It is time for the world, and particularly its educators to get serious about remote teaching.
Two years on, it is time to accept that COVID and its variants will be part of our lives and schooling for years to come.
It is also important to appreciate at the same time that key elements of schooling, which date back to the Industrial Age, are becoming increasingly alien in a socially networked society, where the interconnectedness necessitates a more collaborative, agential style approach.
The significant digital divide, student mental health concerns, shortage of teachers, falling student enrolments and retention rates and the growing student disengagement and alienation point to major structural shortcomings within schooling, that necessitate astute holistic renovations befitting today’s world.
Schools and governments must address those realities, understanding their experience is being replicated in schools worldwide, and normalise as soon as feasible the apt, attractive, effective, and strongly individualised use of remote teaching in schooling, be in the school or from home.
The new normal should be schooling that incorporates the astute everyday use of remote – or some would say hybrid, blended or flipped – teaching.
Let’s get serious.
Banish the notion that the pandemic is a temporary problem, and that the connected world is not dramatically changing our ways.
Schooling must move immediately out of its holding pattern, the use of Band-Aid solutions and political spin and begin shaping a model of schooling for a networked world that can provide a ‘new normal’, largely interrupted schooling when living with COVID.
Critically continue to base schooling within the physical place called the school, but employ a socially networked teaching regimen that is equally attractive, engaging, and effective on-site and when provided out of the student’s and teacher’s homes.
Let’s take advantage of the global societal shift to a digital and networked existence, the increasingly sophisticated technologies, the greater personalisation of information and the best of traditional schooling and teach for today’s world, and not the Industrial Age.
Many have been calling for years for this to happen. In early 2020, the schooling of the nation’s young irrevocably changed worldwide.
Let’s accept there is no going back. Rather, there is the necessity, and the opportunity for governments and astute visionary educators to build upon the natural transition to a more networked, personalised mode of schooling to provide every one of the nation’s young an attractive, quality contemporary education, while contending with COVID.
Stop grabbing off the shelf online teaching solutions, still geared to the Industrial Age, that bore most students, and which benefit only the bottom line of the companies who create them.
Core is shaping the way forward with a digital mindset.
Allied is genuinely respecting and building upon the contribution made by all associated with the education of each child. For far too long students, parents, grandparents and vitally teachers, have been viewed as pawns to be used at whim by education bureaucrats.
Within a socially networked society the dividends come from the collaborative pooling of resources and expertise and treating people with respect; trusting and empowering them to contribute to the holistic education of the children.
Let the village assist in the education of the young.
The remote teaching during the school shutdowns globally was in reality done by the ‘village’, primarily from the students and teacher’s homes, using their personal resources, infrastructure, and connectivity.
Rarely has that financial contribution been recognised or teachers recompensed, or it appreciated that this kind of collaboration exemplified the use of networked resources that should be the norm within a networked society.
COVID has alerted parents, and hopefully governments, worldwide to the oft-forgotten reality that schooling should be far more than academic performance, and should also address the growth, development, well-being and nurturing of every child, the marginalised, the non-conformist, the disabled and not simply the academically advantaged.
The pandemic also underscored the imperative of 100% of the nation’s young and their families having permanent broadband home connectivity, and all in the family having the digital devices needed to grow being digital, lifelong. 100%, not 95% or even 99% must have connectivity.
In a networked society, that connectivity is now critical to almost all facets of life, for every citizen. That has been affirmed daily throughout the pandemic. That personal connectivity must be provided to all, the 90-year-old as well as the young. Every citizen must have the ready facility to learn, communicate, and socialise digitally, but also to partake of the evolving new normals, such as telehealth, pandemic warnings, digital passports, and permission to access buildings, travel, provinces, and nations.
Astute governments, such as Boston in the US, recognise they must ensure every citizen has that connectivity, as they once did with the mail. While most in the developed world can afford that connectivity the school experience worldwide revealed, even in the richest of nations there was a significant number who could not, particularly when all in the family were working from home.
Let’s also get serious about the greatest resource at the school’s disposal, its teachers.
Start by treating them as professionals, by providing them with the trust, respect, working environment, remuneration, training, agency, and support needed for them to lead the way in shaping the schooling for a networked society, and providing the best possible remote teaching and learning.
Stop treating them as mere drones on an education production line, to do the bureaucrats bidding.
Reflect on how governments worldwide treated doctors during the pandemic, and how those same governments treated their teachers.
Little is the wonder that teachers throughout the US, Canada, France, Australia, and England, have felt the need this year to strike to be heard. One will struggle to find an enquiry which examined teachers’ working conditions during the pandemic, the inordinate workload, the overtime, the stress, the burnout, the failure of bureaucrats to listen and the percentage of the teachers who have resigned or who soon will.
When one of the world’s wealthier education provinces, the state of NSW in Australia, unilaterally decides from on high to employ unqualified undergraduates and long retired teachers to keep its classroom’s operational, one can rightly argue that system’s treatment of its greatest resource has failed – abysmally.
The system likely doesn’t realise it is in a protracted downward spiral ever more unable to find the desired teachers. But NSW is not alone.
Education systems and schools worldwide continue to ineffectually perpetuate the ways of old, still believing the pandemic and the structural shortcomings are but temporary. It is time to get serious about the use of remote teaching in a networked society.
However, any such move, either by a school or system, must give due regard to the desired totality, to the increasing interconnectedness of the networked world and adopt a holistic approach that addresses the myriad of linked variables at play.