Recent weeks have been especially hard on educators as teaching and learning took on a new form. Digital learning. Online classes. E-Learning. There are many names for it. As I’ve discussed before, distance learning – yet another name, is not something new to our home, my sons, or me. So, personally, we are doing well.
However, this does not mean we are not experiencing some stress. I truly feel for the teachers, many of whom are friends, who rapidly had to change gears. And, from my estimation (I am a hard judge with high expectations), they have done a wonderful job in a most difficult situation. I am more worried about what the “systems” response will be after it is all over.
For our district, I would suggest a single platform be used for online learning. Administration can choose but MUST consider the in-classroom teachers’ suggestions based on their experience this time. Having more than one platform (Google classroom, Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, etc.) just muddies the waters for both students and teachers.
There is a learning curve to any new platform, but when multiple platforms are being used – well – there are multiple learning curves to be conquered. This is true for both students and teachers. If one platform were to be chosen teachers could rely upon each other for “technical assistance” or tips on what works and what doesn’t. The same goes for the student population. But, if one teacher uses one platform and another uses a different platform, getting help from peers (both teacher and student peers) diminishes greatly.
Digital grading systems already in place must dovetail seamlessly with the chosen e-learning platforms. Our district has had an online grade book for years. But when work is coming in from different platforms, it needs to be transferred to the grading system already in place. This creates a great deal of work for the teachers. I imagine it is exhausting.
I will not have the opportunity to see what happens after this experience in our district. My son graduates HS in May. He is taking the online learning seriously. It lets me know he is ready for his next educational experience – college. But, it does not diminish my hope that good choices are made for both teachers and students in our future.
As I wrote last week, I hope that the online experience continues for all students, at least once during high school. I hope that parents and administrators are patient with teachers and students during this temporary online experience and those experienced in the future. I hope that students are supported, both at home and at school, especially if there are questions about “how” to do or “find” something in an online course. I hope expectations are communicated clearly and repeated with patience, if need be.
I also hope that the face of e-learning will be more respected. It is not as easy as it sounds – for either the teacher or the student. It is truly not a “lesser form of education” just different. It takes a different skill set to be successful at it. Some will have the skillset and be able to make the transition without difficulty. Others will need to be patient while the skillset builds. This will take time and practice.
Just like any educational experience, there will be those that embrace the change and those that sulk or wish for the “days of yore.” Like it or not, the need to educate at a distance this spring, pushed us forward into a world of e-learning. It’s been a learning experience for all. I hope that it informs good decisions for learning in the future.
A huge thank you for all the educators who worked hard to change gears this month.
We appreciate you!