The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Teaching and Learning
We are on the cusp of a new era in teaching and learning. The tools and resources teachers have used to do their jobs no longer seem adequate to the challenges presented by the extreme disruption brought upon us by the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Every year, teachers confront “summer learning loss.” But this fall, in some disciplines, students could return with less than 50% of the learning gains and in some grades nearly a full year behind what we would observe in normal conditions, according to researchers at the Northwest Evaluation Association. And children from high-need communities will be hit the hardest.
How will our K–12 system shift to address this reality? And beyond the challenge of new learning gaps, what lasting impact will this life-altering outbreak have on our nation’s education system? First, let’s take a closer look at where we are today.
This is a seminal moment for teachers. In a modern world where porosity defines the ebb and flow of work life into home life, lesson planning and grading are done in the teacher’s lounge during the day and at the kitchen table during the evening. Emails from students are the last thing teachers look at before sleep each night and the first thing they check on upon waking. But somehow, with the “new normal” brought upon us by the COVID-19 virus outbreak, any remnants of emotional sanctuary at home has disappeared. Now it is the place from which teachers are teaching.
Even if this moment feels temporary and makeshift, the necessity that invented the virtual classroom will leave a permanent mark on how teachers teach in the future.
For many teachers, online teaching was supplemental prior to the virus. They used a growing assortment of online resources, and students found some engaging. They were a great help in “personalizing” instruction, and online assessments had an auto-grade feature, which saved time. Online was a “nice-to-have” companion in a print-digital “blended” environment. Now, online seems essential and nondiscretionary. Even the most technologically hesitant teachers have adapted quickly to using a variety of online tools to find lessons, share assignments, and conduct video conferences. Whereas “blended” teaching and learning was the 2010s, “connected” teaching and learning will be the 2020s. The virus was the forcing function that made it so.