Recently, we at K-12 Clothing – Wesley and Debora Jones, had the pleasure of hosting Erin Girard on our school-based podcast: The Multipurpose Room. An Outschool teacher and class quality specialist, Ms. Girard, joined us as we traced the developmental trajectory of our children’s education system over the last five years, emphasizing the recent coronavirus period and what possibilities the future could hold.
It comes as no shock that educational opportunities have drastically changed since the early years of the 2010 decade. Back then, there were brick-and-mortar schools and homeschooling. For homeschooling, there was support from charter schools and co-ops, which provided parents with a network of individuals. Of course, in the last five to six years, these options have evolved to include more virtual options. Over the last year, the number of schooling options and modalities available has exploded. The last six months have seen more educational options development than in the past few years. For instance, Outschool has been around for a while but started teaching core curriculum in light of the pandemic.
The shift of the last six months will have lasting impacts on education. It has shifted people’s view of education and changed their attitude towards schooling from home (whether homeschooling or virtual), with many people realizing that it can actually be a viable solution or alternative to traditional education. It has also shifted our curriculum and extracurricular activities. We are no longer bound by what is offered within the local community. However, as our blog post on global schooling resources shared, students and teachers have virtual access to various activities worldwide in various subjects.
Of course, nothing is without a downside, which is why there are downfalls to this educational evolution. There is an argument that this shift has exacerbated inequalities already present in education. There is a concern about equal access to resources and technologies and whether all students and school districts have the resources to continue to teach virtually. Some organizations, like Outschool.org, are jumping in to help by fundraising and allowing students with fewer resources to access materials at no cost. There is also the matter of students who learn differently and whether an online system will adequately meet their needs or whether they will be left behind.
There is also an issue of virtual education being seen as the same as in-person education and, thus, a lack of alterations being made to the course content, the type of teaching, and the activities being carried out, rendering some of the learning ineffective. And, of course, there’s the age-old problem of excessive screen time – an issue just escalated by virtual education. However, this last problem could easily be overcome in a virtual setting. Online school typically lasts two to three hours a day instead of the traditional six hours, leaving children more time to explore other avenues.
Although much of the discussion around the change in education focuses on the students and their parents, we also have to consider another vital part of the education system: the teachers! Life for teachers has changed dramatically. Veteran teachers have had to adjust immensely to the online system, adjusting their tried and true curriculum and learning the various technologies. Teachers can focus on one key factor: being open to change and not being afraid to ask for help. After all, parents have also undergone massive changes with remote work, so they can often help with the technological aspect in their own way.
We expect the educational system to continue to evolve. The pandemic has pushed a lot of evolution quickly but has also forced us all to be more creative and resourceful than ever before. It’s also allowed children to become better equipped with programs such as Zoom from a young age, and this is likely to show in their professional lives when they’ll be much more capable than the generation previous to them was. While we all adjust to the changes, it is vital it is to treat ourselves, our students, and our teachers with kindness during this pandemic. Allow everyone to make mistakes. In terms of the educational world, we will only excel after trial and error, and the important thing is to keep going and not be afraid of failure.