For our senior educators, the new education sometimes comes with a substantial learning curve. The transition is much easier for younger teachers. Illustration, Bryce Chismire.
For younger teachers, not long out of school themselves, the transition is nearly seamless: A learning tool becomes a teaching tool. And for kids, already tuned in to technology, almost from birth, the student is often the teacher. I asked my neighbor’s 9-year-old son, Max, to set up my Alexa and figure out a system problem on my iMac. “Piece of cake,” he said. And, for him, it was.
Max is just a kid, but like most kids his age, he’s already comfortable with increasingly complex technology. He does his homework on a laptop and attends virtual classes with his tablet, which he also takes with him when he attends a in-person class a couple times a week.
Maybe for Max, mastering the new education model is a snap, but for today’s educators and administrators faced with critically changing technologies, it’s often an uphill battle. That changing face of education means devising a hybrid program of remote learning and in-person teaching using a variety of digital tools. Lesson planning takes on a whole new meanin, as the blackboard is also a computer screen. Teachers are reaching out to kids at home while interacting with those in the classroom, all at the same time.
And now, we have Covid, further complicating educational objectives and methods. For some, distance-learning is no longer a parental preference or a school system’s choice: it’s a mandate. that sometimes comes with a critical loss of interpersonal relationships between students and teachers. It’s hard for the teacher to read negative body language—such as from trouble at home or because of learning difficulties—when viewing the child remotely through a computer screen. And what about no touching and social distancing when elementary kids need human comfort, especially at the start of a new school year, or when they take a tumble during recess?
For families, online education can be a challenge—having to teach subjects they may know nothing or very little about. It can also be a burden, juggling time between teaching, work (often at home now), family, and personal time. Home schooling can be exhausting. And for families with children ranging from elementary through high school, scheduling takes a toll.
But where schools are fully or partially shuttered—teachers and students quarantined—home schooling may be the only option. But even with a plethora of high-tech tools, it’s a struggle. And if it goes on too long, education suffers, and we end up fostering a generation of young people subject to learning deficits. Add to that parents who have to work, so grandparents are doing the teaching, and theirs is not a tech-savvy generation. Most of these older folks did their learning from schoolbooks – the kind with paper pages, not battery-powered screens. Their vocabulary was—and mostly still is—virtual, in the true sense of the word.
So, yes, embrace it or not, we—parents, students, and teachers—are faced with a new system of educating, one that requires learning new skills and mastering rapidly changing technology. New traditions replace old and the familiar fades into nostalgia. Bye-bye paper books and lead pencils; hello Google and high-speed Internet. A fast-paced digital world is now Education’s New True.