Archives for category: Technology

The schools of Sarasota, Florida, have adopted what they call “a concurrent model,” with teachers responsible for both in-person and remote learning. Some teachers say this is like working two jobs at once and wonder whether this is sustainable.

School in Sarasota County started a few days ago, but some educators say they are already overwhelmed and exhausted by the new way of teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers knew this year was going to be a challenge with social distancing, extra sanitizing measures, technology issues, projecting their voices through a face mask for hours on end, and juggling students both in the classroom and at home — something the district is calling concurrent learning.

Four days into the new school year, some concurrent teachers aren’t so sure the teaching model is doable long term.

“I am worried that after a month or two of this, teachers that are really trying their best are going to start breaking down because it is not a sustainable way of teaching and we will burn out,” said Sarasota High School teacher Sarah Sturzu.

President of Sarasota Classified Teachers Association Patricia Gardner tells 8 On Your Side she’s been getting emails and teary-eyed phone calls one after another since school started Monday.

“They are finding they can’t give the attention to both groups. They just don’t feel like they are doing the job they should be doing and they feel the kids aren’t getting what they deserve to get on either side of this,” said Gardner.

Emily Harris teaches A.P. U.S. History at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa. She writes here about her faith in the public schools. She is concerned that some students have enrolled in the EPIC virtual charter school, which has a horrible record and operates for profit.

I am a teacher at Will Rogers High School. My husband, John, is a teacher at Nathan Hale High School. We are proud our 1-year-old son, Andrew, will become a fourth-generation Tulsa Public Schools student. As generations of our family have done before us, we will choose Tulsa Public Schools. My grandmother is a Central Brave. My father-in-law is a Will Rogers Roper. My mother is a Hale Ranger. My father, husband, sisters and I are Edison Eagles.

Our public schools are part of the fabric of what makes us Tulsans. Many of you reading this can say the same about your family. These schools have history. They have tradition. They have proud alumni. We cannot give up on them.

Tulsa Public Schools began the 2019-2020 school year planning for a $20 million budget shortfall caused by years of improper state funding and declining enrollment. Despite more than a decade of underfunding, many Tulsa Public Schools teachers have persisted in challenging working conditions. These teachers know what it is like to face obstacles and overcome them for hope that all students will reach their full potential. Tulsa Public Schools teachers will carry the same tenacity and spirit of optimism with them as they take on the challenges presented to them this school year.

The Tulsa Public Schools of my parents’ generation did not have to compete for students with suburban districts and online charter schools. Recent reports show that Epic, an all virtual charter school founded in 2011, is seeing a recent surge in enrollment. It has now surpassed Oklahoma City and Tulsa to become our state’s largest school district. Epic Charter Schools may sound like an appealing option to parents in the short term, but data from an Oklahoma Watch investigation in 2019 showed that only 14.7% of Epic graduates enrolled in an Oklahoma public college or university compared to 43.6% of Tulsa Public Schools graduates. This is concerning as it points to the assumption that Epic’s model is more about compliance to meet graduation standards rather than preparation for a student’s life beyond K-12 education.

Epic is contributing to declining enrollment in Tulsa Public Schools. The result is critical state funding being siphoned away from traditional public schools. Unlike Tulsa Public Schools, Epic is a statewide school district, and does not serve as a pillar of our community. When our community supports Tulsa Public Schools, they are undoubtedly making a worthwhile investment in the future of Tulsa….

Here’s what I do know for certain: I will spend each day working in my empty classroom on the fourth floor of Will Rogers High School. I will do my best with technology to teach American history and serve Tulsa students from a distance. I will work with my talented colleagues to collaborate and come up with creative solutions to challenging and unprecedented issues. We will carry with us a mindset to serve students first.

I choose Tulsa Public Schools, and I will continue to serve Tulsa students for many years ahead. The possibility of a truly equitable Tulsa community for all depends on your support of our public school system. I assure you, my students’ hopes and dreams are worth it. Teachers cannot wait for the day when we get to see our students in person. Until then, I ask that you please have faith in teachers. Have faith in Tulsa Public Schools.

The Washington Post published a story about the millions of students who are effectively denied an education during the pandemic because their family can’t afford to pay for access to the Internet.

The Post called the situation “a national crisis.” It is.

The Internet has become as essential as free water and air. Why isn’t it a public utility, regulated by the FCC and free to all?

When you turn on a radio, you get free access to AM and FM stations. Why not free access to the Internet? There may be a good reason, but I haven’t heard it.

Here is the story:

A national crisis’: As coronavirus forces many schools online this fall, millions of disconnected students are being left behind

Before the pandemic, it was called “the homework gap,” because of the growing number of teachers who assigned homework that required Internet access. Now, as the pandemic forces many schools to switch to remote learning, disconnected students will miss more than homework. They’ll miss all of school.

For all the talk of Generation Z’s Internet savvy, a stunning number of young people are locked out of virtual classes because they lack high-speed Internet service at home. In 2018, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without high-speed Internet, and more than 7 million did not have computers at home, according to a report prepared by a coalition of civil rights and education groups that analyzed census data for that year.

The issue affects a disproportionately high percentage of Black, Latino and Native American households — with nearly one-third of students lacking high-speed Internet at home. Students in Southern states and in rural communities also were particularly overrepresented. In Mississippi and Arkansas, about 40 percent of students lacked high-speed Internet.

After the closures prompted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, school systems rushed to buy and distribute laptops and WiFi hot spots to students, and service providers offered discounts to low-income families, efforts that made a dent in the numbers.

Education advocates say Congress could deliver an easy fix as part of a coronavirus relief package by expanding an existing program that helps schools and libraries get Internet service. But those hopes collapsed alongside talks between Congress and the White House on a new relief package. With talks deadlocked, President Trump issued an executive order for coronavirus relief. It provides nothing for K-12 public schools. The consequences of the gap between those who have access to virtual learning and those who do not could be felt for years to come.

“It’s dire,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who has pushed to increase funding that subsidizes the cost of Internet service for schools and libraries. Her district contains parts of rural Virginia that are not served by Internet service providers. “We are generationally committing to significant divides in our communities over what kind of education our children are getting.”

Internet access is so central to children’s education that allowing students to go without it is like sending them to classrooms without textbooks, said Jordana Barton, who studies the digital divide in Texas as a community development adviser for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. So many students being without Internet service is “a travesty,” she said.
“Before the pandemic, I thought that the homework gap was so serious that Internet should be provided by the schools,” she said.
America is about to start online learning, Round 2. For millions of students, it won’t be any better.

Educators have long seen access to high-speed Internet as essential — not optional — for students. Now, the pandemic has forced many schools to start classes remotely, and the problem has taken on new urgency. Because the Internet is essential to gaining access to virtual instruction, a failure to provide the service to students is akin to barring them from school altogether.

“It’s going back to the old days where we blocked people from going to schools to be able to learn to read,” said Pedro Martinez, the superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District in Texas. More than half of families in Martinez’s district do not have high-speed Internet service at home. “It’s like us saying, ‘You can’t come into class. You can’t come to school.’ ”

Maryland resident Haydee Berdejo, 18, does not have high-speed Internet at home in Baltimore and can get online only with a smartphone. When her magnet high school, Baltimore City College, shut down in mid-March, she spent her school days hunched over the phone, where she had difficulty hearing her teachers.

Berdejo, who is from Mexico and still learning English, said the setup made bridging the language gap even more difficult. At times, the screen was fuzzy. And though her classes are mostly taught in English, with the schools closed, she no longer has access to a translator.

She said she is anxious about the coming school year because she has had little opportunity to practice English. “I’m worried I won’t be able to participate in class or answer a question from the teacher, because I won’t know what they’re saying to me,” she said in Spanish.

Even as many students start school without high-speed Internet service at home, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have done little to help school systems meet that need. Many have given up hope that help is coming and have instead appealed to charities, philanthropists and the Internet service providers themselves, hoping for donations or discounts. Susan Enfield, the superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in Washington state, set up a program to allow more-affluent families to “sponsor” low-income households by paying their Internet bills.

Though some service providers offer discounts to low-income families, service is still out of reach for those who have poor credit or unpaid bills. And even the discounted rate can be too much — especially for families struggling with job losses.

In Baltimore, the school system helped set up 7,000 families with Internet Essentials, a program that provides low-cost Internet service to qualifying households. The first two months of the program were free. But last month, the school system realized that if it didn’t pay the $650,000 bill, many of those families would lose service.

“I was not going to stand by and let 14,000 students not be able to log on because of a bill we knew needed to be paid,” said Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises. “It’s yet one more thing that, in serving children and families, schools are being asked to do.”
The lack of a national strategy has left superintendents to devise solutions on their own. And that means whether students get connected often depends on the charisma of a superintendent and the generosity of the surrounding community, Santelises said.

“It is the leaders who are trying to do deals, who are trying to negotiate, trying to leverage money here, leverage money there,” Santelises said. “If we are relying on the individual negotiation capacity of Sonja Santelises or any other sitting superintendent to make sure families have WiFi, that is problematic, and it is a split, and it is symptomatic of a much larger issue.”

A long-standing program run by the Federal Communications Commission that subsidizes Internet service for schools and libraries is of little help to students during the pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told schools they can use the funding only for Internet service at their campuses — even when schools have been shut down. Pai has said that the law does not allow the money to be used for providing domestic Internet service and that he does not have the authority to do otherwise.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the sole Democrat on the panel, disagrees — as do congressional Democrats and school leaders across the country. She accused the commission of failing to act to address what she called “a national crisis.”

“The FCC is sticking its head in the sand or looking the other way and doing everything it can to ignore this,” Rosenworcel said. “This is something we can fix — and we should.”

Schools and students have been left to find solutions on their own. The parking lots of schools, libraries and fast-food restaurants that offer free WiFi have become de facto classrooms for many students. Other school systems equipped buses with WiFi hot spots and parked them in underserved neighborhoods. In some school systems, such as Baltimore, officials just paid the bills of hundreds of families out of their own budgets to keep the households online.

But none of the improvised solutions are sustainable or scalable, and they often rely on the ability of school officials to court philanthropists and negotiate with Internet service providers.

Cleveland public schools CEO Eric Gordon said he hopes the pandemic will force lawmakers to rethink how they view the Internet. He said two-thirds of households in his district can connect to the Internet only by cellphone, which is inadequate for virtual classes.
“It’s just time we recognize that the Internet has become a utility in the same way electricity became a public utility,” Gordon said.

Bryan Akins, the principal of Keota High School in rural southeast Oklahoma, said many of his families do not have a reliable cellular signal — let alone high-speed Internet. Companies see little incentive to lay broadband lines in places where they will not get many customers, or they pass the expense to customers, charging more to those who live in far-flung communities. The school’s switch-over to remote learning in the spring posed “a big problem,” Akins said.

“My teachers can teach virtually, but my students can’t access it virtually,” Akins said. Instead, staffers in the high-poverty district delivered homework along with weekly grocery packages. “Now you’re relying on the parent to help teach, or the student to teach themselves.”

But although connectivity challenges are often viewed as a rural problem, many students in urban districts also lack high-speed Internet service at home. In some cases, this is because they live in neighborhoods that — like many rural communities — do not have the infrastructure. In many others, the barrier is the expense, even though many service providers offer low-income families steeply discounted Internet service. Families that are facing financial turmoil in the recession may opt to drop the Internet.

Jaclyn Trapp, who is to start 10th grade at MC2STEM High School in Cleveland, shares a Chromebook with a little brother and with three stepsiblings who visit on weekends. When the pandemic hit, her mother and stepfather, both interior house painters, took a huge hit financially as work dried up. So they canceled their home Internet service, which had cost around $60 a month.

Jaclyn began using her phone as a hot spot — but soon she was out of data. Finally, the family struck a deal with an upstairs neighbor who agreed to allow the family to use his WiFi if they split the bill. But the signal, which has to travel to their downstairs apartment, is slow and unreliable.

“Without the Internet and not going to school, it’s really hard to do schoolwork,” Jaclyn said.

Moriah Balingit is an education reporter for The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2014. She previously covered crime, city hall and crime in city hall at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Please read the articles in Capital & Main’s series on teaching in the age of COVID-19, which is titled “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.” They spell out the frustrations and the learning curve that teachers and students have coped with in these uncertain times. Routines went out the window. Teachers had to improvise, to be creative and innovative, and to learn to live with unprecedented challenges.

They are linked here:

Elementary School Students’ Uneasy Year Zero” by Sasha Abramsky.

Are High Schoolers Zoning Out on Zoom?” by Sasha Abramsky.

Middle School Teachers Face a Fall Term of Uncertainty,” by Sasha Abramsky.

Teachers Discover that Distance Learning is a Dance,” by Larry Buhl.

From the last article:

Imagine you’ve been cast in your school’s spring musical – in this case, High School Musical — and you’ve been rehearsing for months, but the COVID crisis closes everything a day before the show opens. Andrea Calvo, a teacher at Orange County’s Ladera Vista Junior High School of the Arts in Fullerton, was directing the show and said the performers, as well as students and in her guitar and choir classes, have been emotionally “all over the place” since March.

“Some days [they are] depressed, some days happy. They went through all the emotions and the ups and downs that teachers did,” Calvo said. There was so much confusion on how online instruction would go, and how long it would last. “We were grieving but didn’t know what we were grieving.”

In July the Orange County School Board stepped into the national spotlight by declaring its schools, unlike Los Angeles County to the north and San Diego County to the south, would open for fall classes – and without masks or social distancing. It would prove to be a moot point, because later that week Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that all schools on the state COVID-19 monitoring list – including Orange County’s – be closed until they are off California’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

A week before the fall term started, Calvo said that teachers’ stress levels have lowered somewhat since the March scramble to take learning online. Now there’s a plan to reopen schools – when the school meets the state criteria and not before – if not an exact date.

“Not knowing is stressful,” Calvo says. “Nobody thinks distance learning went well in the spring. We were in crisis mode.”

After a few months of trial and error, and a summer to connect with other music teachers nationwide on distance learning best practices, Calvo says she’s better equipped to teach online. She adds that the students at her school all had iPads, so they were already better poised for distance learning than students in other schools. Not that it made the switch easy. Nothing in her 20 years of teaching could prepare Calvo for Zoom meetings with choir students who appeared, singing, on 60 little video boxes on a computer monitor.

“We did warmups, they recorded themselves, and I hosted,” she said. “For musical theater, I demonstrate movement [in real time] and they follow.” There were too many students to fit on one computer screen, but fortunately Calvo had help from a student teacher, who monitored a second screen.

But Calvo says Orange County adopted what it calls a “Do no harm” grading policy during the crisis. The idea is that you can’t hold students to the same standards while schools are closed. “Some students were at home with family and quarantining there. Some may be at home all alone caring for siblings, some had sick parents. We don’t know what students are going through.”

But Calvo and fellow teachers and staff do want some idea of what students are going through, and they try to make sure everything is all right. “We make spreadsheets to see, ‘Oh this student didn’t log in for three days. So in that case we call and ask if everything is okay.’”

Not giving up on its plan to force everyone back into classrooms during the pandemic, the O.C. Board of Education last month vowed to sue Gov. Newsom over school closures, claiming that online instruction had been a “failure.”

Distance learning for the long haul
Calvo said that attitudes of parents and county residents have shifted over the past five months as more have accepted that the pandemic will change learning for the foreseeable future. “In May, Orange County posted photos of what classes would look like, with PPE and distancing, and people said, ‘Oh, that looks awful.’ Now, more people want schools to look like that when they open.”

“As a teacher and a parent I think distance learning is safest,” says Calvo. “But that is from a place of privilege, because I know I am able to stay home. A lot of parent friends feel the same way but I recognize we may be in a bubble.”

Calvo assumes distance learning will be the norm well into the new school year. That’s a challenge for any school, but for hers, which has 30 arts electives, it’s an even bigger challenge to maintain its culture. “There is a lot of creativity here. [Distance learning] is a dance.”

Capital & Main published a five-part series on teaching during the pandemic. The series is called “The Year of Teaching Dangerously.”

Sasha Abramsky launched the series with an article about how schools in California were adapting to the pandemic.

Abramsky writes about the uncertainty, confusion, and conflict that accompanied the shutdown, as teachers were required to address new realities and to confront stark inequities.

In March, when Northern California counties issued stay-at-home orders, followed shortly afterwards by a statewide shutdown, schools scrambled to improvise a pivot to online “distance learning.” Some were able to make the change within days; others took many weeks. Grading and assessment systems were largely put to one side, at least in the public school system. And school districts rushed – and in some cases struggled – to purchase and distribute Chromebooks or iPads to students who didn’t have them; to set up Wi-Fi hotspots for families lacking home Internet access; to work out how to keep distributing food to children from low-income families who relied on school breakfasts and lunches; and to set up methods of teaching online that wouldn’t leave out students who had special education plans, or who were English language learners.

Bureaucratic systems fabled for their inflexibility were, suddenly, tasked with finding kluge-like solutions, at speed, to meet these extraordinary challenges. Inevitably, the result was hit or miss.

The articles in this week’s new series, “The Year of Teaching Dangerously,” reflect the extraordinary challenges facing elementary, middle and high schools as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on daily life.

What began as a temporary shutdown evolved into a new way of life, for teachers, students, and parents.

The arrival of COVID-19 has made children and educators across the nation dependent on distance learning for since March. Many parents recognize the defects of distance learning and eagerly await the opportunity to send their child back to real school when it is safe. They understand that an iPad or computer can’t take the place of a real teacher.

Meanwhile the for-profit edtrch industry sees the pandemic as a golden opportunity to cash in on a crisis.

For sound guidance at this perilous time, please read the statement released by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood:

See the statement here.

This post was sent by a teacher in Westchester County, New York, who prefers to remain anonymous:

Based on the hybrid/blended learning model described in the re-entry plan, this is what an average class period would look like in a typical 40-minute class. While an 80-minute class has more flexibility, the protocols are the same. This is a SMALL sampling of what life will be like for teachers and students in a hybrid model with the protocols outlined in the re-entry document.

This example would start at the transition between period 1 (which ends at 9:15am) and period 2 (which begins at 9:18am). In a 40- minute per class schedule, there are only three minutes between periods for all class periods. In an 80-minute per class schedule, there are only five minutes between periods for all class periods.

In this example, the “cohort” model where students stay in one spot and teachers move to them is not considered. It is not a practical solution for most classes—especially those that require supplies.

1. I just finished a class that ended at 9:15. I rush to my next class where another teacher is finishing a class that ends at 9:15. I do not like teaching in this room after this particular teacher because I do not trust that teacher to enforce social distancing and mask protocols. That teacher tends to be too lax. I need to go to the bathroom, but there were too many people waiting to get in (given the social distancing requirements). I did not want to risk leaving my students in the hallway given the risk of unsupervised interactions. Plus, the bathroom protocols are confusing. Overall, it’s unclear when I will be able to go to the bathroom at a safe time. I get to the room and I need to wait until all of the students from that class exit—presumably in a socially distanced manner (although that is unlikely since they will only have three minutes to get to the next class which starts at 9:18. My students are starting to arrive and begin to crowd me since there is no place to go. While waiting, I have no safe place to stand and there are students, teachers and other staff headed in all directions in the hallway. Once the classroom is clear, I rush in.

2. As the students from the first class leave, they encounter students waiting in the hallway who need to come in for my class. It is unlikely that they are following distancing or mask protocols because there is NO ONE supervising them, beyond a quick yell as a teacher passes–“hey get those masks on” “kids please separate–you can’t be closer than 6 feet.” It is highly unlikely that anyone will hear the teacher since it is quite loud (especially with multiple teens and pre- teens shouting for attention). The teacher will rush off to get to whatever class they need to get to. Or the teacher will ignore it entirely because the hallways will be the most dangerous places in the building–especially between classes.

3. Even if I arrive a minute or two after 9:15 (which is inevitable since I’m rushing from another class), I am concerned that my students will enter the room without monitored social distancing and mask wearing. The doors are propped open by protocol (to allow air flow), so there will be a period of time where the room is unsupervised.

4. Somehow in this time from 9:15 to 9:18, every surface is supposed to be disinfected. It is unclear who will do this or how it will be done. In all likelihood, it will not happen and as the day goes on, the room will become an ever-growing petri dish.

5. According to the protocols, students are supposed to wash their hands when they come in. After entering the room, some students make a beeline for their desks, while others head to the sink. There will be a breakdown in social distancing because it will be impossible to monitor this and have an organized method of entering, sitting, and washing hands. When there are only three minutes between classes, the transitions are inherently chaotic. A line forms in the crowded space leading to the sink. This will become a source of concern and I will have to say something like: “students please socially distance! Make sure you put those dirty towels in…..(not sure where that type of waste will go). Make sure you clean up that water that is now all over the floor and on the counters! That water is now contaminated— please try not to get water everywhere. Please hurry, we only have about 35 minutes for class. Oh, and I’m saying this on the opposite side of the room b/c I don’t want to be near you”

6. Eventually students go to their assigned square.

7. Students are carrying their supplies with them from class to class, so they put them………somewhere?

8. Now students students set up plexiglass that they are also carrying with them all day

9. About this time a student asks to go to the bathroom—which could be problematic. It is unclear when we are supposed to use the bathroom—there are apparently “designated times” for classes to go, and I don’t think this is our time. However, I allow the student to go because it looks like it will be a problem if I don’t. Before I allow the student to go, I remind the student to wear their mask and do not congregate in the hallway. And be sure to walk on the appropriate part of the hallway. And come straight back to class, again using the appropriate hallway (and stairs if applicable…it’s hard to keep track of which stairs and hallways are for which direction….I’m pretty sure the bathroom is in the middle of those one-way hallways…or it may be where there are lanes separating each side—but no one ever sticks to those lanes because….no one sees the tape and they are students and it is impossible to supervise).

10. When that student comes back, they will need to wash their hands. Again.

11. In the meantime, I am trying to open some of the windows for airflow, but many of the windows do not open properly. I am hesitant to go in the back of the room because of the proximity to students. I check the air conditioner to ensure that the airflow is on “fresh” air and not “circulate” since circulated air is supposed to spread the virus. At this point, my only thought is about protecting myself against the virus. After a week of this, I am sure I will be in a heightened state of anxiety since every minute of every day will require constant monitoring of my surroundings. Anyway, I’m not sure if the air conditioner is set correctly and I’ve lost too much time already.

12. Some students will arrive late because some of the hallways and staircases are directional–meaning they might need to circle the building to go in the proper direction. Some students may get lost going this way. Others may bump into friends, take off their masks and chat. Some students may find this system highly stressful which will make it even harder for them to follow the “get to class protocol.” Some students may drop their box of material while trying to balance their jacket, box and plexiglass (and any other items they may be carrying since lockers are not in use).

13. I wait until late students wash their hands and set up at their spot.

14. At best, it is now 9:28 (10 minutes into class). Likely, it is after 9:30. Best case scenario, there are 30 minutes left (not including packing up and cleaning and leaving in a socially distanced manner). 15. Now I need to set up livestreaming. The second half of my class have been waiting at home for class to start (at 9:18), however given all of the protocols we must follow in the building, it is impossible to start at 9:18. I’m concerned that students will get impatient and leave. As I try to livestream, there are complications. It’s Zoom and there are always complications. Also, we have webcams, but the only ones available to purchase are off-brand copies of major label webcams that have been sold out since March. While they look nice, they are glitchy. Plus, the computer that the webcam is attached to is an older computer with older hardware and limited RAM. It is difficult to stream to 10 or so students with older technology. While our bandwidth has improved, every class is attempting to stream at the same time. Plus, every cell phone, Chromebook and laptop in the building is tapping into WIFI. We always have slowdowns mid-day. It takes me about five minutes (if I’m lucky) to connect with the half of my class that is at home. While I’m doing this, the in-class students have nothing to do and start to become restless and talk to each other. Students often lower their masks to talk and I start to notice this out of the corner of my eye, but I’m trying to make the livestreaming work.

16. As I finally get the remote students on board, I turn around to ensure students are socially distanced, have their masks on and are sitting in their assigned square. I reprimand at least several students for having masks below their noses. While I address the issues in the classroom, the remote students have nothing to do—some of them turn off their camera. It is now 9:35 (if I’m lucky and there are minimal tech problems on the livestream side and few issues of social distancing on the classroom side).

17. A student asks for a scheduled mask break–he can’t breathe. Several other students complain too. I say, “not now, I need to get started.” Those students are upset at me. One is really embarrassed that I said their name because the students at home heard it and they know the class is being livestreamed. Some students have expressed concern that their friends will secretly record the class or take screenshots and put them on Instagram. Even worse, they worry about becoming a meme. I am a little worried about this too. The students at home are really bored.

18. Now I need to take attendance. It’s halfway through the period already. I must take attendance for two different sets of students. Technology problems will make this longer—there are always problems with our attendance program. It slows mid-day when many classes are using the network. The livestreaming has placed a huge strain on our bandwidth needs.

19. Finally, I explain the directions for the class. However, I need to find a place to stand where both groups can see me. I generally stand in the same spot all period due to social distancing rules.

20. I am not able to move around room due to social distancing concerns.

21. I will be teaching with a mask and a shield. Communication will be difficult. Students will ask me to repeat information—although this will be difficult to do from home, so they will tune out and pretend to be listening. Students will grow to hate these mandatory livestreams. They will tell their parents that it is a waste of time. It’s really difficult to understand anything (b/c the microphones on the off-brand webcams do not work well), plus they can’t do many of the activities that I insist should be doable at home. Although, it is difficult to determine this since there is no research about best-practices for a hybrid classroom where half the students are at home and the other half are in the classroom. To be honest, I am completely winging this. There is no time to prepare these lessons and I have no prior material to fall back on. Even though I am a veteran teacher, I have no idea how to teach in this model—no one does. I spend most of my day trying to stay safe.

22. Teaching is a bit awkward. I’m not sure who to look at. When I look at my in-class students, I’m staring at a group of evenly spaced students with masks (most are hanging slightly askew). I then turn around to see a Brady bunch group of students looking like they are being tortured. Somehow, I need to find inspiration. We are just about ready to do an activity. It’s now 9:42 (at best)

23. The “lesson” now begins—we have 16 minutes left. Some days it will be a PowerPoint that will somehow have to be presented to two different groups in two different locations—I never remember where to direct my voice. I try to get passionate about the subject but then remember that jumping around with a face shield and getting sweat and spittle on the inside of my mask is really disconcerting—so I tone it down. Plus, I look crazy jumping around in that get up. Also, moving around erratically causes my shield to shift and my mask to slide down my face. On other days, students will do an activity. Students will not be able to collaborate given the two different environments and the need to socially distance in the classroom. Activities will be severely limited to accommodate social distancing and a remote audience. I will not be able to distribute materials— especially for classroom work—because the group at home will not be able to participate. If a student needs one on one help to understand the handout, I will not be able to help due to social distancing. I’ll try to help from afar. It’s really difficult to address questions from two different sets of students so I focus more on the in-class students. The students at home become progressively more disengaged. Lessons in this environment will most certainly be rote and dry. There will be minimal engagement.

At 9:53, I start to wrap things up to get the class ready for the next group. I’m very anxious about these transition times. Students need to make sure they have all of their belongings in their box. They need to clean the plexiglass and take it with them. Supplies used in class (if they belong in class) must be cleaned. The remote group has already signed out b/c there is nothing for them to do. In fact, they only had about 10 minutes worth of “learning.”

The class ends at 9:58 and the next class begins at 10:01—and this happens all over again.

It turns out that my prep period is from 10:01 to 10:41. This is when I am supposed to prep for classes and/or grade material. This is especially important now because every lesson must be prepared anew to fit this hybrid environment. However, there is no place for me to go. The hallways are jammed. I cannot stay in the classroom due to social distancing protocols. Plus, it would be awkward if I end up on the livestream of another class. I try to strategically plan when I can use the bathroom safely. However, I do not want to remain in the building. There literally is no room for me to go to. The faculty lounge has limited occupancy—plus, the ventilation in there is terrible and I do not want to be in another room with many other people—some of whom may not be wearing their masks correctly. So, I decide to go to my car. To get there, I have to use a specified exit which is on the opposite side of the building of my car. By the time I navigate to the proper exit and wander over to my car, it’s 10:15. If I used the bathroom, then it is probably 10:25. I lie down in my car seat for 10 minutes max. Then I have to race back to the proper entrance (and go through an entrance exam?) to get to my next class on time. Obviously nothing is planned or graded during this time.

Multiply this by 6 classes. Add in lunch and specials. And there WILL be other challenges that I didn’t address. These are just the most obvious.

I question how much learning would occur in this environment. I’m worried about my health and the health of my students and the community as a whole.

Thomas Ultican continues his investigation of the tentacles of billionaire reformers, this time focusing on the tumultuous career of John Deasy, who resigned as superintendent of the Stockton, California, school district.

Ultican shows how Deasy rose to become superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, how Justin tenure there was marked by controversy as he walked in lockstep with the Eli Broad-Bill Gates agenda of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing, and huge investments in technology. His controversial decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads and tech curriculum led to the end of his tenure in L.A.

On to Stockton, where the Mayor and three school board members were closely allied with the billionaire agenda.

A sad and cautionary tale about the destructive billionaire-funded movement to gut public schools.

Andy Hargreaves is an internationally renowned scholar and author who taught for many years at Boston College. He wrote this article about education technology for Valerie Strauss’s blog “The Answer Sheet.”

I previously posted a presentation that Andy delivered at an international conference in South Korea, where he described his vision of the future post-pandemic. It was brilliant and points in the direction we should be heading.

Strauss writes about Andy (who is a personal friend of mine):

Hargreaves is a research professor at Boston College and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa who has been working for decades to improve school effectiveness. He has been awarded visiting professorships in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Norway and Singapore. And he is past president of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement.

Hargreaves founded and serves as co-president of the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory, or ARC, a group of nine nations committed to broadly defined excellence, equity, well-being, inclusion, democracy and human rights. He has consulted with numerous governments, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, universities and professional associations. He has written more than 30 books — and received numerous awards for them — and he was the founding editor in chief of the Journal of Educational Change.

Andy Hargreaves writes:

As we head into the dog days of summer, a new mantra is being spread across the world’s governments and through its media. It’s called “reimagining education.” On the surface, much of it, even most of it, sounds helpful and positive. It’s rightfully concerned about the physical health of children and their teachers. Its visions of innovative learning are engaging and purposeful. But eventually, the conclusion is drawn that these interests can be best advanced by digital technology.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed an agreement with billionaire businessman Bill Gates to “reimagine” public education in the state through technology. Cuomo dredged up outworn and inaccurate stereotypes of “the old model of everybody goes and sits in the classroom, and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms.” “Why,” he wondered, “with all the technology you have?”
Cuomo questions why school buildings still exist — and says New York will work with Bill Gates to ‘reimagine education’
A report in May by Microsoft, co-authored by its staff, on reimagining education has constructive advice on how to create meaningful learning and provide health protections and social distancing once children return to school. Yet its ultimate vision is for a “hybrid learning environment” where “technology will be prominent.” “A blend of real-life and online learning will concur. Learning will happen at school, at home, in the community and beyond.”
This kind of talk is energizing education ministers, international lending banks, technology consultants and not-for-profits, who are eager to reimagine a better post-covid future for public schools.

In effect, though, a lot of reimagining education is about how learning will be leveraged or delivered in a blended or hybrid format that is available anytime, anywhere, through public-private partnerships involving digital technology.
Yet, after years and billions of dollars of investment in digital technology in schools, there is little firm evidence that it substantially improves children’s learning. In her book “Slaying Goliath,” Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education and public education advocate, showed that there is no evidence to support (and there is much to contradict) the claim that superior performance results from online learning.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is cautious about the benefits of technology for learning. Its own evidence is that “computers do not improve pupil results.” The OECD’s education chief, Andreas Schleicher, has warned that despite some promise shown by technology options during the coronavirus pandemic, “education systems need to pay close attention that technology will not further amplify existing inequalities in access and quality of learning.”

“This is not just a matter of providing access to technology and open learning resources,” Schleicher said. “It will also require maintaining effective social relationships between families, teachers and students — particularly for those students who lack the resilience, learning strategies or engagement to learn on their own.” A July OECD report further advises that “any digital strategy should take into account potential risks” of things like digital distraction, “and balance digital use with screen-free activities.”

Even before the novel coronavirus, excess screen time and technology use had already increased adolescent anxiety, especially after the global penetration of smartphone use among adolescents beginning around 2012. Digital addiction also distracts young children from outdoor activity, free play and face-to-face relationships. During the pandemic, young children up to age 11 have been spending more than double the amount of screen time recommended by pediatricians.
Necessity is the mother of invention. During the novel coronavirus, digital learning at home has been an invaluable stopgap to enable children’s learning to persist somehow. It’s hard to imagine how everyone would have coped without the Internet and other digital technologies if this pandemic had happened even 20 years ago.

But if necessity is the mother of invention, we should also avoid making a virtue out of a necessity. Kids, parents and teachers have been experiencing endless problems with digital learning at home — kids who can’t concentrate; devices that break down; families with several kids, only one device, and practically no space; lessons devoid of humor or emotion; young kids walking off or hiding under tables during the middle of a Zoom class (I’m talking about my own 5-year-old twin grandchildren here!); insufficient instructions for parents to do things like help the child practice cursive writing (but how, exactly??).

Teenagers are now the greatest mental health risk of all age groups during the pandemic. Adolescents need to go to school to be with their friends, develop their senses of identity, become responsible citizens, learn about how to deal with racism and prejudice (especially if they live with parents who may be racist and prejudiced), and so on. They need less time on screens, not more. We don’t need to be downplaying the importance of physical schools just yet.

When they get back to school, children will not need more of the anytime-anywhere Big Tech strategy. They will need more face-to-face support in the here and now — to get back the habits of lining up, taking turns and listening to others; to get help dealing with the post-traumatic stresses that accompany disasters such as this; to get the special education support to help them deal with learning disabilities and ADHD distractions for which there was little or no support at home, and so on. Learning in the here and now in school will need more human and less hybrid learning. It will need less technology, or more judicious use of it, than most kids have experienced during covid-19.

Of course, technology can and does enhance great teaching by using rich resources and methods for generating interactive student engagement. But technology will not make weaker teachers more inspiring, caring or empathetic, more able to understand and develop global learning competencies like collaboration or citizenship, more able to deal with prejudice and bullying, or more ready to help their children learn and play outdoors. Only effective selection, training and development of teachers can do that.

We can benefit from using digital technology in learning. But we need to do it in a way that deliberately uses technology in a balanced (not just a hybrid or blended) way, and that maximizes the benefits, while minimizing the clear risks of excess screen-time and digital addiction.

A balanced approach to digital technology use should also pinpoint areas where it uniquely provides something of value that cannot be offered in any other way. This is what the business field calls its “unique value proposition” (UVP). One UVP of digital technology occurs when children with special needs are given devices and programs to access and express their learning. Another is when teachers in small, remote rural schools can connect with and learn from colleagues in their subject or grade level who teach elsewhere. These are just two of the many UVPs of digital technology use in schools.

Balanced learning with judicious use of technology is an essential part of the physical schools we will always need. But once kids go home, they don’t stop learning. What happens then?

When I was a teenager, learning after school took place through the books I took home that were shared by my classmates, as well as in the public library that was available to everyone. After school learning was public, universal and free.

But digital learning at home — the new global public library — is not public, universal and free.

One thing the pandemic has reminded us of in U.S. education is about the great chasm that is the digital divide. So instead of leaving digital learning resources outside the school to market forces and privileged access, anytime, anywhere, we need to create conditions for technologically enhanced learning that are universal, public and free to those who need it. Learning-related technology outside the school should be a civil right, alongside food, shelter and education itself that is available everywhere and always to everyone as a universal entitlement. It should be free of charge to those who need it.

If this scenario sounds far-fetched, it already exists in several countries. They include one of the world’s highest performers in education, Estonia, where all curriculum materials were already online before covid-19.

In South Korea, access to the Internet and to digital devices is close to 100 percent. Then there is Uruguay, where every family has access to digital technology for learning. This has resulted from a policy of one laptop per child that was established in 2007, and from a national, government-funded innovation agency that has supported projects that are linked to but not driven by various kinds of technology, in more than a third of the nation’s schools. The existence of this national platform meant that within days of learning moving from schools to homes, use of the digital platform went up by over 1,000 percent.

Immediately after the pandemic, we need to focus on the here and now to help schools cope with post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems, and to reestablish relationships and routines.

Technology has an important role in schools to make good teaching and learning better. But even as a hybrid, it should not be the main driver or leverage for reimagining better learning in schools. It’s not just hybrids or blends we want. We need a thoughtful balance that uses the UVP of technology wherever it can improve learning and well-being, while actively avoiding excess screen time that might disturb that balance, and continuing to promote outstanding face-to-face teachers and teaching that are still the cornerstone of an effective school system.

At the same time, reimagining education should also ensure that additional learning opportunities at home are universal, public and free of charge everywhere and always to all those who need it.

Enough, but not too much, digital technology and a lot more face-to-face support for vulnerable students after the pandemic — that’s what our reimagined new normal now needs to include.

Nancy Flanagan writes here about why she is sticking with Facebook, despite it multiple flaws.

I was on Facebook for a brief time, then quit. Then resumed, then quit again. What I discovered was that when I quit Facebook, my identity remained there, waiting for me to return. I was reminded of King George III in “Hamilton” singing “You’ll Be Back.”

No, I won’t. It’s addictive, true. But anyone who wants to reach me knows how to get in touch. I don’t need another way to waste time. I have too many already. And I don’t want to direct a penny towards Mark Zuckerberg.

What do you think?

Will you stick with Facebook or did you quit? Or did you never sign up?