Distance learning – it wasn’t a choice and it isn’t ideal. Given the uncertainty and the unpredictability, it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude.
However improbable it might seem, there are silver linings to the situation we find ourselves in. In talking with administrators, teachers, families, students and classmates, I’ve realized there are unexpected positive outcomes that have emerged from this “new normal.”
- Time. It’s amazing what happens when essentially everything is canceled. It completely frees up your calendar, not to mention gives you back time otherwise spent commuting to and from work.
- Family. Some parents are able to spend more time with their children and becoming more involved in their children’s education. Several families have told me that they’ve developed a deeper understanding of their children academically and are communicating with teachers more than they ever have before. One family of native Spanish speakers even mentioned how much they appreciated the videos their children watch as part of virtual instruction. These videos have allowed them to learn English alongside their child.
- Appreciation. Some students have developed a newfound appreciation for school and learning. Parents have taken to social media to demonstrate their support for educators. Here’s hoping we never again take for granted the ability to walk into a classroom and learn while in the company of others.
- Collaboration. Many teachers are collaborative by nature, but distance learning has increased the need for collegial support. Teamwork has increased and some teachers have indicated they are indebted to the support of their co-workers.
- Technology. Even teachers claiming technological illiteracy have stepped up to the plate and are using programs they would not have considered prior to distance learning. And all teachers, regardless of technology fluency, are seeing the possibilities that education technology can bring to their instruction, increasing engagement from students.
- Equity. Distance learning has illuminated equity issues in education. Because of that, people are finally having the serious conversations necessary to address these issues. There’s urgency around providing internet access to families who don’t have it and support to students who need it at home. Hopefully, these conversations will continue even after normalcy is resumed, because there’s still a lot more to do until all learners have an equitable educational experience.
Despite the challenges that this pandemic created for educators, it’s not hard to pinpoint some of the positives that have sprung up from this less than ideal situation. Distance learning isn’t perfect, but it only continues to improve. Once this is all over, I hope we’ll carry forward the positive takeaways from this unprecedented time and use them to improve how we educate in the future, in both good times and bad.