Originally published in eSchool News.
The first phase of distance learning shocked education systems across the nation as schools were forced to migrate students and staff to distance learning in a week’s time, leaving many struggling to simply “make it work.” Fast forward six months and schools are still dealing with the weight of the pandemic–but are now confronted with new, added challenges.
On top of preparing for a new year, which already comes with a demanding check list, our staff and students have the added stress of potentially achieving an academic year through a completely digital learning environment – which means it’s not just about getting laptops and connectivity into the hands of students – it’s about an ongoing, optimal online learning environment.
Whether schools are operating completely remotely or implementing a hybrid version that incorporates both in-person and distance learning, we all have to ensure that our devices – whether being used by administrators, teachers, or students – are fully operational, secured, and kept up to date for the duration of the entire school year, no matter what it may bring.
As we approach the next chapter of remote schooling – or Distance Learning 2.0 – this September, schools are facing new obstacles as we collectively work to fine-tune this new normal, without breaking the bank. Despite these challenges, there are still ways to ensure our schools remain resilient to any speedbumps along the way.
It’s important to remember that teachers are your students’ biggest advocates, so ensuring they have the proper training and experience with new online platforms will directly affect how students are adapting to the new normal of e-learning.
Simply scheduling an eight-hour training program for your teachers will be counterproductive to this transition; don’t rely on your teachers to retain everything they’ll need for the school year in a single, long-winded session. Instead, focus on shorter, more intimate sessions that encourage discussion and sharing materials, recommendations, and best practices for teachers to work on together.
At Duarte, we’ve partnered with a company that provides a variety of succinct, on-demand videos for teachers to watch and help them prepare. On top of that, we’ve compiled helpful documents for our teachers that focus on recommended resources that will play an integral role in their teaching success. There is a lot of information being thrown at teachers who are making this transition to distance learning, so making the information digestible goes a long way.
Long-term distance learning is new territory for everyone, and expectations should align with that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a successful online learning curriculum or approach, and we should anticipate times when schools will need to adjust initial blueprints.
This “learn-as-you-go” mentality is not something to shy away from, but instead should be embraced. One way to facilitate positive changes to learning models is by implementing tools that can help administrators make informed decisions on what’s working versus what’s not.
We’ve adopted Absolute’s Web Usage technology for this purpose. Now, our team can gain insight into how learning applications – both paid for and free – are being used. We receive weekly reports that focus on the top 10 websites getting the most traction, which help us identify whether it’s aligned to what we expect from our students or if we need to realign. This way, our school can revisit programs that may not be working as effectively for students and make the necessary changes, whether that’s more training or a new resource altogether.
With roughly 80 percent of district-owned devices planning to be distributed across our community this fall, potential security threats loom in the back of our minds. On top of everything that teachers, students, and parents have to do to facilitate a successful school year, stacking on device hygiene responsibilities – or making sure student laptops and the security controls on those devices remain healthy, secure and up-to-date – is an added challenge.
While our school is planning digital citizenship and cybersecurity best practice sessions throughout the school year, there is still an avoidable gap in device security now that IT teams won’t physically be able to ensure the appropriate precautions and measures are being followed, such as installing patches and monitoring application health status.
That is why having a security safety net in place is paramount. By adopting tools that enable full visibility across all devices, and the ability to remotely update and protect them against underlying vulnerabilities, teachers and students can keep their focus on what’s most important: uninterrupted learning.
Duarte uses Absolute’s patented Persistence technology for this, which helps guarantee our devices and mission-critical applications remain healthy and function effectively. Devices may now be distributed across districts, but Absolute technology gives us a connection to every device, as well as self-healing capabilities to keep critical apps running. There’s one less thing for IT and teachers to do.
While it can be intimidating to see our futures rapidly accelerating into the digital landscape, we often overlook how resilient children are. Everything that we are learning today will be incorporated into how we teach in the future. And while technology plays a significant role in remote learning, our best tools have been – and always will be – our teachers and parents.
To navigate the upcoming year and beyond, it’s important to encourage partnership and collaboration throughout your school and community. With constant communication between parents and teachers, students are better positioned to feel both protected and empowered. Everyone will be encouraged to think differently and adjust to the new normal, but don’t forget that there is true strength in numbers.
The fall semester will surely bring a handful of surprises and challenges, but when communities and schools come together, it goes without question that our school systems can remain resilient to disruption. With the right learning resources, a “learn as we go” mentality, proper technology tools to alleviate underlying stress for educators and students alike, and an acknowledgement that we are truly all in this together, there will be no feat too large for schools to take on and overcome.