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How Educators are Leveraging Technology to Adapt to Remote Learning Challenges

by Ashley Wallinger

December 17, 2020

2020 has been a year of tumultuous change, particularly in the education world. In the spring, schools made the sudden switch to remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep North America. Teachers adapted to leading classes over Zoom and students adjusted to self-guided learning at home. IT departments dealt with device shortages and school administrators tackled equity issues – now even more crucial with students away from the classroom.

Education was in quite an upheaval, but with every crisis comes the opportunity for meaningful change. Educators utilized technology to conquer remote learning challenges, and the lessons they learned will likely have a ripple effect on schools for years to come, potentially shifting the landscape of education forever.

Constants in Question

Schools all operate somewhat differently, even within a particular district, but their basic form is the same. Classrooms are the hub of teaching and learning and are the space around which most of the school day revolves. With the move to remote learning, not only did the place change but the constants of the classroom environment did too. Some students struggled with poor Internet connectivity. Students with siblings sometimes took on the role of caregiver while juggling school assignments. Teachers weren’t always able to engage with students one-on-one as they could in a classroom.

School administrators experienced these challenges as well. Ed Kemnitzer, Director of Technology, Innovation and Information Services for East Williston School District in New York, said the issues his district faced were frustrating at times. “When we have kids in front of us in the classroom, we’re looking at their faces, we know what kind of day they might be having, we know they have the Chromebook we’ve given them, and they’re using the Wi-Fi and the bandwidth we’ve provided them, but at home, all those constants are in question.”

East Williston is a 1:1 school district, and Kemnitzer says the connectivity challenges students faced were minimal compared to other schools. However, they were still an issue to be resolved to enable a seamless transition between in-person and remote learning.

Ensuring students and teachers have the tools they need is more critical than ever in a distance learning environment. Still, many districts were plagued by a device shortage early in the pandemic and during the back-to-school period. ( 1 ) This only widened the digital divide, as less wealthy schools had fewer resources to obtain laptops amidst a surge in demand. Some districts have had to resort to printed assignments as they await device shipments that may not arrive until the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year.

The laptop shortage makes it painfully clear just how necessary technology is for remote learning success. Without devices, teachers cannot connect with their classes and students can fall behind on assignments. As many districts weigh their options for returning to in-person learning in 2021, they must make access to technology a top priority to ensure students learning from home get the same education they would in the classroom.

Right Tools for the Right Job

Technology has allowed learning to flourish in an online environment, but the options can be overwhelming for school districts. Teachers may find it challenging to learn how to use new tools, while administrators may struggle to decide which software is the best investment.

Kemnitzer says his district focuses on ensuring the technology they purchase empowers students to own their learning through tools that foster collaboration and engagement. “We don’t want every classroom to look like one another. We want teachers to have buy-in, we want teachers to leverage what makes sense for them and their students, and everything is authentic.”

Authentic learning is taking on new meaning amidst school closures. Education is no longer confined to the classroom or the bell schedule, so teachers are harnessing technology to keep students engaged through online project-based learning experiences. Instead of learning content just for the sake of knowing it for a test, students develop real-world problem-solving and collaborative skills that they may not have in a traditional school setting.

Quizzes were a staple of the classroom environment pre-pandemic, but teachers are now relying more on technology to assess students in real time. Dr. Richard Hughes, Superintendent of Frontier Central School District in New York, has experienced this shift in his district, and says educators are beginning to grasp how digital forms of assessment can enhance the learning experience. “Any tool that’s out there that lets you provide immediate feedback that’s positive, shows where they can grow, helps them set their own goals, you’re going to keep that engagement. Those are the kinds of things that we need to keep our kids involved in.” When students have access to tools that give them information about how they’re performing, they’re better equipped to take ownership of their learning.

Sharing the Wealth

Collaboration has always been a pillar of education, and it’s even more critical for success in a remote learning environment. When teachers work together to share resources, learning is more effective for students.( 2 )

Mike Sylofski, Manager of E-Learning and Instructional Services for the Northeastern Regional Information Center, has seen how cooperation between schools and districts has helped improve learning outcomes. He says educators in his region created a repository of activities linked to K-8 academic standards. “This was homegrown by teachers coming together and sharing the curriculum and learning activities that they were using, leveraging technology tools.” Some districts are even considering how to share teaching staff between schools to ease the burden of budget cuts and keep essential programs running.

Technology has been beneficial in aiding collaboration efforts. Educators can be miles apart and still coordinate curriculum through digital lesson planning tools. These resources allow teachers to learn from one another, resulting in better teacher performance and student achievement. ( 3 )

Plan Your Remote Learning Experience

It’s no doubt that without technology, schools would not be able to function, let alone thrive in an online environment. That’s why having the right tools to facilitate remote or hybrid learning is so fundamental.

Whether you’re looking for devices and accessories, collaborative hardware and software, online security and classroom control tools, or professional development services, Trox offers a full suite of remote learning resources.

Watch our panel session from the NYSCATE 2020 conference featuring superintendents and administrators from school districts across the state of New York for ideas on how they are leveraging technology during these challenging times to improve learning outcomes.

Contact your Trox account executive for more solutions to bring the classroom learning experience into the home.



Sources

  1. Browning, K. 2020, October 12. The Digital Divide Starts With a Laptop Shortage. [Blog post]
  2. Davis, L. 2020, February 01. Teacher Collaboration: How to Approach It In 2020. [Blog post]
  3. Reid, C. 2020, March 13. How digital tools can help teachers collaborate on lesson plans. [Blog post]

 


About the Author

Ashley Wallinger is a content marketing specialist at Trox. She began her career in broadcast journalism, working as a producer at two TV stations, where she created content for news broadcasts and digital platforms. She has since held roles as a digital copywriter for a marketing agency, as well as a social media specialist overseeing content creation and analytics for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.