What schools have really learned from remote learning

Distance learning is, for now, a thing of the past in much of the US K-12 system. But it is unlikely to stay that way forever.

Natural disasters caused by climate change, future outbreaks of COVID or other illnesses, snowstorms, and even efforts to save money on fuel costs could present schools with dilemmas about whether and how to maintain instruction. And some students are still learning remotely, if their district provides resources for this model.

School districts will need long-term strategies, then, to engage students when they are not physically present in school buildings, argue two researchers in a new paper. Alvaro Brito, a doctoral student at Boise State University who is a specialist in 21st century learning in the Compton School District in California, and Devery Rodgers, an assistant professor of instructional leadership at California State University-Long Beach, argue that districts should:

  1. Empower teachers to gain online course design experience to lead distance education efforts.
  2. Support educators grappling with the basics of remote learning, rather than expecting them to learn on their own.
  3. Develop systems that use data to strengthen educators’ understanding of their students’ progress.
  4. Overcommunicate and collaborate rather than working in silos.

“Instead of anticipating things going back ‘to normal’, create a ‘new normal’ by embracing technology to facilitate student engagement,” Brito and Rodgers write.

The duo developed the document by digging into the archives of their experiences helping teachers deliver distance and hybrid learning to students between March 2020 and June 2021.

They presented their findings virtually on June 26 at the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education in New Orleans. The recording of the session is available online for conference participants.

The report offers an opportunity to learn from the unique circumstances of the pandemic, rather than abandon it and return to the old status quo.

Many teachers and school staff struggled to keep students engaged at the start of the pandemic. But others have had success using video conferencing and other ed-tech platforms to maintain connections and keep students on track.

To learn more about the future of distance and blended learning, read the interview with Education Week reporter Alyson Klein with two online training experts. And follow all the 2022 Education Week ISTE coverage on edweek.org.

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