School Reopening: Online as well as Classroom Learning should go hand-in hand
During the phase of school reopening, teachers should not marginalize online learning and classroom learning as two different practices, according to Christine Greenhow, associate professor of educational technology in the College of Education, and 2018 Recipient of MSU’s Teacher-Scholar Award. According to her, people should not be thinking of online learning vs. classroom learning as either or, but how to combine them, in the best ways possible, to meet students, families and educators where they are, now.
For the question on opportunities and challenges of online learning, she said that having raced to reduce barriers to online teaching and learning since 2020, K-12 education should continue on expanded technology infrastructure, teacher development and virtual learning options to improve education long term. For learners who prefer or are unable to attend in-person school for various reasons, the continued option of virtual learning, with trained teachers and supported families, is an opportunity for permanent improvement. Furthermore, the rise in remote working is here to stay; with online learning, we have the opportunity to prepare students for their future workplaces.
Challenges are that students need high quality and multiple forms of interaction with teachers, peers and subject matter when in-person classes move online, and that takes redesigning instruction. According to her, pedagogy matters the skill and attitude of students.
Teachers need to distill their key goals and leverage technology features to meet them. The online chat, discussion forums, video lessons, online meetings, etc., offer tremendous opportunities to make students more engaged compared to time-strapped classrooms where students hide and few hands shoot up. But educators, students and their families will need continued investment in guidance and supports.
For the question regarding ‘what we have learned from two years of remote learning’, she answers that, people have learned that connection and community are key. In the early days of the pandemic, K-12 online instruction included little synchronous i.e., live interaction between teachers and students as teachers put materials online and rethought approaches quickly, but over time, the level of interaction increased to foster students’ engagement.
We also learned that community-building through technology is so important. In the absence of school-based training, for instance, teachers turned to teachers on social media to get their questions answered. We learned that social media platforms can play an important role in just-in-time teacher professional learning. Now that the majority of teachers have integrated some form of distance learning we should leverage the educational benefits that remote learning revealed, while bringing down the costs.
For the question on how teachers can use social media in a better way, she said that before the pandemic teachers had a lot of latitude in how much and whether to teach online and personalize students’ digital learning. Students largely pursued their interests and opportunities out of school on social media through YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other platforms. But the pandemic forced teachers and students into some form of online teaching and learning. Teachers themselves sought out personal and professional digital learning networks on social media to get their needs met, especially to learn from other teachers outside their district who had more experience teaching online. Teachers can use social media to stay connected with their students and help students stay connected with each other. Teachers can use social media to teach students citizenship and how to critically participate in important civic conversations.