How Can We Combine Virtual and Traditional Classrooms Into a New School Model?

Editors Features May 20 / May 30, 2020

-Tom Whitby, Shawn Thomas, Harvey Alvy-

 

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Transcript

Tom Whitby:
Welcome to EdChat Radio. I’m Tom Whitby. Hello, and welcome to this edition of the EdChat Radio Show. I’m here, today, joined by my cohost, Shawn Thomas, and our guests, Harvey Alvy and Starr Sackstein, two of our moderators in EdChat. And we’re going to be discussing this week’s EdChat, which was quite interesting. It was about if or when we go back to school, what will online learning look like, if we try to incorporate it into the school system, since everybody’s using it, now, and some people are quite successful with it. There are drawbacks that we’ll talk about. But nevertheless, school is not going to look the same. Education is not going to look the same when we return. And we were wondering how people are handling the online learning, the remote learning, and if it will fit into what’s coming next. So that being said, Shawn, what were your impressions?

Shawn Thomas:
Yeah, whenever we have a topic like this, I have to view it through the lens of my district, where we have a lot of technology and it’s already expected. As a matter of fact, today, in our collateral planning, they were talking about how we need to start our internet and Google classroom right at the beginning of the school year. And so I think it just really can show the disparity that some people are being fine because they’ve been doing this all the time. And then, others are really just trying to tread water at this point. Starr, what do you think?

Starr Sackstein:
I think, like you said, Shawn, some schools have programs in place, at least at the high school level where there are blended platforms already in place. And my big takeaway was that I think we are going to need to have a good mix of both, because, as much as this has been tough, it’s actually been working for some kids who enjoy not being at school. My son being one of those kinds of kids who, if a student is school averse, a blended environment where they don’t have to be there all the time, especially if they’re independent learners, this could be a good option. So, I think it would be good if we started training teachers better to get them ready to do more of a mix. What about you, Harvey?

Harvey Alvy:
Yeah, I mean I think what’s interesting, because we’ve been forced into this period, because of the pandemic, there are some advantages. First of all, gives us a chance as we look towards the future. If this is something that we’re going to do a little bit more, what are our goals? What’s the vision for the remote learning is? Are the goals and the vision different from what we would choose for a regular brick and mortar school? And as you know, we’re learning about the wide difference in terms of tech access between those students who are underserved, students who are more affluent, between rural school districts and school districts that have more accessibility. So all these kinds of challenges, we’re getting a chance to see them. And as a result, as Tom was saying in the opening, if this does become a standard methodology, then we’re getting a chance, right now, to see what’s working, what’s not working and how we could do better.

Tom Whitby:
Yeah, but if we talk about innovation, again, it’s something that we were all thrown into or that many educators were thrown into. It was mandated that they go home and they do this. They weren’t ready for it. The students weren’t ready for it, and the parents weren’t ready for it. But, through all of this, more and more people seem to be coming around, saying, “There are some real possibilities here.” A couple of things that I had mentioned, during the course of the chat, was the possibility of using this for AP classes, scheduling AP classes to be remotely taught, which will free up a lot of scheduled time, during the course of the day. The other thing would be summer school programs or summer school enrichment programs, putting them online.

A third would be kids who are going to be out of school for a longterm or even longterm suspensions, as some schools still have. All of this could be considered for remote teaching, which is something that we haven’t done so far. The drawbacks, though, again, as Harvey mentioned, the gap is there. Quality education is still coming to zip codes as opposed to being universal. It’s not universal in the United States. The other big thing is adult supervision. If parents are going off to work, who’s going to be supervising kids while they’re home learning remotely. That’s a big question that has to be answered. So all of these things came up in the chat and people responded to them, but a number of things have to be considered. There are many drawbacks in bringing this remote teaching to scale. And I think we’re going to continue to see problems with it, but we’ve got to work things out.

Shawn Thomas:
I just wanted to mention, you were talking about the lack of supervision because I know that only the high school does the Digital Day each month. And that has come up, “Since we are the group that does technology, why don’t we do it in elementary and high school?” And it’s for that very reason, we can’t ask parents to take a day off so that their kids can have a Digital Day. That’s one thing. And the other thing I just want to mention, this is the end of our fifth week of doing digital learning. And we’re all tired. The kids are tired. The teachers are tired. And I think that if someone is newly coming into this, and if we are going to continue this into year, it’s important that we don’t do too much at the very beginning because you’ll just get burned out. It needs to be simple. It needs to not be huge projects and all these things because that’s just not sustainable over time.

Tom Whitby:
One problem is that teacher prep classes are still geared toward the classroom. It’s not like they’re teaching remote teaching in college classes and preparing teachers for this. So it’s understandable that we’re under a great deal of stress. People are doing stuff for the first time that they’ve never been required to do before. So that added stress makes people tired of the situation. Again, it’s going to take training and it’s going to take a culture change in order for these changes to take place. But the potential for changing things up is there.

Starr Sackstein:
I would want to speak to what Shawn was saying in terms of simplicity and clarity. And I think that if teachers were trained and there was some kind of cohesive method of sharing information with students and the students had an opportunity to be trained on what the expectations were and parents were involved, I think it should be an option. I don’t think it should be required, if this is something that we’re going to take into the future. Because of that equity challenge, either districts are going to have to start thinking about how they could provide the technology necessary for all students. And if a student was suspended, I think it is the school’s responsibility to make sure that the student has what they need to still be successful at home, if they are doing that kind of suspension, where it is longterm out of school. But there are so many possibilities to, maybe, get kids classes and learning that might not be offered, because there isn’t enough interest for a whole class to be registered for it. So I mean I would like to take the positive spin that this could be a nice addition to classes that already exist.

Tom Whitby:
Well, the other thing too is, as kids get older in high school, many of them kind of have to get to keep their families going and they have to go out and find jobs. And not all jobs start right after school. So it could be worked into a job program where kids could opt into online classes in order to time-shift their learning.

Harvey Alvy:
Yeah. I thin, as I’m listening to some of the points made, this is why I think, as Starr kind of pointed out before, this is where we could look at this as an advantage, as an opportunity because we’re throwing ideas back and forth about what can happen. And so, hopefully, we’ll talk about the goals. What is school going to look like? How is it going to be different? Just the point that was made a moment ago about training teachers, how is this going to be different? Are we going to look for teachers who are more digitally comfortable? But we also have to remember that, even if you’re digitally comfortable, you still have to build relationships with kids. And that kind of connectivity, it’s not just a matter of posting an assignment. It’s also a matter of building relationships with kids. So we have to make sure that we continue to do that as we use some of the different platforms is, what’s going to be live? What’s going to be interactive? So I see this also as an opportunity, but we can’t lose sight of what works to begin with, and collaboration, connectivity, having students engage. We have to do that as opposed to just posting assignments.

Tom Whitby:
Yeah. We, we have to keep in mind that more work doesn’t mean more learning. That being said, let’s go to some final thoughts.

Shawn Thomas:
Again, we are a while into this. We have another month to go because we are not ending school early. And I just encourage everyone that, if you’re doing this or you’re a pre-service teacher, kind of learn about the different programs, so that you’ll be more prepared if we do something like this in the future. And to give yourselves grace, because this is new. We are learning as we go. And if something doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean give up. Just be encouraged and keep trying.

Tom Whitby:
Harvey?

Harvey Alvy:
Just picking up on that point about “keep trying.” I think it’s very important that the school leadership is supportive. And I’m glad to see that a lot of school districts are not using this period as an evaluation period for their teachers. And it’s not going to work unless we do it that way.

Starr Sackstein:
Grace is really important. There are also a lot of tools out there, a lot of folks. I know my company, as well as many others, a lot of free technology tools. People are trying to help teachers. And if we are comfortable asking for help, this is the right time to be doing it. Find the people that you see doing it well. And since we’re all online anyway, right now, try to make those connections to maybe help kids more.

Tom Whitby:
Yeah. One of the things that comes to mind from this entire condition that we are now in, is that we don’t have to look for out of the box thinking. We’re now in the box. The whole idea of remote learning, now, is in the box. So it’s a question of taking up the challenge and understanding that, in order for we, as educators, to remain relevant, we’re going to have to continue our education and continue our learning and be more open to things that, before this, were only theoretical discussions.

So that being said, I’d like to thank you all for joining us here in this panel. And I would like to thank our audience for listening to us and remind you that every Tuesday is EdChat at 7:00 pm Eastern time. So you can join in the chat and then follow up on the EdChat Radio Show, which is brought to you by the BAM Radio Network that supports us each and every week with our program. Thank you very much.

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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