Christine greenhow, associate professor of educational technology in the College of Education, and 2018 recipient of the MSU Teacher-Scholar Award, answers questions about online and classroom learning during our second school year in the face of the pandemic.
According to the National Internet Access Surveys, we have made progress in rural areas with more broadband at home and greater use of mobile technology, but not as much change in urban and suburban areas, and the gaps between rural, suburban and urban areas persist.
To bring students and teachers online, schools have provided tablets, laptops, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and other resources, but inequalities persist, which in turn predicted persistent gaps in the quality of students’ online and offline learning experiences.
We learned that connection and community are the key. At the start of the pandemic, K-12 online education included few synchronous ‘live’ interactions between teachers and students as teachers put materials online and quickly rethink approaches, but over time, the level of interaction increased to promote student engagement.t.
We also learned that building community through technology is so important. In the absence of school-based training, for example, teachers turned to teachers on social media for answers to their questions. We have learned that ssocial media platforms can play an important role in the learning.
Now that the majority of teachers have incorporated some form of distance learning, we should take advantage of the pedagogical benefits that distance learning has revealed, while reducing costs.
Before the pandemic, teachers had a lot of flexibility in how much and whether to teach online and personalize students’ digital learning. Students have largely pursued their interests and opportunities outside of school on social media through YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other platforms.
But the pandemic has forced American teachers and students into some form of online teaching and learning. The teachers themselves have researched personal and professional digital learning networks on social media to meet their needs, especially to learn from other teachers outside their district who had more experience teaching online.
Seeing the value of social media for their own just-in-time learning and strengthening their community can pave the way for the use of social media in their teaching. Teachers can use social media to stay in touch with their students and help students stay in touch with each other. Teachers can use social media to teach students about citizenship and how to critically participate in civic conversations.
In short, we shouldn’t be thinking of ‘online learning versus classroom learning’ – like either one – but how to combine them, in the best possible way, to meet students, families and educators where they are now.