The first day of school is only 46 days away and with all things COVID-19 that reality is becoming increasingly daunting as each day passes. Personally, I find myself going to sleep at night thinking about what September will hold for my elementary school age children, my wife who is a high school classroom teacher and myself as a Vice Principal. Whether it’s a full return or hybrid model where modified in person teaching is coupled with online learning, the COVID-19 educational space is littered with unknowns. This is not a criticism but a stark reality that there is no perfect solution to this pressing enigma. There is no right answer.
Coupled with the anxiety of the unknown is how all educators will cope within an educational milieu where tech integration is no longer a niche novelty but rather an urgent necessity. There is no longer room to debate the validity of tech based instruction. It’s here, it’s been here for some quite time and COVID-19 has reminded us that a limited responsiveness to tech integration can create great inequities in regards to the learning experience and shape deeply reflective conversations amongst stakeholders.
Yes, inequities have always existed. For example, how one classroom teacher is in their classroom is not how another teacher is in theirs. This is a known reality. However, with COVID-19 and the use of virtual learning environments and looking to stakeholders as active partners, the evidence of such inequity has become even more clear with pedagogy and purpose at the epicentre of conversations. This by no means takes away away from a respective teacher’s great intentions. Rather, the ability to leverage digital modalities requires new learning that embraces technology as an enabler of reimagined pedagogy. Thus, pedagogy and purpose must come before the technology. The technology must be an enabler of a teacher’s why. Technology is the how.
This has been a big part of the conversation in the Integration of Information and Computer Technology courses I am teaching at Niagara University this summer. Teachers in the respective courses recognize that using technology is a transferable skill set that speaks to their ability to foster enriched learning regardless of subject or grade level. Whether you are teaching Gr. 1 or Gr. 12 English, all things COVID-19 has presented all educators with this pressing provocation: How can technology be used to promote deep teaching and learning?
This is to say that the ongoing challenges outside of what model is adapted by respective school boards will be that of instruction. It will not be business as usual come September and regardless of model, every teacher should be preparing and adapting their courses for either D2L, Google Classroom or whichever digital platform their board promotes. I recommend Blend, Blend, Blend.
In the world of COVID that can turn so easily, all teachers must be prepared for a full distance teaching and learning model. This doesn’t mean correspondence through PDFs but direct instruction where students engage with their educator in a meaningful way and experience.
Yes, I suggest that this means synchronized learning and a mindset shift that recognizes it’s value to cultivate responsive learning spaces. I know that this term carries a lot of unease. However, it is critical in shaping opportunities for learners to engage meaningfully with their teacher. I’ve witnessed the power of such practice as my son’s Gr. 1 teacher during COVID distance learning would host individual guided reading sessions with students through Google Meet. That 20-25 minutes with my son, once a week, was transformational. It provided him with an intimate opportunity to engage with his teacher and receive the responsive education he deserves; immediate feedback that spoke to his strengths and next steps. As a parent I can deeply appreciate the value of synchronized opportunities as much as I do an educator.
As an administrator, I know this won’t be easy and it hasn’t been. Nonetheless, the ongoing challenge is deeply significant. As educators and professionals we are called to be life-long self directed learners. More now than ever, we have to continue on this journey with all of its successes, challenges and next steps.
So, as you breathe deeply thinking about September, please start preparing if you haven’t done so already. Be prepared for any reality and remember that when it comes to tech-ed, the technology will never make an educator obsolete.
The educator will always matter.