As we all know, education is undergoing a huge transformational shift since the pandemic hit. The sudden rise in remote learning created several challenges in homeschooling for educators, students and parents. From lack of infrastructure (devices, broadband internet, printers, secure VPN) to the absence of developmental needs of children such as exercise, outdoor time, social interactions, face time with teachers, etc., to a looming financial meltdown -- education has many challenges to confront. If the pandemic continues in 2021, McKinsey estimates a learning loss of seven months on average in school children and “a hurt that could last a lifetime.”
Access to Internet and Devices Still a Top Challenge
Per a recent survey of teachers here and abroad, most believe that remote learning will continue to be a major component of K-12 education but lack of internet access and devices to learn online remains the top and most basic challenge. Even in the U.S. about 3.7 million students lack internet access while 4.4 million households lack consistent access to a computer. Remote learning also makes a disproportionate impact on low-income families and those living in rural locations.
School Districts Employ Creative Methods to Provide Access
While the digital divide requires a collective effort from government, institutions, and our society in general, many school districts are getting ahead of the curve by deploying innovative solutions to meet internet access requirements. Arkansas educators are recording remotely from their homes or from empty classrooms and airing five hours of weekday content on TV for pre-K to eighth grade students. An Ohio district is pre-recording lessons on USB drives and delivering them to students’ homes for students to watch at home to supplement their assignments. An ingenious plan In South Bend rolled out 20 school buses equipped with Wi-Fi connections and accessible to 30 districts. Students sitting nearby will be able to access e-learning from up to 300 feet in any direction. Murray School District in Utah built their own internet service so students can log-on from home.
Big Tech Offers Help by Partnering with Schools
The overall impact of the pandemic on education remains to be seen. However, with the right decisions in technology, this crisis can certainly be overturned by opportunity. When Covid-19 came calling, Baltimore Collegiate for Boys partnered with Citrix and Google (News - Alert) to create a solution to move their students online. The Citrix team ensured that every student be supplied with a Chromebook, access to a hotspot, and the ability to connect to their classroom. Since every department used special programs, software, and applications, Citrix (News - Alert) was tasked to think about how these disparate systems would be interconnected, web-enabled and accessed remotely. The school uses Google cloud which extends the school services online without adding additional overhead to the existing on-premise infrastructure.
The partnership is sponsoring creative events heighten student engagement. A Hackaton workshop for students ages 12-18 will teach how to build musical beats, code in Python and remix music through one-on-one instruction with tech coaches from Google. Students will collaborate in teams, and by the end of the session, they will have produced and published their own music tracks.
Since the first lockdown, Baltimore Collegiate now boasts a record 96% daily attendance average, bringing it to #2 among public schools in the city. While school enrollments are sadly dropping nationwide, Baltimore Collegiate continues to grow during the pandemic and has hundreds of students on its waiting list.
Digitally Transformed Classrooms
While online learning may have been around for the last decade, it is now poised to grow transformationally. While Covid-19 certainly disrupted age-old customs in absence of traditional face-to-face learning, it’s time that educators equip themselves suitably to adopt to this new model, providing students with secure access to resources from anywhere. Future educators will be ready to teach live to a local student body and another that is located remotely, even in another time-zone. Teachers will be expected to design interactive, engaging curricula that can be easily consumed online while minimizing screen time to avoid Zoom fatigue. Overtime, there will also be a need to provide personalized experiences, one that blurs boundaries between what’s digital and what’s physical.
It’s no secret that we are experiencing rapid transformation aided through technology. Schools and universities must take cues from the private sector and evolve their services around evolving student needs and expectations. It’s also important that students too feel passionate about using technology since a powerful connection is made when you can share a common goal with like-minded people.
Watch video featuring Archie Tyson, Principal, Baltimore Collegiate: https://youtu.be/Jv7Gc-RWOJM
About the Author
Kevin Brooks is Managing Director Global System Integrators for Citrix, a multinational software company that provides intelligent workspace solutions. Since joining the company in 2001 he has held several positions in business development. Contact him at Kevin.Brooks@citrix.com.