well, as the trauma induced by the rapid change in routines and the continued unknowns significantly reduce the ability of children to learn. Having a strategy to identify at-risk students can be supported by monitoring cues visually on-screen.
Kids are not limited to the hardware provided by their school. Many utilize their personal or gaming devices to stay connected and work together on tasks. Learning does not take place only in the prescribed time for class, it occurs through applications and gaming, which build community, engagement, and connections. Providing digital, real-time connections for younger students, much like how family connections have been maintained since March, can help to support their classroom community.
After the “make it work” reality of remote learning in March, the importance of having a single learning platform used by a school/district became essential. A program that distributes and shares information but easily accepts uploaded information is imperative. Many students have to upload work and if a scanner is not available, other methods should be utilized.
Technology Tip for Scanning
iPhone: Open notes, create a new note or tap existing note, tap the camera button, tap scan documents
iPhone: Go to files, select browse, hit circle with 3 dots in upper right corner, select “scan documents”
Android: Open the google drive app, tap add in the bottom right or the floating “+” button, tap scan.
Understanding the software utilized by educators is crucial to the success of remote learning. Training is important for students and their teachers as well as the caregivers involved. The at-home oversight of younger students is greatly enhanced if caregivers know how to work the programs themselves. Search for training with online tutorials or contact the district IT support available by phone or in person (following required protocol).
Tutorials for Learning Platforms and Programs
The final takeaway and one that involves some deep and careful consideration is the technology divide. While this existed pre-pandemic, the pandemic has served to highlight staggering gaps in how education is offered and accessed within communities; communities that are often underserved and underrepresented have been the most impacted.
Equity of access to technology for all students will be a critical focus for educational delivery in a post COVID-19 world.
 “Education reimagined: The Future of Learning,” a collaborative position paper between New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and Microsoft Education.