A New Normal? When We Return To School, What Can We Expect?

Lead Features May 20 / May 30, 2020

-Tom Whitby and Shawn Thomas-

 

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Transcript

Tom Whitby:
Welcome to EdChat radio. I am Tom Whitby, and I’m here with my co-host, Shawn Thomas, and we have two guests today. We’ve got one of our great moderators, Harvey Alvy, and one of our frequent chat participants, Dennis dill. And we’re here to discuss what we talked about in our last EdChat, in this new world of online learning. And the topic was now that schools have been closed and we are experimenting with remote learning. What specific changes in education do you foresee upon our return to a new normal? That was a pretty lengthy topic, but nevertheless, it picked up a lot of intriguing answers. So let’s talk about the chat. We’ll start off with Shawn, as usual. Shawn, your impressions?

Shawn Thomas:
Yeah, I thought it was interesting that a lot of people are hoping that we see a big change because if it’s not so important that we have to do testing this time, do we need to do testing later? If it’s not so important that we give grades at this time, do we need to keep giving grades? I feel like a lot of people were very optimistic about changes that could possibly be made. And that’s a good thing, I think. Harvey, what about you?

Harvey Alvy:
I kind of got hung up a little bit in the question with the phrase new normal, because as I read folks’ tweets, are we really talking about a new normal whatever that is or are we talking about a transformation? And which struck me about the discussion was that, just the remote learning itself is not that big a deal. It’s what are we going to do with remote learning? Is it going to be a lot of road and drill and kill, or is it really going to be an opportunity for creativity and for students taking risks and more opportunities out there? So I think it could go in a lot of different directions.

Harvey Alvy:
The new normal could look like the old normal or it could really be a transformation. And interestingly, when we transform, it’s often not because we want to, it’s because we’re forced into it. When we look at science in general, a lot of the advances took place simply because the theories didn’t work anymore. The earth was not the center of the solar system. So I think because of the terrible coronavirus, we may be forced into changes that might look pretty good in the end, but I’m not really sure.

Dennis Dill:
I’m going to have to agree there. I think there’s change with this new normal. But I think maybe instead of a new normal, I think most of the tools that we’re using, we’ve always had. We’ve guessed that we’ve really capitalized on their usage of… I know in my district just about everything that we have rolled out, we’ve had all year. Now, we’re just all of a sudden embracing this new, I hate to say the term new, this technology. A lot of hand curriculum, a lot of different things that we could have been using the whole time, maybe it’s an enhanced viewpoint of what’s the normal would be. Maybe parallel curriculums that were all operating in a blended environment. But I hate to see that the new normal, because how can we take what we’re doing right now and say that we’re going to apply this as the new normal because we’re really not doing what we normally do.

Tom Whitby:
Well, one of the things that was discovered when this genie was let out of the bottle, was many of the discussions we had about online learning were really theoretical because we were not doing it on scale. And when we started to do it on scale, there were a number of things that were exposed that we never anticipated. For instance, the absenteeism. How do we account for kids who don’t completely show up? What are they doing when they’re not there? Are they safe? These are things that we have to now consider. There were a number of things that were exposed, but the biggest thing is the digital gap that we have with our students. There are families with many kids in a family in one device, so it’s very difficult for learning to take place for all of those children in that household.

Tom Whitby:
And the infrastructure itself doesn’t necessarily support the amount of online use that’s going on. People don’t have access to that infrastructure. So these are things that we never discussed about when we always talked about online learning because quite honestly, until you go to scale, you’re unaware of many of the chinks in the armor as it were. If anything was underscored in this, is that zip codes determine the quality of education. People in the wrong zip codes don’t have the access to the technology that they need to have to get the education that they need. So let me go to Shawn.

Shawn Thomas:
Yeah. Something else I wanted to point out is people keep talking about our remote learning and all these other things, but this is not remote learning. This is crisis teaching remotely. We’re not doing this because we just want to. We’re doing this out of necessity. And a lot of times, we’re not sure what our families are going through. I just learned today that one of our bus drivers and his daughter who’s in second grade, both have COVID-19. So we can say that we’re trying to make sure we’re implementing things, and what about kids who aren’t participating. But what if someone in their family is sick? I mean, that’s a three-person family, and two of them are sick. So we have to keep in mind that this is not really something that we’re trying to replicate or continue in other times. Some of this is just crisis management at this point, and so it’s not exactly the model we should use going forward. I just want to make that point.

Tom Whitby:
And I think when we assess things at the end of our journey here, we can’t look at this and say that this online learning didn’t work. Well, it’s not going to work in a lot of cases because students weren’t prepared for it. Teachers weren’t prepared for it. Administrators weren’t prepared for it, and parents weren’t prepared for it. And the infrastructure wasn’t prepared for it. Harvey.

Harvey Alvy:
Yeah. Well, just a couple of thoughts here. And again, I’m thinking about Dennis and his classroom because he’s there every day, and we know from his work that engaging students is so important. So I think we kind of have to divide things up, there are the new things that are going to take place in terms of some of the remote learning ideas, but we got to be careful about the shiny objects. The people that will now thrust their fads into the school situation and say, “Look, I’ve got a program that’s 100% guaranteed, easy to implement. All kids will succeed.” That kind of stuff. We got to watch the [Charlingtons 00:06:45].

Harvey Alvy:
On the other hand, we also have to remember to retain the stuff that works, caring teachers, engaging learners, supporting the risk takers. What’s going on today, one of the interesting things is that I heard a superintendent from [Ethicaron 00:06:57] NPR, the other day, who’s willing to say, “Look, I’m really working on SEL now with our kids. We’re all working on one direction, say and not just academics.” I mean, to be willing to say that, it kind of took this situation. There are some things that are really sticking out that we’re going to take a hard look at, but we have to be careful about not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Tom Whitby:
Yeah. To add to that list, people are discovering that there are open sources available online that they can use instead of using textbooks. The whole idea of administrators having to communicate more personally with their staff, and making sure that their comments and their communications are relevant and not with a lot of extraneous nonsense on it that are the time sack of faculty meetings. And yeah, the piece with the social and emotional learning is a very, very big piece. And it’s being considered far more than it was when we were just in the brick and mortar environment. Dennis?

Dennis Dill:
Yeah. I have a couple of things there because I just had a conversation with a student today, and her biggest point was that she didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody. These are eighth graders. When we’d left, it was a Friday so we didn’t know we weren’t coming back. As an eighth grade student, she was like, “Wow, I didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody. We didn’t know.” Just that whole thought process, of that’s what she’s thinking about, of not really seeing her friends until the end of the year because they’re all going to different high schools. It’s like, “Wow, I didn’t say goodbye.” And that’s like a big deal for a lot of these kids.

Tom Whitby:
Yep. Well, we’re running out of time. So we’re going to have to go for some final comments here. Shawn?

Shawn Thomas:
Yeah, I guess my final thoughts are just kind of that we have to kind of remember as administrators and those who are decision makers when we come back to view this time and we make decisions about it, remember the whole lens. And like we’re always saying, we need to look at the whole child. We kind of need to look at the whole teacher, the whole system. Look at everything, and what are the systemic changes that we need to make moving forward once this crisis is over. What about you, Dennis?

Dennis Dill:
Honestly, I think that we don’t want to forget what we’ve learned. Even through all of this, a lot of new teachers in general are learning so much that we’re using in this crisis mode that we could carry back into the classroom with us, and still do what’s there. We’re not showing any fear anymore.

Harvey Alvy:
With Dennis and Shawn here, we’re talking about the heroes and they may feel uncomfortable with this, but they’re our heroes right now too because they’re in the classroom and they’re dealing with having to cope with the situation. So I want to thank them for their work. And on that point, the zip code issue you mentioned before Tom, I mean, I buy into it 90%, but let’s remember that even in each zip code, there are great schools that stand out and great teachers that make a difference regardless of what’s against them. And then just looking towards the future just real quickly, I think it’s kind of almost humorous when I’m hearing about that opening the schools is going to be another way for us to show normalcy again, when they don’t realize something like social distancing in school, is not something that’s going to be easy to be accomplished. It’s such a complex issue.

Tom Whitby:
Well, I come away from this whole thing with two points in it that I want to make. We’ve said before that from chaos often comes opportunity. And I think we’re being given opportunities here to make some great changes in education that we’ve been hesitant to make in the past. But one of the things that I think is very important is the necessity of relevant, continuous and fully supported professional development for teachers. It has to be an ongoing thing. I mean, we’re in this situation where we got caught short because many teachers were not availing themselves of much of the professional learning needed in order to survive on this online learning journey.

Tom Whitby:
The other thing is the whole idea of feedback being a formative assessment. Teachers have to learn that feedback is more important than any quiz grades you could give. I think we’re seeing that more and more with the online exposure that we have and the online contact that we have with students. That being said, I think we pretty much covered the chat that we had. Also, I would like to thank my guests, Harvey Alvy, and Dennis Dill, and my co-host Shawn Thomas, for another exciting meeting of the EdChat Radio show. EdChat takes place every Tuesday at 7:00 PM Eastern Time so please join us in the chat and then follow up with the EdChat Radio Show. Thank you one and all.

 

Join us as we discuss the ideas in the article with educators around the global at the Second Wave Summit | 2020






Editorial Leam
Editorial Team
This article was written by a collaboration of editors and columnists on the FLR editorial team or guest contributors.




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