I work in corporate education. I have trained soft skills (customer service, management, and HR compliance training *shudders*) and I have trained “hard skills” in IT. I LOVE teaching Microsoft Excel certification training. Word is number two. Excel is probably my favorite because when people can use Excel, they almost universally like the application they hated the most and that is soooo gratifying.
I have literally trained on a global scale. I have worked for multiple companies with locations in other countries. Both in developing training that isn’t in my time zone and delivering that training. This means I have worked with giving training in person and via a remote tool. I hope that this world will bring useful advances to schools. But there are some pretty bad pitfalls that the corporate world has learned.
Which leads to my some advice for schools and teachers.
Number 1: DO NOT MIX IT UP
Learning can be done remotely. It is more challenging both for the teacher and the learner, and requires a different skill set. I can only imagine the added difficulty of low attention spans (sorry kiddos, but generally you are less disciplined at maintaining your own attention).
And rule number one I have learned: don’t try to have a single teacher covering learners in person and digitally. The digital attendees WILL be neglected. No matter what tricks I tried or how hard I worked at it, if I had even one person attending “live” – they got my attention first and most. when I moved a class to either “all live” OR “all digital” – it worked so much better.
When I hear about teachers who will even potentially have to cover both types of students my insides twist. No. Just please, please no. Do NOT try to do this. Set up “digital” classrooms with the students who are learning digitally and “live” (traditional) classrooms. This is the only way I see success for either group and especially for the kids who are feeling isolated and disconnected via a digital experience.
Number 2: Is this OnDemand or Streaming?
At least around me the teachers are STILL unclear whether they need to record lessons for kids staying home or will be hosting “zoom” classrooms. This is a problem. And they each have to be approached very differently.
OnDemand learning (self-paced or recorded) requires a different kind of pacing. In some ways it can and needs to be faster. It’s great for those students who can absorb the knowledge quickly. I LOVE giving self-paced training for those people. I also love giving self-paced for the folks who need to take longer, read something and think about it. It’s a beautiful option.
Hosted virtual classrooms are entirely different. And the tools for online learning… well I seriously hope this improves them.
Digital whiteboards do exist, but either you need a tablet/pen setup OR you have to train yourself with a mouse on a digital whiteboard and both come with some pros and cons that isn’t the point of this blog entry. I think there is a lot K-12 teachers can be learning from the digital classrooms colleges have spent ~10 years doing.
Discussion is huge. Engagement is the Word of the Day (every day). At least when I was in school there was a lot of lecture from teachers. That is difficult on digital. It’s easy for someone to get distracted. And don’t think video is the answer – there are ways around that.
Number 3: Where’s the Money?
I think this is actually the most frustrating to me. These people who are insisting kids need to go back to school and teachers need to balance a digital learning world and a live learning environment and need to handle social distancing and need lots of disinfectant…. I make a lot more money working a lot fewer hours than a K-12 teacher (I only work 40 hours a week). Teachers need better pay. Period. They also need funding for the supplies they need. Both the digital supplies and the physical.
It infuriates me that airlines got billions of dollars to “save” them (and it might not – many of them have announced in Oct they will be having tens of thousands of layoffs) but we couldn’t set aside anything for schools? Infuriates.
I personally hope this leads to some alternative options for public schools. I hope this brings into stark relief the need for us to fund our schools. Federal date shows about 30% of teachers are over 50. That puts a 1/3 of that workforce at high risk of COVID mortality. Even if it doesn’t kill teachers (which is BAD ENOUGH for us to take note!), they will be sick for several weeks and potentially need to quarantine up to a month. Who is going to substitute? And who is going to keep these kids up-to-speed for a month or more when a teacher is unable to come in?
This is complicated. There aren’t necessarily easy solutions. And essentially ALL the solutions will need some funding to implement. If we all agree that educating our children as a society is an important value, we should invest in it. Personally, I would rather invest in schools than in airlines…