The Future of Learning for K-12

ChromebookNews organizations have truly embraced the old adage, “never let a crisis go to waste.” With every new pronouncement regarding the COVID-19 virus, the sky gets a bit closer to falling. Many of the public schools in my area have closed, but most of them are posting assignments online. Indeed, one of them has offered Chromebooks for check out if the family lacks a computer. This strikes me as a leap into the future of K-12 education.

Having taught both web enhanced and hybrid classes for the Technical College System of Georgia, I fully understand how to teach from my couch. In those classes, students had access to an online learning suite (either Blackboard or Angel, depending on the flavor of the year) wherein I listed assignments or offered online assessments. For those readers who are not chronologically gifted, the idea of closing schools seems unthinkable, but for anyone who has attended a post secondary school in the past decade, these fortnight long closures are no big deal. Indeed, I used to make jokes (during face-to-face class sessions at school) about teaching in my pajamas!

For younger students, such as those in K-12, however, quite a few of them have little experience with online learning, and some of their parents may not have experienced it at all. With a bit of coaching, both students and parents will come to see that much of what happens in a classroom can happen at home. In fact, in some cases, it is better to have online content. Forgot what happened to that important handout? Just print another one. Want to check the due date for an assignment? Just look at the online lesson plan. Need extra help? Email the teacher with your questions and concerns and you should get a prompt, personalized answer. Missed a class? Watch a recorded video session. In my experience, most college students eventually came to appreciate online resources, even if they didn’t embrace them. There is a learning curve, of course, as anything new requires some learning. Parents around here are about to embark on a new way of helping their kids with homework.

Who knows if the COVID-19 will actually be a serious threat to public health? Only the perspective of time will let us know that. However, this unprecedented interruption of business as usual in public education will demonstrate the power of online instruction. No doubt there will be some kinks in it, as this is new for some folks. But, the future of K-12 will be online, and this is just a preview of how it will work.

“Current Events Day”

coachWhen my kids were kids, I often assisted with homework, but I made a tactical error and told them I’d actually do any thing we determined to be “busy work.” (At the time, I still believed in the integrity of most educators.) My daughter had a couple of coach/ social studies teachers in high school who would set aside one day a week for “current events” which basically meant the students were to bring in a news story and read it to the class. There were absolutely no criteria assigned, nor was there any grade. Since the teacher was just using this instead of doing any work himself, this qualified as a mom task, and I decided to use the weirdest items I could find.

As it is has been a while since my kids were in school, I no longer read so much weird news, but sometimes a headline just grabs my attention. So, I just read a news story which would have made the cut for current events day at JHS. What do y’all think of this one? Call 911!

Are Teachers Professionals?

As I’ve cruised news sites lately, there have been some articles about teacher in NY who was “tardy” more than a hundred times and yet managed to keep his job. This seems to be an outrage to the press, but I think it is much ado about a minor problem. If your doctor is ten minutes late arriving at his office, you are probably glad that is all. Same thing for the judge who hears your divorce. Why is that? Because they are professionals, that’s why. According to the articles I read, the teacher was never late to class. So, who suffered because the teacher liked to dawdle over breakfast? Not the students, apparently.

So why is this a big deal? The teacher went to arbitration, stating that he had only once been later than 10 minutes, and that was due to a broken down car. And the teacher kept his job. Certainly, being punctual is a virtue that the teacher should demonstrate, but if teachers are professionals and they do a good job in the classroom, then “punching a time clock” should not even occur.

Many years ago, when I first began teaching, there was a “sign in” sheet in the front office, and we would all have to line up to jot down our names. Then, we got a new principal who said, “You are professionals, and I expect you to be professional in all of your dealings with students, parents, and anyone else you encounter in your work. I am going to treat you as professionals, and professionals don’t line up to sign in or punch a time clock.” Cool. And, as I recall, we didn’t have any problems with instructors being late. Instead, we reported directly to our classrooms to help students, instead of waiting to sign that sheet of paper on a clipboard.

The news media should report on good and bad aspects of education. But leave the “tardy” teacher story alone. It’s a stupid story.