Funding technology seems unchecked in some places as teachers are driven out of their classrooms due to the virus. The more teachers prematurely retire, the more easily school districts can justify replacing them with technology.
Technology is on the road to becoming the endgame for schooling, whether Americans like it or not. There’s no research to indicate all or mostly online instruction is better than face-to-face, in-person classes. Yet there’s a giddiness on the part of some that after Covid-19 takes its leave, online will be a wonderful way to do schooling.
But an all-tech curriculum wasn’t proven before Covid; it wasn’t great during Covid, so why would it be a panacea after Covid? At best, tech is useful for teachers to supplement what they teach. Students should be connected and have access to online learning. But without teachers and face-to-face in-person learning, technology loses its value.
Qualified teachers who understand how students learn and the subjects they teach are necessary to guide students through their learning journey. School districts should be working overtime to support teachers at this time.
Instead, Covid-19 is driving teachers out. Despite talk about a teacher shortage, many school districts and parents are hostile to teachers who fear returning to the classroom when the coronavirus is surging in their communities.
Broward County reported that 100 teachers retired instead of returning to school due to fears of contracting Covid-19.
In Chicago, teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom, lost pay, and losing their remote learning platforms. CPS CEO Janice Jackson stopped short of saying they would be fired, but across the nation, teachers, fearing the virus, are leaving instead of being forced to return to dangerous environments.
Parents will wind up with in-person schools, but those schools will look much different than they or their students remember. And there are no guarantees that students will be prepared for college or careers. None. There’s no unbiased research to show that students thrive from an all-tech curriculum or that a charter with all-tech and volunteers who man the classrooms will work.
Parents who have been convinced that schools are safe, and by outside companies, that their children are falling behind and that teachers are slackers for fearing the workplace may sign on to technology in their school districts. It’s the very thing they’re trying to escape from at home, online learning.
Education Week recently shared two reports which illustrate this plan well. In ‘No Going Back’ From Remote and Hybrid Learning, Districts Say, and How Massive K-12 Bond Issues During COVID-19 Are Shaping School Technology Plans, it’s explained how school districts are spending billions to fund technology and transform instruction.
Here’s a breakdown of the two Education Week reports. It’s interesting to see all the tech companies involved in this transformation.
San Antonio voters approved a $1.3 billion initiative. This is the largest school bond in the city’s history and includes a $90 million bond for new technology. This consists of cameras and microphones. It sounds like they will use a few teachers to live stream lessons into homes or other classrooms.
The Dallas Independent School District approved $3.2 billion for school construction and $270 million in technology upgrades, but where do teachers fit in their plan?
The Los Angeles Unified School District approved a $7 billion bond issue! They approved $405 million to furnish and equip schools with 21st-century learning technologies and upgrade/install technology infrastructure, information systems, hardware, and software.
This is the same place still reeling from an iPad scandal.
Guilford County, N.C.
Guilford County, N.C. opened two new full-time virtual academies. The Guilford eLearning Virtual Academy, for grades K-5, and Guilford eLearning University Prep, for grades 6-8.
Online charter schools performed poorly before the pandemic. Remember the failure and closure of Ohio’s ECOT, an online school that consistently ranked low? Why would online charters miraculously be the new preferred model of education?
Dougherty County, GA
A company calling itself the Peloton of Education (Ugh) provides the school district with certified teachers willing to live stream their lessons onto students’ laptops from hundreds of miles away.
Since when do school districts rely on private companies for hiring teachers?
Putnam City School District, OK
They passed a $133 million bond measure. They plan to outfit the local high schools with computers for every student.
They don’t have much money for school construction costs, but they found funds for technology.
There’s concern expressed in Education Week that schools are spending lots of money on tech that will soon be outdated. But there’s a plan to find money to refurbish the technology so the money will keep coming and the companies will never run dry.
In the meantime, teachers are waiting for a thank you from parents and politicians for keeping their kids afloat from afar during the pandemic, using technology no less. They will be disappointed when they aren’t appreciated. Just as parents will be when they find out their kids face classrooms with the devices they hated so much at home, and if they’re lucky, a teacher on the other end of the screen facing 500 other kids online.
Then it will be too late.
Scrutinize school districts and see how funds are being appropriated. Technology is important, but are school boards also coming up with plans to re-hire and recruit teachers after the pandemic subsides? Is there a discussion about how to get teachers to return safely to the classroom?
Are they working to keep teachers safe, or are they driving them out by forcing them to return to the classroom while the virus surges in their communities?
Or is the school district focused on only purchasing technology? Are they planning on using a few teachers to teach many students? Watch out for terms like live stream.
They didn’t say classrooms would be reimagined for nothing.
Be kind to teachers, so they don’t prematurely retire, or worse, die. There will be nothing left but screens without them, the very model of instruction almost everyone hates.
Herold, B. (2021, January 7). ‘No Going Back’ From Remote and Hybrid Learning, Districts Say (edweek.org)
Herold, B. (2020, November 17). How Massive K-12 Bond Issues During COVID-19 Are Shaping School Technology Plans (edweek.org)
Poetic Justice says
The ugly truth is low quality online teaching will continue to be pushed into our urban and low income schools because it is cheaper. Face to face learning will become available only in our more affluent schools. Separate and very unequal schooling will make the achievement gap antiquated.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you. I agree. Cheaper for the students but still a moneymaker for the companies with the programs and devices.
Roy Turrentine says
Spot on, Nancy. My own superintendent, retiring this year, suggested there was no going back. The trouble is, going forward with tech is more expensive if you do it right, and less expensive if you use it to ignore the kids. Private schools that use tech use it to enhance the close personal relationship between students and their teachers. This requires a lot of money.. I bet no one wants to spend a lot of money on everybody’s child.
Nancy Bailey says
I think you’re right. It can be helpful but shouldn’t replace teachers.