Elementary schools have worked tirelessly to overcome the many unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether by adjusting to remote learning, instituting safety and sanitation protocols, or simply finding ways to keep students from falling behind, elementary educators and administrators have had to rapidly adapt to a “new normal.” Now that vaccinations and improvements in treatments are helping Americans put the pandemic in their rear-view mirrors, education professionals will need to reinvent elementary education in the post-pandemic world.
Technology Will Play a Larger Role in the Classroom
One of the COVID-related changes that will almost certainly endure is the use of emerging technology in the classroom. Children today are more plugged into the digital world than ever before, and educational technology can be a valuable tool for increasing student engagement.
According to a recent InnerDrive blog, “a blended learning environment should consist of 50-70% traditional face-to-face teaching and 30-50% utilising online resources to enhance learning. This is because students can often get bored by the slower and less interactive pace of traditional learning, resulting in decreased motivation and lower engagement.”
Some of the proven ways integrating technology can promote academic innovation include:
- Using the gamification of education to make assignments more dynamic
- Allowing students to utilize phones or tablets for participating in class or delivering presentations
- Expanding access to academic resources through videos, e-books, or virtual lectures
Remote Learning May Be Here to Stay
Even once the pandemic subsides, remote learning will likely remain a staple of the education system. According to a Rand Group study cited by the Washington Post, remote learning is “the innovative practice that the greatest number of district leaders surveyed said would outlast the pandemic.” The benefits, as well as the parental and student demand for remote education, are impossible to ignore. Virtual learning has the potential to increase student access to courses or learning opportunities not offered at their own schools, and it is better suited to accommodate learners with diverse needs such as students:
- with medical conditions that make it difficult to attend school
- who are considered exceptional learners
- who feel more comfortable learning remotely
School Facilities and Sanitation Protocols
One glaring issue the pandemic exposed is the poor ventilation in many schools. According to the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “nearly 41% of schools reported issues with HVAC systems.” While unclean air is clearly problematic during an airborne viral event, COVID-19 is prompting many districts to finally address their overall air quality.
In Chicago, for example, the public school system has spent 100 million dollars on HVAC upgrades, and they have pledged to do monthly evaluations to ensure adequate airflow and cleanliness.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend regular cleaning of high-touch areas, as well providing adequate sanitation supplies such as: soap, hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), no-touch trash cans, tissues and paper towels.
It’s unrealistic to expect all students to emerge from the pandemic on equal academic footing. Teachers will be tasked with creating curricula that address the critical issue of learning loss. According to David Steiner, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, lesson planning will shift from remediation to acceleration. He says: “Instead of segregating these children and trying to give them what they didn’t learn, you say to yourself, ‘What must they know in order to stick with their peers and have access to next week’s lesson?’ The key is you’re always asking yourself, ‘What do they need for next week?’ not ‘What did they miss?'”
Additionally, federal funding will be earmarked for intervention programs designed to help students catch up. Therefore, curriculum, in addition to being incremental and adaptable, will need to include plans for summer academic programs that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
American elementary schools will require a creative approach to overcoming the challenges that remain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Master of Education in Elementary Education online program at Worcester State University can equip teachers with the necessary foundation in education theory to ensure sustained student success no matter how unexpected the circumstances.
Learn more about the Worcester State University online Master of Education in Elementary Education program.