With governments around the World slowly reopening economies — and schools — we find ourselves forced to make changes to how we operate, as well as cater for new regulations and needs that we simply never thought of before. Change is different, change is new, and it is often uncomfortable: reopenings puts novel pressure and scrutiny on school systems, and raise new questions many were not prepared to answer that fast. Reopening a school in the Covid-19 era is harder than closing it — but there are solutions.
What change means
Institutions will likely be heavily regulated, pushing for the creation of protocols to factor in various health requirements and operational adjustments. How to train staff on new behaviours? How to teach and enforce social distancing with kids? How to control? How to track and isolate new Covid cases? These are new, very practical questions to which each institution will need to develop their own answers, depending on context, resources, and calendar.
New requirements, whether they come from hierarchy, from parents’ scrutiny or from the law, will likely prioritize hygiene and prevention, pushing brick-and-mortar schools to undertake intense reorganizing and training on social distancing management, protective measures for kids, and the use of virtual teaching tools.
Teaching materials themselves, as well as pedagogy, will have to be re-structured to fit this new context. Parents and families will likely need to be involved in this process, should part of the teaching be conducted from home. Practice and exercises will need to be adapted for easy assimilation by isolated students. Any new tool being implemented will need to be accessible to students with disabilities.
The haste behind all these transitions puts enormous pressure on school directors. Leaders are asked to react quickly despite having incomplete guidelines and information ; and in many cases under intense scrutiny from supervisors and worried parents. Navigating and decision-making during this period has become like moving through a minefield: schools must move forward and innovate, for their own financial stability and for the good of children, but have very little guidance on what to do.
This is a lot. School leaders, teachers, teachers-in-training: the education community at large will need support and funding in the coming months and years, and most importantly, be given the time and resources to train staff and innovate safely.
A steep learning curve
Online teaching, typically, is very new and odd to many teachers. Trainers are now expected to master a host of new ICT tools without proper introduction to them, and the learning curve is really steep. Some professionals, used to being given a reasonable amount of time to get comfortable with new tools, are now tasked with setting up large group videocalls, right now, from home. They also end up ensuring troubleshooting for all participants: who else, but the Professor, a student or a parent will ask for help when they can’t connect, or when their audio is not working, or when the connection is bad?
Are we really expecting all teachers and school leaders to become ICT experts right away? What happens when schools simply don’t have the resources to scale up their usage of ICT? What do we do when students and families don’t have a computer at home, or good network? What is a reasonable budget to solve these issues?
Distance learning tools and processes must be designed with these questions in mind: distance learning tools should save teachers’ time and energy, not cost them more. Distance learning programs should ensure more kids can learn, not less. This crisis is revealing how inclusivity, accessibility and ease of use are essential to implementing distance learning.
It is not just about choosing the right software: it is about implementing it efficiently and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders involved. It is about ensuring it is put at use, on the long run, and about measuring its positive outcomes to learners and their communities.
This is our expertise at Chalkboard Education. For 5+ years, we have been implementing distance learning and teachers training programs on behalf of schools, tertiary institutions, and NGOs, in West and East Africa. Recently, we have trained over 10,000 teachers and school leaders on school management and their curricula. We are now developing a teachers training manual to help K-12 teachers and school leaders transition to virtual learning in the Covid era.
Helping schools improving learning outcomes is our driver and our ambition, and we are dedicated to help all schools transition into the Covid era with success. Contact us for any inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.