Tyson Smith: Here are 3 ways COVID can be a catalyst for more effective K-12 education

Summer school can help with learning loss due to COVID

FOX’s Edward Lawrence has the latest on the pandemic’s affect of children’s education

School closures caused by COVID-19 have presented a variety of challenges for teachers and families, but they have also sped up the arrival of a technology-enriched “future of education.”

This year’s near-universal adoption of technology for teaching will impact education in a positive way. For instance, learning will become more competency-based (tailored learning to meet different abilities), and education will mirror the modern workplace by encouraging virtual collaboration.

All of this will mean that educators’ roles shift from lecturer to more mentor and facilitator—a transition that has been underway for years but has accelerated this year.

Here are three ways that COVID-19 has been a catalyst for more effective teaching and learning.

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Inspiring Innovation

Over the years, many schools have hesitated to move to digital learning environments, even though these technologies have been widely available.

In the age of COVID-19, this hesitation led to many schools being unprepared to meet student needs, leading to high levels of learning loss for students and forcing teachers to scramble to adapt in a very short time span.

As a business owner, I’ve learned that we can’t survive if we don’t innovate.

This pandemic has highlighted the importance this principle also plays in schools. And the truth that everyone in education knows is that the kids already live tech-centered lives.

Students are ready for a blended learning model that combines virtual and in-person instruction.

This shift begins with teachers believing that technology will in fact move the needle for their students. The best way to facilitate that is to mix in leaders who can see what can be and who have the best interests of their teachers and students at heart.

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Leaders need to paint the picture and engage others who can help guide them on the journey. They need support such as professional development training sessions and tech support. They need space to test the waters and understand how things work so they can make changes at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm them.

Leaders need accountability as well.

Lastly, they need good tools that work with them and for them. Once they have experience with the tools and they see the value they can bring, they’ll never turn back.

Shifting the Role of the Educator

Many educators were taught and trained in the traditional classroom. They wanted to be a teacher like their first-grade teacher, and probably mirrored that style in an evolved fashion for the last 30 years.

Now, their role has to shift from being the center of the classroom to more of a guiding mentor and champion.

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A key benefit of embracing educational innovations in the classroom is opening the door for competency-based learning.

It’s impossible for teachers to provide whole-class instruction that caters to each individual student’s needs. There will always be students who could move faster and students who need more support. Technology makes this possible by providing teachers a powerful assistant that frees their time up to mentor, encourage, and provide the one-on-one help that many students need to succeed.

I firmly believe that most educators joined the ranks because they felt like they could positively impact others’ lives. As tech tools are integrated into instruction and see the progress that is possible through the appropriate adoption, magic will happen.

Once educators realize that they are still the hinge point for the efficacy of instruction in their classrooms but that now they can expect to reach far more students even more effectively, they will never depart from a blended model.

Educators who embrace their new role will be free to explore innovative ways to meet the needs of every student.

Leveling the Playing Field

There’s no question that student access to devices at home is a major concern to districts. Schools need more money for devices and WiFi hotspots to ensure that each student is covered.

I’m not the authority here, but COVID has shone a spotlight on the equity and access gap.  Having worked in the education technology industry for decades, it’s exciting to watch innovation spread as we collectively strive to provide education services in this crisis.

As they are deploying hotspots to provide internet access for underserved students, districts are exploring software and learning management systems to address their learning needs.

The plans that educators are putting in place now are not just a quick fix in reaction to catastrophic circumstances. They are meant to help education evolve into the best form districts can deliver under any circumstances. The future of education is here—mostly.

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The technology is there, and this year’s school closures have provided us all an opportunity to reconsider the very structure of how we teach.

As I said, the students are ready. It’s up to the teachers, parents, and folks like me to work together and keep pushing education forward.

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