Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Key Take-Aways from a Year of Virtual Education

Students lost some educational time. They have some gaps. This is common knowledge about education in the COVID19.

There is a lot more that has changed, though. Here are some key takeaways from a year of virtual education:

Education has Evolved and Changed Over the Course of the COVID19 Era

Teachers were thrust into virtual learning with little in the way of training or preparation. The roll-out was also delayed by lack of technology: devices and connectivity. The slow start, in some areas, was due in part to equity concerns. Seattle Public Schools, for example, chose not to implement virtual education initially, when schools were shuttered for what was believed to be a very short period of time. They knew that some students would not have access. If education was delivered through a format that only some children had access too, gaps would widen; this wasn’t in the spirit of public education.

Soon, though, the focus switched to getting technology into the hands of families so learning could continue. This took time. Making devices available didn’t guarantee that families would be able to use them effectively (One-on-One Technology in the Primary Classroom).

In the spring of 2020, there was little accountability for students with regard to attendance or performance. The rationale was that it wasn’t fair to penalize students for things that weren’t within their control.

There was also a socio-effective component. Once people have disengaged, it can be hard to reengage.

Ultimately, school systems invested heavily in technology. They did so with an eye to age-appropriateness. A lot of iPads were put into the hands of young children. School systems also invested in child-friendly platforms and educational management systems. They invested, to varying degrees in training – training not only in using technologies but in creating community and engagement in virtual settings.

Educational Systems Will Want to Keep Some of Their Innovations

People – educators and families alike – experienced things that didn’t work. They also experienced ones that did.

Many have pieces that they want to carry into the post-pandemic era. Some see tremendous possibility in one-to-one technology: one laptop or iPad per student. Educators have become familiar with a greater array of technologies. Some view them as a way to connect learners as well as individualize learning and manage classrooms; this can take place in traditional settings.

Many classrooms have continued to utilize devices heavily as school resumes in-person, in part to make management and sanitation easier in extraordinary times. But will the educational community ever want to let them go? Children love their iPads. The tablet was already viewed as a game changer by some subsets of the community, like parents of autistic children. Now a larger subset is considering what the technology has to offer.

Some families saw their children blossom. Some realized for the first time that they had a voice -- or that things that have always been a certain way don’t have to be that way. School was an institution, one that looked a certain way and functioned a certain way. It was a building. It was a seven hour day. In some instances, it was anxieties and tears.

School systems are making decisions. They’re working to re-engage. Many are looking into providing ongoing virtual options for a segment of their population (School Districts with Ongoing Virtual Schooling Options).

It Will Take Some Time to Sort Through the Data

Students experienced different sets of outcomes.

This was due in part to life challenges. It was also due in part to school response.

The majority of parents said their children were learning less in remote schooling. However 14% indicated their children were learning more.

People made models based on sets of assumptions: for example, that low socioeconomic status and crowded living circumstances would compound negative impacts of building closures. The predictions couldn’t take into account everything that would impact learning. They didn’t necessarily take into account how well served particular students were beforehand.

There Will Be New Opportunities

Schools were already in a consumer mode. Some were losing funding to charter schools. Now they’ve got concerns about losing students and funding, but they’ve also got new tools. There were already families who wanted flexibility in their school day and in their mode of delivery. Now educators are better able to serve them through the public school system.

Schools were faced with unprecedented challenges and they came away with big dollars to tackle them. Declining enrollment may reduce funding from traditional sources. Many leaders, though, say the money shouldn’t be thought of as simply a way to fill in gaps as schools try to carry out ‘business as usual’.

Educators and leaders will have the opportunity to try out new models within the traditional public school system. They can expect people to be taking a close look to see how successful they are.

There is a cohort of teachers who have skills they didn’t have before. Some will want to hone them.

Educators may want to prepare themselves for a slightly different set of opportunities. Whether they’re considering a new job or new training, there will be some new possibilities to consider.