Before Covid, the question of the relative value of digital versus face-to-face instruction in a school setting never came up. Children were learning face-to-face while still spending a certain amount of time online every week, using educational software.
All this changed when the coronavirus arrived and closed schools in March. Suddenly, children, teachers and parents faced previously unimaginable decisions.
Teachers suddenly began redesigning their lessons to deliver instruction digitally. Many met their students on Zoom, the popular meeting software that has been booming since Covid moved in.
Now it is time for school to start, and concerns about the virus have created the need for both logistical and instructional changes.
So, since we are somewhat stuck with these changes until the virus runs its course or until a vaccine becomes available, how do we navigate this new frontier?
Some major CDC recommendations that staff and students will follow are: temperatures taken upon arrival, wearing masks or face shields all or most of the day, washing hands at least every hour, desks placed six feet apart, only one child per seat on the bus, unless they are siblings, and only half of the normal number of students in the building each day. There will be other similar changes in the normal school routine.
CHANGES FACING STUDENTS, STAFF AND PARENTS
Many school systems are going to “hybrid” instructional models, consisting of some days using digital methods and some days face-to-face. This presents serious problems for some. Many families are forced to decide between going to work or staying home with their kids. Some will home-school.
FACE TO FACE IS THE FAVORITE
Under normal circumstances, face-to-face learning is across the board the favorite of teachers, students and parents. After this last semester of being quarantined, I heard children saying, “I want to come back to school.” “I miss my friends.” “I miss recess.”
Teachers said, “I miss my kids.” There is no question how important relationships are to them.
Advantages to face-to-face learning include socialization, the opportunity for emotional support from teachers, physical activity and even nutrition for many children today. But this year teachers will teach digitally at least half the time, and some must go 100 percent digital.
ADVANTAGES OF DIGITAL LEARNING
Locally, in most cases, schools are employing a “hybrid” model which is a combination of digital and face-to-face learning. This model may include Microsoft Teams, a Zoom-like meeting program and software that allows students to digitally submit assignments.
If you research online the advantages and disadvantages of digital and face-to-face learning, you will find similar advantages as you see listed in this article from “Ryan” in a 2019 blog, https://www.idtech.com/blog/face-to-face-vs-online-learning. He summed up online learning advantages this way: Online learning:
- gives the learner more control over when they can learn
- allows learners to progress at their own pace
- doesn’t subject learners to distractions from others
Online learning is not precisely what is happening here, but these same advantages apply, as teachers redesign their curricula to conform to digital delivery via the meeting and homework software.
Teachers have always dealt with a variety of extra duties even before Covid. In addition to lesson preparation and classroom teaching, they always had record-keeping, student behavior issues, parent contact, paperwork of every description, professional development requirements and many other demands. But the workload just doubled.
Since Covid, while students may choose digital or face-to-face learning, teachers are required to teach face-to-face and manage digital software learning simultaneously, in addition to making regular contact with parents and submitting to the state auditors official evidence of students’ participation in learning while they are at home.
But regardless of all the changes, schools are opening, and teachers are preparing to meet their students.
LOCAL TEACHER SHARES THE JOY
Jodelle Spangler is a third-grade teacher at Tecumseh North Elementary School in the Shawnee Heights School District, near Topeka. She recently posted a picture of her classroom and made these comments:
“… Desks are spaced apart and so many items have been carried out or packed away. While it feels great to be in my happy place, the logistics and balancing of hybrid teaching are truly overwhelming.
“Trying to navigate this new journey feels like I am swimming with 50-pound weights tied to me. Trust me – I am chanting, ‘Just keep swimming.’
Still, she ended on a positive note.
“… This learning space right here will STILL positively impact the little people who enter. There will be laughter and there will be tears (most likely from me) and we will just keep swimming together – staff, students and families.”
–Carolyn Cogswell | Metro Voice