In March of 2020, No one could have predicted that most of the country’s schools would be closing for i a whole year. Teachers were forced to teach virtually. It was a scramble to figure out what and how to do it, at least it was in my state. We all had training in 1 to 1, but teaching completely online was something very different. Teachers have always had the great ability to bend and flex, but covid had us all doing somersaults and cartwheels. There were a few things that became abundantly clear about virtual education, Access is crucial, Tech skills are critical and teachers have to be tech ready.
Access is Crucial
Access to technology is crucial. As our educational landscape continues to change, students without technology access suffer. When students don’t have access to technology, they miss out. When schools shut down we all realized how great of a divide there was between students who had technology access and those that didn’t. Most students who had access showed up to virtual class and completed assignments. Students who lacked access missed class. They also missed out on the opportunity to interact with their peers.
According to USAfacts.org, 3.7 millions students did not have internet access during school shutdowns. These students missed out on months of virtual education. Students who lived in rural and low income communities suffered most. We all heard stories of students working in parking lots to connect to free wifi or picking up quarantine worksheet packets. This is the very example of how lack of access creates inequities. In a time where students who had access were struggling, those who didn’t have access to virtual education struggled even more. These students also experienced greater educational loss. Thinking of our students on IEP’s, does lack of access impede on their entitlement to a free and appropriate education? I don’t know the answer to this one. My hope is that schools and communities will find a way to provide access to students who need it. Access is crucial to their education.
Tech Skills are Critical
In our society there are many adults who struggle with using technology, and no I am not just talking about baby boomers. When I began teaching virtually I quickly realized that my students were very tech savvy, but there were still some critical skills that they needed to master. When we decide to skip the tech part of virtual teaching we risk our students not learning critical skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
The tech skills students acquire while during virtually education are critical to thriving in the technical workforce and in college. For elementary students skills like, fluently using the Google Suite tools, constructing appropriate emails, virtual meeting etiquette and virtual citizenship are so important. These are skills that will level the playing field especially for students from underserved communities. In college and the workforce students will be expected to use these skills fluently. These are skills our students cannot afford to miss.
Tech Ready Teachers are a must
In order to prepare students for a technical world, teachers must be tech ready. Teachers have to know how to use technology. When covid closed school most teachers were not ready to fulfill the technology demands virtual teaching required. Teachers need meaningful technology training and professional development. Teachers need training that is simple, impactful and useful. This will benefit teachers and in turn benefits students.
We know that education will never be the same and in my opinion that could be a good thing. As teachers we have a duty to provide education that prepares our students not only for the next grade but for life.