Last night, in conversation with colleagues during a writing group meeting — and, as an accumulation of many ideas, from numerous conversations in the past week — I shared an idea, probably not a completely original one, but one that garnered some conversation on Twitter nonetheless. Forgive the typo, where “it” should be “if”:
Both to encourage online learning in all K-12 settings — and to ensure that all students are equipped and ready — what it schools were required to do one “remote learning day” every two weeks throughout the school year? Then they would have tools and skills for times like this.
— Troy Hicks (@hickstro) March 25, 2020
Responses were varied.
At risk of over-simplifying, they stretched from “yes, we need to do this now” (as some districts are preparing to do) all the way to “no, it can never happen because of equity and access issues.”
Digital equity issues in pandemic times, as Pew Internet has shown us in the past, have been, as reported by The New York Times and others, laid bare. Equity issues, if they ever really were really all that hidden, are now right out there for everyone to see.
That said, when we come out of this crisis, I don’t think that educators, in general, and educational leaders (at the district, state, and national levels) as well as policy makers (again, at the local, state, and national levels) have any more excuses for NOT embracing digital learning.
Some have done this well in the past 30 years. Some have done OK. Most, let’s be honest, have done poorly with embracing technology that can support high-leverage teaching, substantive learning, and meaningful reform in education. Many other scholars and critics make this case much more eloquently, and their work is worth reading (Larry Cuban, Neil Selwyn, Stephen Downes, and Audrey Watters, among others, are all good voices to begin listening to right now).
While we have many companies that are stepping in to offer “free” internet access for a while, and access to their ed tech tools, this is a systemic problem that needs to be solved. Otherwise, schools and districts will be stuck with guidance that is effectively useless, and models of online learning that are not aligned with best practices for teaching students, inviting them into collaboration, and leading them to deeper, generative, and substantive learning.
Moreover, if the trend holds, and more employers encourage/allow for remote work, we could argue that a move like this would also help prepare our students for their careers. That “career-readiness” thing always seems to get politicians’ attention.
At any rate, what are your thoughts?
Should the state legislators — when rewriting the rules on seat time requirements, waivers for weather-related (or pandemic-related) days off, and the ways in which K-12 education should prepare for a digital future — require schools to have at least one “remote learning day” a month during the regular school year?
Let me know what you think, in the comments, or by sending me a note.
Thanks. Take care, stay safe, and be well.
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