COVID-19 has dramatically impacted education delivery, with more than 1.2 billion children globally out of the classroom, many pivoting to digital platforms for remote education. Now, with back-to-school plans still uncertain, parents, students and educators must prepare for the possibility of at least some continued remote learning. As school districts across the country reimagine education, they’re considering a hybrid mix of remote and classroom teaching and live and recorded instruction to keep students engaged.
As disruptive as our first wave of remote learning was, there’s some data to suggest that online learning can be useful – and possibly the future of education. Technology investments in education were already on trend to reach $350 billion by 2025, with language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing and online learning among the investments.
For some students, digital tools can allow for self-paced learning and accelerated knowledge transfer, along with the development of digital skills. Yet concerns for parents and educators are all too real as not all students thrive in a digital learning environment, nor are they equally equipped with the technology they need to succeed. Despite its fallbacks, some component of online learning is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
As parents and educators prepare for online learning to continue, here are some lessons we can learn and technologies we can use to make the best of an online learning situation.
Lesson #1: Resilience Is A Critical Skill
The ability to adapt to change is perhaps one of the most useful life skills any person can acquire at any age, and that includes students. Digital transformation has accelerated the need for new skills development, and today’s students will be tomorrow’s workers who will need to be adaptable to workplace and career disruption. Consider that by 2023, more than 52 percent of the US workforce will be gig workers, and more than 90 percent of freelancers say their education didn’t adequately prepare them for gig work. Seventy-nine percent of youth are already reaching outside of their classrooms to acquire job skills. Part of building resiliency is allowing children to navigate their way through risk, overcome challenges and problem-solve on their own. By mastering online learning challenges and expectations, students can gain confidence in their ability to thrive in the face of change.
Lesson #2: Technology Can Be An Enabler
For students struggling to move from classroom to remote instruction, technology can provide some assistance and this includes the accessibility features integrated within most PCs and tablets. For example, after your student has written a paper, have them use the PC narrator to read the text back to them so they can self-edit their work. If your student struggles with writing, they can use the speech recognition so the PC will type what they speak. Built-in microphones can be used to record lectures. Integrated dictionaries can help with grammar, spelling and pronunciation. For students using PCs that support touchscreens and digital pens, on-screen inking can help them take and track their classroom notes, or to brainstorm ideas. Apps like OneNote and Evernote can keep students of any age more organized. Many education apps are also available to help students close online learning gaps, including:
Lesson #3: Teachable Moments Aren’t Classroom Defined
Successful people will tell you that life lessons were every bit as instrumental as formal education in helping them navigate the world around them. Use remote learning downtime to teach your children valuable life skills. Nature walks can spur a variety of discoveries that can transform into educational moments. Sibling conflicts can be used to practice diplomacy and compromise. Can’t go to the movie theater? Encourage students to write and film a movie (a smartphone will do the trick). Cooking teaches students about chemistry – and fractions. And carpentry can be used to teach trigonometry. Even common chores like cleaning their rooms can help students with decision-making, organization and follow-through (check out the OurHome app for assigning and rewarding kids for chores). Traditional board games like Life can teach decision-making skills, while Monopoly helps practice math and negotiation, and chess develops strategic thinking.
Today’s students will need to be lifelong learners in order to keep pace with the career and job disruption caused by digital innovation. The inherent challenges of online learning provides opportunities for students to practice resiliency, coping and problem-solving as they adapt to a new normal, and master technology tools to close learning gaps and stay productive and engaged.