Post COVID Future Of K12 Education

By James Butler, Senior Director Instructional Technology and Online Education, Tucson Unified School District

James Butler, Senior Director Instructional Technology and Online Education, Tucson Unified School District

The reset button for how we do education across the globe has been pressed for us courtesy of Covid-19. K12 education going forward will never look the same as it did prior to the pandemic. In this seminal moment in history, teachers everywhere are utilizing existing resources in a wide variety of creative ways so that teaching and learning continues, and in some cases thrives.

Prior to the pandemic, I remember going to conferences or attending webinars listening to (Insert world renowned education guru here) saying something like “We’re preparing kids for the world when we don’t know what it will look like in the next 5 years.” Let’s make a slight correction. We don’t even know what the world will look like 24 hours from now. While there are several ways to approach our current global reality, here is insight to our district’s approach.

In Tucson Unified School District, we were met with the same challenges for remote learning as any other school district. We developed a framework from which to implement our strategy we call the Four Pillars for Remote Learning Success. These four pillars are described as follows:

O365: Collaboration tool for teachers students and staff. Within Office 365, teachers have their classes automatically rostered so that they know who is in each class. This allows students to receive and send assignments as well as interact with the teacher. Teachers can also provide feedback to collaborate with students one on one, in groups or as an entire class.

Zoom, Communication tool for teachers students and staff. Zoom allows for ongoing communication one on one, large group or even several large groups when divided into virtual “rooms” or meeting spaces.

Clever, Single Sign on Portal where a student or teacher can log in and find all their apps in one place rather than loggin in multiple times for each app.

Synergy: Student information system. Teachers can post grades. Students and parents can view them.

By utilizing these four pillars, we are able to provide rigorous, relevant and engaging teaching and learning, be nimble as an organization and increase continuity from fully online to in person learning environments.

"In this seminal moment in history,teachers everywhere are utilizing existing resources in a wide variety of creative ways so that teaching and learning continues, and in some cases thrives."

Aside from the structure of the implementation of remote learning, consider the human side. Although much broader than the focus of this article, here are aspects to consider regarding people in a stressful and unprecedented situation.

Be mindful of morale holistically. Yet another platitude can be applied here. We’ve all heard the phrase “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you truly don’t care about people, this will be the time it shows up. At some point, when the pandemic is past, employees’ memories of how they were treated will not.

“Check your ego at the door”28 January 1985 “We are the World” was recorded, virtually every superstar of the time participated. Upon entering the studio, Quincy Jones famously had a sign hung “Check your Ego at the Door”. Regardless of what your job title is, be willing to lend a hand and do whatever you can in order to foster teaching and learning. Throw out the job descriptions except “…Other duties as assigned” Buses once filled with students suddenly became modified food trucks/laptop device delivery vehicles with dedicated drivers, some of whom assisted with cleaning shared computers, School office staff became frontline tech support, District departments work together each day.

“It’s so crazy, it just might work.” What’s feasible to provide for students and teachers may partially be a function of the necessity and competing priorities at any given time. Rather than asking “What is this curriculum/ technology/asset designed to do?”, why not ask “What’s possible?” “What can it do?” Why not try it?”. All school districts, regardless of size have different applications, personnel and assets. If busses are already equipped with Wi-Fi, consider parking them in neighborhoods that may have been identified as not having access to the internet. Kids can 3d print masks? In some districts, students build apps for COVID Tracing.

1. Remember those mission statements. “Kids first”, “It’s about Kids” “Every Child, Every Day” “In Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” to name a few. We don’t have the luxury of putting the mission statement on the shelf until things settle down. Living up to the mission statement is more critical now than it ever has been. We owe that much to our kids

2. Digital Canyon Ahead. Beware of First Step. Lastly, If for some reason we weren’t familiar with how deep and wide the digital divide was before, we’re acutely aware of the giant chasm that still exists regarding digital equity, the “haves and have nots” along with the “can and cannots” and its impact on teaching and learning.

While no one has all the answers, and I certainly don’t, the intent here is to present some considerations for implementing remote learning while never underestimating human factors that impact us all. In summary, please consider this. Today’s kindergartners will be 85 by the turn of the century. What will they tell their grandchildren what school was like during a global pandemic?

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