April 29, 2021

M Felicity Rogers-Chapman: Lessons that COULD be learned from a year in a pandemic

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Rogers-Chapman blogs at In EduPolicy. This post considers some of the lessons that could be learned from the great pandemic pause.

For better or worse the past year has been a giant natural experiment in education. Some schools have been closed for in-person learning for more than a year while others have opened in some form. Some have provided the neediest students back on campus while leaving the more “self-sufficient” students to make do with ZOOM or other virtual learning tool. Teachers have worked exhausting hours trying to make virtual, hybrid and even pen and paper work for students. They should be applauded.

This year also has taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t:

  1. The value of in-person learning: for years there has been a large push by some education reformers to move from in-person learning to technology. Often touted as “personalized learning,” reformers argue that students can easily learn everything they need sitting on a computer all day. If it was unclear before, it is no longer. Even with live interaction with teachers and other students, students struggled through a long year of online learning. Teachers have expressed strong feelings about the negative effects of online all the time including learning loss both academically and socially. A recent study from the Center for Disease Control found that online learning can be damaging to children’s emotional and mental health. Additionally, virtual learning is not universal. It does not necessarily mean live interaction with teachers. A U.S. Department of Education survey from March 2021 found that “10% of eighth-graders, and 5% of fourth-graders, are getting no live instruction at all when learning remotely.” They are essentially being given homework packets.
  2. Virtual Learning has its place, but it’s a small one: one discovery is that online can work when absolutely necessary. For example, inclement weather in many parts of the country can close schools. Now schools may consider making a snow day into a zoom day rather than disrupt the school schedule. Having said that there is a still a gap in access to the internet. The schools have made a major effort to connect all students, but it isn’t there yet. Furthermore, several studies point to a disparate impact of the online learning environment particularly for blacks and Latinos who have had less access to internet than their white peers: “he October US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey shows that 91 percent of households with K–12 students always or usually have access to a device for learning and internet access. Although gaps have narrowed since the spring, Black and Hispanic households are still three to four percentage points less likely than white households to have reliable access to devices, and three to six percentage points less likely to have reliable access to the internet. “

The post offers four more lessons to be learned. You can read the full post here.

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