America has had to become very flexible within the last few weeks. It was forced to mold itself in many different forms to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Businesses have morphed from brick-and-mortar structures to entirely online operations. Restaurants have closed their seating areas and built fort-like structures with tables and chairs to accommodate space for pick-up orders. Our country is evolving minute by minute. The effects of such a pandemic will undoubtedly echo in our collective future. Education is no exception. The current circumstances forced many schools to make technological advancements they considered but never had the ability to undertake.
The effects of such a pandemic will undoubtedly echo in our collective future. Education is no exception.
In just a few weeks over 1.1 million students in New York City alone transitioned to online learning, according to The New York Times. Teachers and administrators completed crash courses in Zoom and Google Classrooms while teaching students arithmetic and addressing students without internet access. These challenges pushed administrators and education leaders to think critically about the affordances of technology in the age of unpredictable environmental changes. As disease ecologist Peter Daszack suggests in his op-ed piece, “We Knew Disease X was Coming. It’s Here Now.” coronavirus is the first of many. He states, “But as the world struggles to respond to Covid-19, we risk missing the really big picture: Pandemics are on the rise.” As such, it is up to the education sector to develop solutions to quickly adjust in cases of emergency.
In China, certain companies have developed programs to assist educators during an awkward time of transition. Based in Beijing, New Oriental Education and Technology Group partnered with Agora.io to develop digital classrooms. According to Digital Trends, “The new digital classrooms aim to bring some semblance of normal life and education into the lives of students currently living under quarantine because of coronavirus.” The system allows students to interact with their teacher and fellow students. However, the United States faces a different set of challenges than schools in China. “In a country like China, which has a much more centralized school system and curriculum, the switch from analog to digital might be easier.”
In addition to incongruous curriculum and benchmarks across state lines, students’ varying socioeconomic status exacerbate issues regarding virtual education. The Hechinger Report’s article “Coronavirus is poised to inflame inequality in schools,” foresees students in low-income homes suffering the most during this time of preventative social distancing. The article states, “About 17 percent of adults access the internet from home through a smartphone only. For the kids in their homes, that means trying to read assignments, write papers, do research and take quizzes with tiny screens and tinier keyboards.” This places these students at a distinct disadvantage. In response, USA Today reports, many schools across attempted to address this issue by implementing programs like Bergen County’s “one-to-one” technology program. The program provides students with a laptop to complete assignments from home. These programs can be extremely beneficial for students as they may have no other way to complete assignments. Other school districts have not been as fortunate and, therefore, distributed paper packets students must complete.
Despite the many challenges distance learning presents, one teacher believes this form of education is the future. Enrique Dans recently penned an article titled, “How Coronavirus is Going to Change Education Forever,” in which he discusses some of the affordances of online learning systems as well as an inevitable shift in education. Dans states, “A period of confinement like the present should be the time to consider experiments, to test tools and to try to provide our students with the best possible experience, comparable to the expectations we generated when they started their programs.” He urges educators to continue researching ways in which we can embed online learning into the traditional education structure even after life returns to normal. He suggests developing robust, completely online and face-to-face courses so students have the option to choose between either modality. The options can be especially important when, “for example, [students] have flu or any other potentially contagious disease.”
A period of confinement like the present should be the time to consider experiments, to test tools and to try to provide our students with the best possible experience, comparable to the expectations we generated when they started their programs.
Enrique Dans, Teacher
While we may not have all of the answers, we must continue to work through the present challenges of distance learning. More importantly, we must continue to improve virtual education and overcome barriers in the aftermath of coronavirus; it will better prepare us if another circumstance drives us into our homes and away from the classroom. In this way, we tackle issues before they arise and move towards a modern solution to age-old problems.
At The Myers-Briggs Company, we believe in remaining ahead of the curve and assisting students where we can, especially in times like these. As such, we have recently released open access to our VitaNavis platform—a rapid, mobile tool for student self-discovery. Self-discovery and awareness can be especially important as upper-class high school students make important decisions about their lives after high school. The offering is designed to help students virtually at this critical time when they are making enrollment decisions, preparing for their next semester course loads, or preparing to graduate and enter the workforce. Students will have access to the SuperStrong Assessment, exploration tools, advising insights, and a virtual advising guide. Here’s where your school can sign up from now through April 30, 2020.