Yesterday, I shared my predictions of what the next school year might look like (see It’s Going To Be A New Classroom World In The Fall – Here Is What I Think It Might Look Like).
Today, I thought I’d write about what long-term changes COVID-19 might bring to schools – even after a vaccine has been developed and distributed.
* For at least the next ten years, every first month of school will heavily emphasize relationship-building (even more than it does now in most classes) and developing procedures and student familiarity with remote learning in case of another pandemic. This will take the place of the “emergency substitute plans” that many schools have required teachers to turn-in to the central office. If, after ten years, we don’t have another similar emergency, this emphasis on preparation will gradually diminish.
* Every school – from now until forever – will become a “one-to-one” school. In other words, every student will check-out a Chromebook or another device at the beginning of each school year. How they are used will vary widely (see following points), but each student getting one will continue to be a “given.”
* No more hard-copy textbooks. Textbooks will be loaded into the Chromebooks so students can access them with or without Internet access. Even though studies have found that student comprehension is better when reading on paper (see The Best Resources On Which Is Best – Reading Digitally Or Reading Paper?), schools will decide that a small loss in in comprehension will be off-set by reduced costs and increased accessibility, and assume that the “comprehension gap” will diminish over time the more students are on their screens.
*There will be an increased interest among students to read actual physical books for pleasure. With the increased amount of time spent on screens reading text, physical books will be attractive for their content and for their “novelty.” Teachers who had packed away their classroom libraries during the COVID-19 crisis will find that they are more popular than every post-vaccine.
* This next prediction is also a bit counter-intuitive: apart from additional time spent writing (“quick writes” on paper will be a thing of the past) and on reading and annotating text on laptops (and, admittedly that additional time will likely be substantial), there will be fewer minutes spent on them during the school day than there was prior to COVID-19. Though the vast majority of homework will be done online in the future, teachers will want to maximize the advantages of non-tech instruction during the day. This may be the most important lesson from the school closure crisis – widespread recognition that ed tech is not by any stretch of the imagination a magic bullet for instruction. Instead, it will be recognized as a tool for making some tasks (like reading/writing and homework) more efficient and convenient. There will be recognition that many of the “old ways” – getting to know students face-to-face, hands-on learning, small group live instruction, in-class discussions, etc. are what students need. The moniker “personalized learning” will lose its tech focus (The Best Resources For Understanding “Personalized Learning”).
* Teachers unions will become stronger (see The Best Resources For Learning Why Teachers Unions Are Important). Just as we’ve seen in workers’ struggles over the past few months in hospitals, fast-food restaurants, warehouses and in meat-packing plants, decision-makers who are removed from day-to-day operations tend to not be very cognizant of employee safety issues on the front lines. District Central Offices will not be immune from this blindness when we go back next school year, and many teachers will reacquaint themselves with the value of their unions. That renewed awareness will carry over for years to come.
* Schools will offer many online class options, mainly for electives, but also a limited number of core classes. This expansion will mainly appear in moderate-to-high income areas where there are more stay-at-home parents, but will also be implemented in some form or another in all schools. One particular concern I have about this development is that some students who convince their parents to pursue these options might be the very ones who need to gain the socialization skills that are gained in physically attending schools.
* After a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, districts will almost immediately revert to their typical lack of emphasis on cleanliness and lay-off classified staff who were responsible for doing much of it. Teachers will, again, return to having to use more of their time toward wiping down desks and keyboards and sweeping and spot-mopping floors.
*There will be a renewed emphasis on equity for the most vulnerable student populations. This development, though obviously welcome, is going to be the result of tragedy. During the time between now and when a vaccine is developed, I believe that districts will generally not be providing additional supports to those who might fall into this “vulnerable” category, including English Language Learners, those with unique needs, and students who are challenged by the “opportunity gap” (see The Best Resources For Learning About The “Achievement Gap” (Opportunity Gap). I believe the consequences of these actions will be so severe that the subsequent public outcry will make district, state and federal bodies change policies to ensure that these vulnerable populations are given needed extra support. I, and many others, will continue fighting for this kind of support now. I’m just not confident we’ll win.
Let me know where you agree and disagree, and what you think I’m missing!