The Corona virus pandemic has led to school closures across the nation. Schools have been, once again, pushed into the forefront of scrutiny with attention on student learning, safety, and education inequities. Districts were scrambling to find solutions to educating over 76 million K-12 students in the U.S.A. American schools were not alone: worldwide over 1 billion students were on “stay at home” orders. Education as we know it came to a halting stop. The digital insurgence arrived instantaneously: The state of education abruptly changed, and the trend will continue into the future. Traditional BAM (brick and mortar) schools must adapt or they will be left behind as the rise of the cyber information age explodes. Today’s digitalized revolution is the capacity for users to access information anytime, anywhere, any device (ATAWAD), and represents the apogee of student learning.
American Schools began closing their doors in late February early March 2020. Most schools never imagined they would be faced with such a dire situation, not to mention looking to put in place procedures for teachers to implement a school-at-home program. This is not something that can be done at a moments’ notice. It takes explicit planning and delivery which many schools did not have adequate resources, nor the time to put a plan in motion. Teachers worked tirelessly to get resources to their students. Despite their good intentions, it was not enough to reach all deserving students. We congratulate teachers nationwide for their hard work, diligence, and commitment to student learning: knowing this was a daunting task. School Districts with existing online platforms were better prepared to quickly move students from the school building to online learning at home.
Teachers and parents struggled to educate students at home. The technological era revealed disparities among communities, teachers, parents, and students. Schools in the urban and rural areas were met with even more challenges to learning due to the lack of internet, computers, and laptops. Schools rushed to solve the problem as best they could: making copies, strategically organizing classes, distributing worksheet packets and books to all their students without home internet, oftentimes weekly. Some schools were able to loan students refurbished computers. Imagine you are an English teacher with 6 periods; you have to compile learning materials, without giving any direct instruction or guided practice, for approximately 100 students a week, and still be responsible for their individual learning, based on worksheet answers.
Frightened teachers and parents, in a frenzy, reported to schools as requested to distribute and pick up work packets hoping to continue the education of all students. Now imagine you are a parent (with less teaching ability) looking at these weekly packets of learning. Your child has not received any instructions on how to complete the work. You can’t help them, and you have to make sure the work is completed by the end of the week. Parents were frustrated and students were overwhelmed, scared, and trying to piece together what was going on in the world around them.
Teachers had to adapt quickly to Virtual learning. A few teachers were ill- prepared, no home computer, lacked formal training in implementing e-learning in the classroom, and were resistant to the technological era. All teachers in America (after 1995) were required to complete a teaching methods course, Technology in the Classroom, as a prerequisite to teacher certification. It may be time to review the coursework to get new ideas and adapt the teaching and learning. Almost all of the teachers were currently using a variety of e-learning resources and websites in their classroom. As a result, making the change was easier for them; as long as their students’ had access to the same technology at home. Teachers asked students to practice their learning with other popular programs implemented at the school level. Families with access to technology in the home were able to compensate and use other mediums to continue student learning. However, many students found it difficult to be engaged in the new learning process, and were not able to pose questions and receive answers due to the sheer volume of students logged on at once. Even if the parent had the capacity to school-at-home, they were overwhelmed teaching multiple children of different grade levels and abilities the core subjects and electives as required by the teachers.
The Corona virus has transformed traditional schooling. The sudden change left schools unable to handle the influx of students learning at home with or without technology. What will happen to seventy-six million students who were forced to school-at-home the last quarter of the school year? Suffice to say, this school year will come to a disappointing end for many graduating students. Some memories can never be recaptured. The 4th quarter was crucial for covering new material needed to be successful in the next grade or course. However, most of the learning was a review of previously taught concepts. If students are not taught new information, they could fall behind. Unfortunately, many students just stopped learning whether they had computers or not. Were students angry, bored, or disillusioned with the government interfering in their education and shutting down schools abruptly? What will happen to students who have been out of school for up to 6 months by September’s end, without any direct learning? Some schools were creative with WiFi hot spots using school buses and vans. In addition, students received refurbished computers, and were able to tether mobile phones without depleting their limited data plans. How long can this go on? Will families become discouraged driving all over town to access these hot spots?
If schools remain closed due to the potential spread of the Covid virus, students are expected to continue online learning at home. Students will be left behind. Why? It has very little to do with the teachers or schools. Simply put, students do not have computers or access to the internet at home. Until these inequities are quickly addressed, these students will fall further and further behind. Is online learning the future of American schools?
Most families want schools to re-open so they can return to work with some sense of normalcy. Many questions will need to be answered beforehand. Will school be a safe healthy place for students, if opened too soon? Is there a nationwide education plan in place for re-opening schools? Do we really expect children and teenagers to practice social distancing in a historically social environment? Will your child return to BAM schools? Parents should take advantage of this pandemic, as horrible as it may seem, by taking control and responsibility for their child’s educational future. It’s time to start planning for the next steps. What will happen if BAM schools remain closed for a year? Will you continue to pay tuition at independent BAM schools whose doors are closed? What elements should you be looking for in an online learning program: a versatile online platform, placement exams for core subjects, flexible, year round, unlimited access to courses, different teachers, allows for student independence, school expectations for learning, variety of courses including honors and AP, assistance with AP/ACT/SAT exams, offers NCAA core courses (for student athletes) A-G approved college readiness courses, parent involvement, and courteous staff.
Students may not be ready to progress to the next grade or course with gaps in learning. Online summer school for all students could be the answer to catch them up. In addition, for those parents unsure whether to return to BAM schools, you too, can enroll your students early. Almentia Academy has all the elements of a proven online educational platform. In addition, we provide direct teacher instruction, guided practice, independent practice, checks for understanding and learning, early academic plans (EAP) for each student, and we involve the parents in the full learning process. More importantly, we provide 12 months of extended learning just in time to accommodate students who did not participate in the last few months of school.
We cannot reach all students, especially those in remote areas without broadband service. We understand the benefits of the digital transition for schools. We support initiatives that address the technological inequities families confront as they struggle to access online learning. We believe in WiFi For All! In one of the richest countries in the world, we should be able to equip every household in America with broadband service. Almentia Academy will provide the student access to learning anytime, anywhere, using any device. Don’t delay enroll now!
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