Virtual School Meanderings

May 18, 2022

Who Do I See About This?

So in the report entitled Understanding Pandemic Pedagogy: Differences Between Emergency Remote, Remote, and Online Teaching that I wrote with a variety of co-authors back in December 2020, we outlined the following information:

Many have also called for schools, districts, and systems to engage in planning for instructional continuity through distance and online learning to address longer school closures for the past decade. Barbour (2010) illustrated the planning required for remote teaching when he wrote:

in Singapore online and blended learning was so pervasive that teaching in online and virtual environments was a required course in their teacher education programs and schools are annually closed for week-long periods to prepare the K-12 system for pandemic or natural disaster forced closures. (p. 310). In fact, the use of distance learning to address issues of instructional continuity during a pandemic is not a new concept. McCracken (2020) described how during the Spanish flu pandemic the telephone – a technology only 40 years old at the time – was being used for high school students in Long Beach. According to the author, “the fact that California students were using it as an educational device was so novel that it made the papers” (para. 2).

Another example was the polio epidemic in New Zealand in 1948, which closed all of that country’s schools (Te Kura, 2018). At the time the Correspondence School – now Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – used traditional correspondence education to send lessons to every household, as well as using educational radio to broadcast lessons during the first semester of the school year.

More recently, Barbour et al. (2011) reported that following high levels of absenteeism during the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, a number of private schools in Boliva developed their own virtual classrooms and trained teachers on how to teach in that environment. The report specifically noted that this trend did not translate within the public school system as it had in places like Hong Kong and Singapore. With respect to Hong Kong, Alpert (2011) described how online learning helped facilitate continued access to instruction in 2003 when schools had to close due to the SARS outbreak. While the SARS closure was consistent with the emergency remote teaching we have seen in North America with the current COVD-19 pandemic, following the outbreak school began to implement planning for a more formal use of online learning for future school disruptions. This planning was evident during the H1N1 outbreak in 2008, when 9 remote teaching allowed approximately 560,000 to continue learning during that pandemic induced school closure (Latchem & Jung, 2009).

Extended school closures due to pandemics have not been the only potential source of guidance. For example, a school or district could use the lessons learned in a case described by Mackey et al. (2012), who outlined “the immediate post-earthquake challenges of redesigning courses using different blends of face-to-face and online activities to meet the needs of on-campus, regional campus, and distance pre-service teacher education students” (p. 122), to plan for remote teaching. Rush et al. (2016) described many of the aspects that schools should plan for in case they found themselves in the position of having to transition to remote teaching to “sustaining school operations when a disaster makes school buildings inaccessible or inoperable for an extended period of time” (p. 188). The list of topics included issues surrounding connectivity, device distribution, teacher preparation, instructional modalities, content creation/curation, etc.. While only published in April of this year, using interviews and focus groups conducted in 2017 and 2018, Schwartz et al. (2020) described the lessons learned following the 2017 hurricane season on how distance learning could be used as “a way to continue instruction in emergencies and can support social distancing” (p. 2). Simply put, the potential to use distance and online mediums to transition remote teaching to ensure continuity of learning in both the short-term and long- term has been a key strategy, and one that researchers have studied. (pp. 8-9)

At the time I thought I was clever, particularly given that I was the Barbour that was cited above.  But a couple of days ago, my colleague Chuck Hodges was looking through the National Education Technology Plan from 2017 and he tweeted this:

[the actual image he included is below]

Yesterday I asked him if he knew where to find older plans and shortly thereafter he responded, and told me to look on pages xix and 47 of the 2010 National Education Technology Plan.

3.5 Develop a teaching force skilled in online instruction.

As online learning becomes an increasingly important part of our education system, we need to provide online and blended learning experiences that are more participatory and personalized and that embody best practices for engaging all students. This creates both the need and opportunity for educators who are skilled in instructional design and knowledgeable about emerging technologies. Crucial to filling this need while ensuring effective teaching are appropriate standards for online courses and teaching and a new way of approaching online teacher certification. (p. xix)

Growing Demand for Skilled Online Instruction

As online learning becomes an increasingly important part of our education system at all levels, this creates both the need and opportunity for educators who are skilled in online instruction and the demand for greater knowledge of the most effective practices. As we implement online learning, we should make sure that students’ learning experiences address the full range of expertise and competencies as reflected in standards and use meaningful assessments of the target competencies. Crucial to filling this need while ensuring effective teaching are appropriate standards for online courses and teaching, and a new way of approaching online teacher certification that functions across state lines. (p. 47)

So as early as 2010 the US Department of Education were calling on teacher education programs to ensure that pre-service and in-service teachers were capable of online instruction.

Yet, even today – after three school years of pandemic-induced disruptions – can we honestly say that teachers are capable enough with online instruction that they could have their student in person on a Friday afternoon, be forced into remote teaching on Monday morning, and still provide the same quality of learning experience to their students?

So who do we see about the fact that teacher education has ignored, and many would argue is still ignoring, these calls for over a decade?

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