COVID – 19 will change K-12 education

On Thursday, our Governor issued an executive order that will close all K-12 schools to face-to-face instruction for the 2019-20 academic year. The order also directed K-12 schools to provide learning opportunities for all students until the end of the scheduled school year, but not assign grades and require completion of the activities/assignments. Our move to distance learning, engaging students without grades, and developing/maximizing effective use of technology will change how we educate our K-12 students in the future.

In 1991, the first smart boards began entering classrooms. This new technology allowed teachers to write on them, capture digitally what was written on them, display PowerPoint presentations, and much more. Many schools bought them thinking all teachers would use them, but many teachers didn’t because they were not comfortable with the technology.

Personal computers suffered the same fate as they entered colleges in the 1980’s. They quickly spread into the K-12 system so that by 1986, roughly 25% of high schools began using them. They were mostly being used for career planning and college help at that time. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, schools ramped up computer use, establishing computer labs which initially were being used as on-line reference libraries.

Technology helped spur the flipped classroom movement. Students were asked to watch a lecture online and absorb the content. When they came to the face-to-face class, they applied what they learn through project-based learning activities. Best practices have been developed from this, just taping a lecture is no longer considered a best practice, being replaced by more interactive formats.

Fast forward to today. There is a rush to online learning. Schools are being encouraged to move to a technology situation referred to as one-to-one, each student should be issued a Chromebook, allowing them to have access to the internet. Google Classroom, Canvas, Blackboard, and many other platforms are available for teachers, providing them the ability to offer effective online instruction. Once teachers and students become proficient with the platform, it creates efficiencies to engage students through active video discussions, add video content available on the vast web, text style chat, and much more.

As with every new technology that has been introduced to education, there is a learning curve. We need to teach our teachers how to effectively use technology with current best practices, a program Michigan Tech has already created for their professors. Our students, even though they are the most technology-savvy generation ever, still need to learn best practices to successfully learn on these platforms. Effectively injecting technology into instruction needs to be strategic to be effective.

This is the challenge K-12 is facing now, including solving the problem that a portion of our population does not have reliable internet or available technology at home. For the next 10 weeks our teaching teams will need to engage students in learning from a distance, accelerating the use of technology where possible. Our teams will need to move up this learning curve faster than has ever been done in the past.

Once we move through this challenge our schools will be better equipped than ever to effectively educate our students. Our teachers, students, and staff will gain technology tools and proficiencies that will minimize disruptions in learning from school closures due to snow storms, unexpected catastrophes, and even pandemics. I leave you with this quote regarding the role of education during this time from Aristotle, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” Be well all.

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.


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