It has been enjoyable these past weeks to be able to work outside in my backyard with my two dogs and the sounds of Spring surrounding me. I am fortunate my Wi-Fi signal is just strong enough to allow me this convenience. Sitting out here today, I have had some time to reflect and think about how things may be different in our lives as we move forward. I know that some aspects of our lives may never be the same. Just as 9/11 impacted the way we travel and security measures, I am sure we will see permanent changes when it comes to how we protect our health and those of others. I wonder though how formal education is going to be impacted. I really wonder. I wonder what is going to happen when we get to return to our “buildings.”
Everyone is talking about getting back to “normal.” I am looking forward to seeing fellow staff and students in person again. The lessons, the activities, the plays, the musicals, the athletic events, club meetings, and the list goes on. I wonder though if teaching and learning are going to be “normal” again. Should we be rethinking what “normal” will look like in education as we move forward?
I wonder and hope.
I wonder if our decision-makers understand the importance of everyone having access to high-speed Internet. I hope that “normal’ in the future means that all of our students have access to digital content via this vital utility.
I wonder if instructional leaders at the state and local levels are going to all write and/or update a remote/distance/at-home learning plan, so we are prepared when this happens again. I hope they realize some of the lessons learned during these times need to be part of our “normal” and not just when we are isolated from our buildings and students.
I wonder if instruction moving forward will be the way it was before. I hope we see more of a hybrid/blended learning model where instructional activities involve all types of learning modalities. We see a blend of digital and non-digital learning experiences. We see students (and parents/guardians) have more responsibility in their learning outcomes. We see students having an opportunity to explore and learn on their own terms outside of the structure of a school schedule.
I wonder if our state leaders will revisit and reinstate the requirement of meeting the Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel (TSIP) which used to be a requirement for teacher licensure. (Check out the VSTE updated version which has been endorsed by the VDOE) I hope learning leaders realize that the teachers and students that struggled the most with learning going digital were the ones that never or rarely experienced it. I hope there is leadership out there such as that seen in Sussex County where Tim Mays continues to work with instructional staff to meet the TSIP. He saw first hand how those meeting these standards were more effective in remote teaching and learning.
I wonder if our Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs or whatever school divisions call them) will be appreciated and utilized more effectively. I hope our state leaders realize these people need to be coaching our staff to effectively use digital resources for instruction. I hope our instructional staff realizes what a great resource these people are and how much they should be appreciated as they have assisted so many during these times.
I hope others experienced what my wife did during this past month. She is a Math teacher at a local high school and she was not a big fan of the use of instructional technology with her students. She was required to create classes in Google Classroom but really did not use any of the G Suite applications. She was more of a traditional educator and to her credit, she is an effective teacher in many ways. She mentioned several times about trying to integrate more digital content in her instruction but never got around to it. Well, it has been great to see her using Google apps and digital resources with her students. She is communicating via Google Classroom and making learning more personal as she and her students share stories about what is happening at home. She said that when she returns to “normal,” she plans to continue the use of these digital tools because they are making a positive difference. I wonder and I hope.
Written by Tim Taylor. Tim is the Instructional Technology Supervisor for Shenandoah County Public Schools and a member of the VSTE Board of Directors, currently serving as the chair of the Education Committee.