There have been a lot of complaints about what the response to COVID in terms of protection and social distancing did to grade school education and kids’ learning. Many of the arguments Karen Swanson hears center around the lack of socialization, the separation and distancing of kids in their primary grade education development, and the general loss of time for advancement, triggering affected students to fall behind their expected development levels in pre-pandemic years. However, as Karen Swanson points out, the COVID period also allowed schools to see in real-time what various technology tools could provide, how they could be implemented, and most importantly, what actually worked versus marketing statements of what might be possible.
Teaching a school classroom, whether in person or online, is a very different dynamic than teaching a number of working adults how to adapt to a concept or skill. Karen Swanson notes from her own education experience that child students are far more immersed in the entire learning structure, with a lot more at stake mentally. Working adults generally tend to take a limited-scope class, probably with one or maybe two topics, and there’s no real graded advancement unless one is trying to achieve certification in a skill or a graded college class. Even then, adults come with a level of self-commitment and discipline that child students are still learning to create within themselves.
No surprise, the onslaught of everything technology was confusing at the least and probably disheartening at worst in terms of those left behind academically. Karen Swanson agrees much of that confusion had to do with teachers having to construct digital classrooms on the fly without any actual structure or sense of what worked for their grade level. Literally, everyone was thrown into the Zoomverse whether they wanted it or not.
However, despite the above, teachers have realized that many of the digital education tools do have advantages. First off, online exams and tests make it extremely easy to manage test grading. Once the exams are complete, all one has to do is run the scores, post, and evaluate the results. The number of hours spent processing paper exam submittals and sheets is truncated dramatically, leaving more time for teaching and spending less time on administrative work.
Secondly, digital meetings, forums, and communication channels can still be used and should be to augment classroom teaching. Most times, students don’t digest new concepts immediately when lectured and work at different speeds to learn new lessons. Digital communication tools allow them to communicate on their own terms and time versus being expected to understand it all during classroom hours.
Third, and most important, Karen Swanson argues, digital interaction and writing help build logic, written communication skills, and computer skills, all of which students will need more and more as they move up in grades and begin to enter the adult world. Computers aren’t going to go away, nor will digital meetings, but they can be used in a more intelligent fashion with more practical goals and training expectations, even for the classroom.