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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Pandemic Reveals New Possibilities in Education

Education has been turned upside down in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools across the country have been closed, and students thrust into remote learning. Teachers, in many cases, have had little or no time to really prepare to deliver this different form of instruction.

Parents have also been tasked with helping to guide students, as they juggle their own work from home.

Some education leaders are concerned about students falling far behind in their studies, and rightfully so. Others are saying this is a major turning point, a black swan moment for education, as it will never be the same after students return to campuses.

Often, it takes losing or removing something for things to be revealed. Possibilities existed all along, but we become complacent, and do not see them until a major shift, like this pandemic, occurs. Then, it’s like drawing back the curtains or raising the blinds, the light comes shining in. In my opinion, this situation has shed light on many new possibilities inherent in our education system. For instance:

  • More creative use of technology by teachers. 21st century skills, operating more like how students will in the future workplace.

Technologies such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, have existed for quite some time, but how many educators were actually using them pre-corona virus? These possibilities to connect with students remotely were there, but we have relied heavily on a face-face educational model, despite the fact that much of society now operates using a social media, technologically distanced lifestyle.

I’m not saying to abandoned face-to-face instruction in k-12 schools or higher education. All I’m saying is we have demonstrated that we can use other tools to supplement—and ideally enhance--the instruction that’s already going on. For example, teachers could use a technological platform to conference with students and families if they are not able to meet in person. Teachers could offer occasionally “coaching sessions” to provide tutoring or help with homework. Students in k-12 could virtually collaborate on projects, much the same way college students do.

  • Students work at their own pace. Self-pacing, more autonomy and control over their learning.

K-12 students have now tasted the opportunity to work at their own pace, not having to sit in classrooms all day and learn at the same pace as classmates, who may move faster, the same, or slower than them. Younger students can now take more control over their learning and their daily schedule. A child might realize they could complete their schoolwork in the morning, leaving the afternoon for leisurely pursuits, maybe learning musical instrument, engaging in the arts, exercising, developing new technology (yes, some will play video games or watch YouTube all day—this is within the family’s purview). But this situation has raised the question: do children need to be sitting in classrooms all day?

  • Teachers can have more family time/work from home occasionally. Perhaps one day per week teach remotely?

I know this might not be popular with some parents, but what about the possibility of teachers occasionally working from home, having a remote teaching day? They could spend more time with their families, working from home, as other professionals have the option to do. Students, in time, will be more accustomed to distance learning platforms, and an occasional remote day, could be worked out. This would give students a chance to also work from home, involving some parents who could work from home or have flexible schedules, to be involved in the education process.

Imagine the economic savings in regards to school utilities, busing, etc., if students could learn remotely even once or twice per month.

Of course, these are just musings as this point. The pandemic has also revealed concerning realities, such as students not having access to technology and teachers being ill prepared to deliver instruction through remote learning. In the end, this crisis shaken all aspects of life to the core, including education. But it’s also yielded potentialities that lie ahead.