As both an educator whose first year of teaching was interrupted by a pandemic and a graduate student whose first semester was entirely online, I’m becoming increasingly interested in the relationship between technology and education. The toolbox of digital resources available to teachers and students has been rapidly changing and expanding for years, but the outdated, conservative, and bureaucratic education system hasn’t exactly kept up. The pandemic changed that; suddenly and without precedent, schools were forced to shift instruction entirely online.
Obviously, this massive change has caused problems: frustrated teachers can’t connect face to face with their students, many of whom are struggling to succeed without the proper tech, structure, and support. But I think this change also presents an opportunity for the education system to overhaul its outdated, Industrial Age structure and finally catch up to the rest of the twenty-first century.
Whether the U.S. education system will take this opportunity is still in question; already, I think schools are desperately clinging to the old ways and consequently are missing opportunities for long overdue structural changes that the pandemic could have easily facilitated. Hybrid instruction, for example, instead of seamlessly blending asynchronous and synchronous instruction, just asks educators to teach their normal lessons to in-person students and virtual students simultaneously. (I have a lot of opinions about this model, but since this is a public post and I don’t have tenure, I’ll keep them to myself.)
Despite these missed opportunities, there are plenty of aspects of online learning that I hope will continue even after in-person instruction is safe again, such as the focus on open ended assessments that require students to research, think critically, and be creative (and are therefore difficult to cheat on, even in a completely virtual environment) instead of regurgitate memorized facts and figures.
The collaborative and experimental NetNarr course feels like the perfect avenue to explore the questions I’m having about these still evolving changes to the education system. Not only does the class’s topic revolve around how the pandemic will change the university experience, but the format and structure of the course point to what the future of online instruction could look like.
As I continue asking big questions about what the “new normal” will look like, I’m especially excited to have discussions with the cohort of scholars I got to know so well last semester. Despite entering into graduate school in a strange new virtual environment, my classmates created a supportive, connected community that I’m sure will only strengthen as we welcome new members and discover new topics to discuss.
7 replies on “Cautious Optimism for Post Pandemic Education”
Lots to think about … thanks for sharing some thoughts here, and I, too, have been trying to look beyond the frustration and limitations of our remote/hybrid/synchronous learning models.
Maura, it will be very interesting to have your perspective in this class with your experience as both educator and educated during the pandemic. Because I’m not teaching, I can only observe those who are, and I am truly astounded at how teachers have had to come through in ridiculous ways during all this.
As part of my looking around for resources for our pathfinder day, I came across a podcast called Digital2Learn. One of the episodes I was listening to discussed how a lot of teachers have their admin saying think of this time as an opportunity to grow or learn. Because that question was kind of…invalidating maybe(?), this person came up with a new way to present that thought process and asked instead – “How has COVID opened new doors for you?” ( Episode 65 . Which might still have a frustrating flavor to it, but it was an intriguing question to think about.
I like that you were obviously able to see the ways that COVID opened doors for better assessments that encourage creativity and reduce the cheating issue. I wonder if you have any other thoughts on how COVID has opened doors – or maybe even closed some. You already summed a lot of both sides, but I am interested if you have any further thoughts.
I look forward to your insight and your writing this semester!
“How has COVID opened new doors?” is a great question, and it’s something I’ve been pondering a lot since last March. I have a ton of thoughts on both the pros and cons of virtual learning. I think the cons are sometimes more obvious and more frequently discussed than the pros, but the positives are definitely there! For example, a lot of my shy/introverted students are thriving right now thanks to functions like private messaging or react emojis on Zoom. Honestly, I have a lot more opinions on virtual learning, some of which may be too controversial for me to feel comfortable posting publicly, but if you’re interested in hearing them, feel free to DM me and I’ll happily to subject you to another rant on the education system!
Ha, I think that is a fair and thoughtful response and consideration. I would definitely be interested in your thoughts so I’ll have to pick your brain. 🙂 I’m still trying to learn and listen to what people are saying, so I haven’t quite decided what I feel about the online learning situation – but I have 100% seen both the good and bad sides of it.
Being both student and teacher in these unprecedented times calls for a lot of your strength but everyone and I know that you have the potential to come out of all this for the better.
Cautiously optimistic is correct, it’s great that you’re looking at this through a different lens but understanding the situation as a whole and knowing everything can prove difficult. I hope this class can aid you in what you need.
Whatever the case may be, it’s great being in another class with you and I’m looking forward to see what comes next.
Thanks for your kind words, and I’m looking forward to another class with you, as well! I’m excited to see where this course will take all of us.
See already how much interaction we can have here? Your perspectives Maura are going to be so valuable in this course, and what I hear is the most important kind of optimism, not the sky with the pie full of rainbow soaked unicorns, but perhaps critical optimism.
I’m in agreement, and have always felt it’s worth being a Winston Churchill flavor of optimist: