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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Don’t Throw Out New Teaching Tools with the Bathwater

The COVID pandemic caused k-12 teachers and higher education faculty to suddenly shift to using more technology, to teach virtually and remotely, to keep learning going in new ways. Educators were pushed out of their comfort zones, having to quickly learn new knowledge and skills.

For instance, some k-12 teachers were required to use course management systems such as Canvas—tools traditionally reserved for the college-level- to organize online work, grade assignments, and communicate with students. Even elementary teachers had to facilitate lessons to students using platforms such as Microsoft Teams. University and college professors found themselves having to teach classes also using mostly unfamiliar video-conferencing programs such as Zoom.

However, with plans to return to in-person schooling, I caution educators not to completely abandon these new tools and their newly acquired knowledge—not to throw out their new tech-based strategies and teaching methods with the proverbial bathwater.

I think the summer is the perfect time to pause and reflect on what “new” tools actually worked, actually enhanced learning, made teaching life a bit easier, and how can these tools be carried forward into the future. I know there might be an urge to return to “things as they were” in the classroom. I understand, I get that teaching kindergarten students online is not ideal. Nevertheless, the rush to normalcy should not overshadow the pedagogical opportunities gained during the last school year.

One specific example from my own teaching experience during the pandemic involved using Zoom to invite various virtual guest speakers to my classroom, allowing the students and I to explore new perspectives and learn content at deeper levels. In some instances, the education majors in my classroom were exposed to some renowned, highly accomplished teachers, who shared valuable insights about teaching elementary students. A platform like Zoom allowed me as a facilitator to “bring in” these guest lecturers rather seamlessly—no booking hotels, arranging flights, etc. Just sending them a link. This is certainly a tech tool that I will carry forward and keep alive in my classroom.

Of course, everyone’s teaching situation and needs are different. Consider the questions below as you reflect on what you might retain into the 2021-22 academic year and beyond:

  • What technologies, tech tools, teaching strategies, changes in my instructional approach, might I continue to use in the classroom?
  • What “new technologies” enhanced learning for my students? What “worked?”
  • Could I continue to utilize online grading, learning modules, etc.?
  • What new tools helped me communicate more effectively with students/parents?
  • What technologies could I continue to use that bring greater diversity, perspective, and depth to my teaching and classroom?

Again, while I understand the strong urge to put this extremely difficult school year behind you, contemplate how your teaching might benefit from this experience—the silver lining—and place that benefit into your pedagogical toolbox to be available for years to come.