4 Ways Technology Must Improve
1. Technology must offer greater organization of remote learning solutions and implementation.
Teachers needed — still need! — an opportunity to create remote and distance learning strategies that could simulate the face-to-face instruction missing from so many currently used instructional platforms.
If teachers had time to prepare, then students enjoyed a more established, stable routine in the face of global uncertainty. (1)
Onboarding and training served as tremendous friction points, considering that school districts needed weeks’ worth of formal training sessions for teachers and separately for parents. (1)
Teachers also professionally craved greater support stemming from better organization, especially during as the Covid-19 pandemic evolved. The profession as a whole around the world currently faces severe burnout and early retirements. (2)
This mass departure from teaching may have been prompted by the pandemic, but found its roots in many years of isolation and disorganization before Covid-19 ever hit.
As Australian researchers put it in a recently published report:
To support student wellbeing and return to the focus on improved student outcomes [after the Covid-19 pandemic], schools, systems and parents must acknowledge and address the wellbeing of teachers as a matter of urgency. (2)
The use of communication technologies that are not only simple and effective to support students, but also allow for the sharing of ideas and concepts between teachers in the same school, can be one internal organizational tool in which administrators can further support and engage their faculty and staff.
2. Technology must nurture the “underlying relationships between students and faculty.”
The study emphasized how “schooling involves more than academics.” It’s the connection between students and school that guarantees student attendance and engagement with the curriculum and their homework assignments.
Some parents went far out of their way to ensure the relationships their children built with their teachers continued to be nurtured, doing whatever it took to have “those small exchanges” that had such a huge impact on their progress and success. (1)
Indeed, throughout the pandemic, Black parents in particular indicated an increased need for “empathy and grace support” for their children from the school administration and teachers. (3)
Communication’s intrinsic link to relationship building offers a unique way in which a technology solution which may initially seem clinical or cold might better facilitate the natural relationship process in a post-pandemic educational system.
3. Technology must facilitate clear communication and collaboration between all parties involved.
Fatigue of digital communication solutions run rampant throughout many studies examining technology and communication in schools during the Covid-19 pandemic. (1,3,4)
In turn, good communication was required in every different combination imaginable:
- Student-to-teacher-to-student as part of regular schoolwork;
- Student-to-student in peer groups;
- Teacher-to-parent (and parent-to-teacher) for coordination and reporting;
- Teacher-to-teacher to support and share resources during a difficult time; and
- Administrator-to-teacher-to-administrator, not only to support the faculty as a whole, but also to train and pivot when the situation necessitated. (1)
The current options cracked at the increased need for all types of communication required once face-to-face instruction disappeared. Finding simple, private alternatives to a “quick chat in the hall” proved difficult for teachers to replicate, particularly in a hybrid or remote learning environment. (1)
However, if a school could manage to achieve that balance, then parents could report even greater satisfaction levels with their school than even before the pandemic.
In the previously cited study, for example, Black parents reported a greater proportion of favorable experiences during the pandemic than before it. They attributed this change in experience in part to the “consistent and frequent communication extended by administration and teachers.” (3)
Looking abroad, another pandemic-focused study on student outcomes in European countries observed that the vast majority of teachers in the study — 76.6% to 90.8%, depending on grade levels — never had “direct contact with either the children or parents,” including no videoconferences. (4)
However, the study found that the best student outcomes had the highest correlation with certain “dimensions of teaching quality” — explicitly, offering feedback on assigned exercises and directly communicating with the students in question. (4)
For teachers who made a point to talk with their students one-on-one and offer unique, personalized instruction, the research clearly indicates that going the extra mile resulted in improvements despite the interruption of the pandemic.
(The trick, of course, is finding a platform intuitive and simple enough for parents and young children to understand, that also adheres to the basic privacy and security protocols required of an educational platform.)
4. Increased technological literacy and acceptance within the education system should result in greater technology integration.
Technology was the saving grace to every school system during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While older generations of parents and faculty pushed back against its more ubiquitous inclusion in the classroom in previous years, younger generations — born and raised on apps and the Internet — have grown accustomed to and expect the conveniences of modern technology.
The pandemic only increased its universal adoption, which by now has gained acceptance by all but the most rigid of its former critics.
Even now, researchers champion the use of the pandemic’s abrupt insertion of technology as an “opportunity to find new ways to […] bring about a set of solutions previously considered difficult or impossible to implement,” up to and including: (5)
- Preventing student attrition and raising student access to educational tools, regardless of background or broadband connection;
- “Support for the teaching profession and teachers’ readiness;”
- New educational programs and outreach for apprenticeships and “employability [programs];” and
- Increasing “flexibility across levels and types of education and training” in preparation for the next pandemic.
We all pray desperately that another deadly pandemic will never appear again in our lifetimes’ — or in our students’ lifetimes.
However, having happened once already, should we turn our backs on the lessons learned during the crisis? Should we abandon the technology which saved our schools, even imperfectly, for a year or more?
Or, should we consider ways to iterate and integrate technology into a true, hybrid solution? One that prioritizes student outcomes and engagement above all else, and facilitates effective, simple communication between all educational stakeholders?
That decision can only lie with you — as do the outcomes of your current and future students who depend upon you.