Providing Education In Troubling Times
Response Dr. Leah Hanes, CEO, Two Bit Circus Foundation
Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?
Education just may get a much-needed revolution. Parents have been forced to know more about their child’s education than ever before. Students who are self-motivated and interested in learning, or just plain curious, will be fine. Those parents need only put the challenge in front of that child and the child will engage. A good approach for the parents of this child is to open the field of options — expose, prompt, respond, encourage and most importantly, get out of the way and let the child lead.
For parents whose children don’t like school, don’t think they need it, find none of it interesting, this is where the deepest challenge exists. All of which may be the result of a faulty education system souring children. Take a look at the 20-30 somethings with kids in high school, middle school, and for that matter, elementary school, who are suffering from stress-related issues and are often described as rebellious, lazy, or checked-out. This group will likely see the greatest challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19. But then, this group was going to have the roughest time anyway. These are the parents who will be met with real challenges.
The parents who have success connecting or re-connecting with their child during this ‘stay at home’ order will have a different view of the future of the classroom. These parents will be navigating and creating an educational program that works for both the parent and the child. If the parents evaluate their level of engagement and acknowledge that they stepped up when needed, they will look at distance learning with less trepidation. If the child is given an environment in which to flourish, it is often this kind of comfort that nurtures curiosity.
There will be a percentage of parents who may decide that the flexibility of distance learning is perfect for their family lifestyle. Others will miss the structure. If the student in the home is motivated to remain in a distance learning situation, they will be motivated to keep up with the work. The kids who are socially motivated will want to be with friends on campus. The less social group often find their communities online and distance learning is another version of that online world.
Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?
I do think that many schools will be moving beyond the physical classroom. This is an opportunity for parents to help the child take agency over their education. They can agree on deliverables and the child can set the times they will work on those deliverables. They need to learn concepts and applications, what order that happens is only important with the basics. We need the child to know an alphabet, numbers, and we need them to be curious. Much of this will come naturally given the right environment.
Imagine distance learning from the perspective of a person who is medically not able to take part in the broader community. In the distance learning ecosystem, this person is on par with their classmates. No one needs to know any physical or medical challenges. Rural students could have access to education that was unavailable a generation ago. Distance learning blurs demographics. Offering education at the pace of the student without the stigma of a slower learner or (sometimes even more damaging) a gifted child.
Home school numbers have been growing without this pandemic. I do believe there will be challenges to school-as-usual once parents have a close eye on the education being offered to their children at their current institute. There was a joke floating around the Internet the first week of the stay-at-home initiative that said: “Millions of parents are about to learn that the teacher was not the problem.” This can be a painful lesson for a parent, and a deeper dive into the learning behaviors of their kids and how to improve these can help strengthen the overall education system, whether it be from a physical classroom or a digital environment
I don’t see this as panic-stricken hype. I think it is a worthy question to consider. Should it go the way of the dinosaur? Do we really need kids educated by age? What if we had a range of topics that students were involved in and they worked with older and younger students to learn those skills, similar to the real world where we are charged with tasks that require us to work with people not only of different age brackets but different socio-economic realities, ethnicities, and so much more. What if the in-person-classroom goes away and kids gather in digital–classroom sessions with attendance dependent on interests that start with introductory information and travel up the chain to expert level.
What is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?
Imagine the best teachers on each subject teaching millions of kids. There are teachers out there who will emerge as a result of this. Education for children that is compelling may come out of this quarantine. Education that is available to the child when the child’s interest is piqued may also be a positive outcome. We need educational options that inspire the student to keep coming back for more. An education system that has kids seeing themselves as inventors, as individuals with valuable ideas. A system that encourages learning by doing rather than by merely listening. All of this is productive.
We could come out of these next few months with parents who have a profound new appreciation for good teachers. We hope to come out of this experience with an entire society that has a new appreciation for the profession of teaching. Online curriculum with digital, in-person, or at least one-on-one meetings with an educational mentor/teacher/parent who can help the child meet the deliverables and work with the student to make and exceed their goals would offer a positive outcome for distance learning and students.