The Quality of Your Child’s Online School Experience Was Decided Five Years Ago
Teachers, administrators and schools are working hard to create the best educational opportunities possible for students in the time of COVID-19, but while many are undeniably doing the very best they can, one school’s “best” looks very different from the next.
A quality online school simply can't be built overnight. Those offering the highest quality online learning experience today have a track record of investment. Here’s what they did five years ago that makes their best better than the rest:
Teacher Professional Development The real centerpiece of a quality online learning experience rests in the hands of the teacher. If he or she has invested in, and been offered, consistent and ongoing professional development to grow their comfort and confidence in online teaching, it’s showing up big-time right now. These are the teachers who already have a well-designed, engaging online classroom. They know how long lessons should be to keep students’ attention. They have assessment tools that are easy to use, even fun, for students. They’ve weeded out all the subpar tools and refined their practice to use only the best tools to support the learners in their classroom. They understand where learners will struggle in the online learning environment and anticipate their needs instead of just reacting.
Culture of Innovation A hallmark of education in the time of COVID-19 is risk tolerance. Insisting that well-intentioned teachers jump into the abyss of online learning with an unknown outcome is terrifying to many of them. They don’t know if they can truly teach their students online. The schools and teachers having the most success right now are those who already work in a culture of innovation. These are schools where committed and imaginative teachers are willing to leave the usual paths to develop an innovation from an idea. Teachers at these schools are encouraged to take risks without fear of criticism or reprimand. These are learning communities where failing forward is recognized as a useful component of innovation. Teachers model intellectual risk-taking for their students, empowering students to take intellectual risks of their own. They are rewarded for trying new things, even if they don’t work out, on their way to the successful implementation of new instructional methods.
Technology Infrastructure Devices, connectivity, bandwidth, learning management system, video chat — if you heard these terms you might think you are at a super cool tech conference, but you are more likely to be in a faculty meeting. Decisions to integrate new technologies are driving the ease and quality of your child’s online learning. Did the school invest in enough bandwidth to support widespread use of video chat? Does every student have access to a device that they know well and is in good shape? Has the school budgeted for enough hardware and software to support virtual learning?
Going Forward Schools that have long-standing investments in technology, online classes and plenty of teacher training are years ahead of others entering the online environment for the first time. Barstow Global Online is affiliated with The Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri, where technology integration has been woven into the curriculum since 2003, online classes have been offered since 2012, and technology training and professional development have long been part of the school culture.
The next time you have a conversation with an administrator at your child’s school, ask about online preparation and culture. Understanding the school’s track record on these issues will give you insight into your child’s educational experience in the years to come.
Kellye Crockett is the director of Barstow Global Online.