• Dr. Amie Weinberg

Beyond the Transitional Curriculum

Over the past month or so, teachers and parents have been scurrying and worrying about how to best teach their students and children during the Covid-19 crisis. Some school systems provided students assignment packets. Others handed out Google Chromebooks at drive-thru pick-up locations. And many educators across our social-distanced nation are following directives to move lessons from a face-to-face (f2f) format to an online platform. And that's not easy to do.

So teachers are, perhaps for the first time, tackling two-way, real-time communication via Skype or Zoom. They are modifying geometry lessons about points, lines, & rays, and are electronically sharing with students history PPTs that highlight various causes of the Civil War. Parents wonder what is best for their children, the appropriate amount of time to spend on each subject, and how the absence of a digital device will impact their students.

But this transitional curriculum is not optimum online learning. Too few teachers have the indispensable background and experience to design and teach online. In many instances, teachers and students struggle for access to equipment, and those with devices are learning new software and Apps while simultaneously trying to learn through them. Our current status is one of making due; it is not representative of best instructional practices. Please do not judge remote digital learning with our present circumstances.

Substantive online learning is expressly designed to transpire in an online setting. Taking lessons and activities that already were planned for traditional classrooms and posting them on a classroom webpage is not ideal. In fact, doing so may present an inaccurate impression of a powerful educational channel, and can create a negative climate for upcoming, rigorously-designed remote teaching and learning. When an educator designs a learning opportunity, she takes many factors into account. So designing for students who are in the same room as you is not the same as designing for students are at home. Some have technology access and others don't.

The global pandemic has highlighted our education system and its integration of remote and online technologies. Let's use this opportunity to learn about digital design, create hybrid and online courses, and embrace technology fully. Yes, online teaching and learning are enticing because sweat pants and pajamas are oh-so comfortable. But well-designed teaching and learning through digital means place the learner in charge. The seeds have been planted and the growing has begun. We are moving directly toward student-centered digital learning that supports and extends our technology-integrated lives.