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A Recap and Reflection: Applying Technology-enhanced Teaching Strategies to the New Normal

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought immediate changes to the normalcy of pedagogy practiced within the classroom. Because of the changes, educators are tasked with establishing innovative approaches to teaching in making the learning process more engaging. For a variety of factors, technology-enhanced learning (TEL) is critical. It is critical not only because it is the current educational standard but also because it can enhance the way we develop the education system (Carrillo and Flores, 2020). The Applying Technology-Enhanced Teaching Strategies to the New Normal in 2021 and Beyond session at the AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting took a deeper dive into the need for more teacher preparation programs that adopt inclusive approaches to educating at all levels of education.

What Happens Next?

The year 2020 brought numerous challenges and intensified several trends in K-12 education that were already underway. Even before the pandemic, technology expanded global connectivity and hybrid/virtual classrooms gained traction in delivering personalized learning to students. Project-based learning was proving to be operative, engaging, and widespread as it relates to pedagogy.

Moderated by the Committee on Innovation and Technology co-chairs, David Slykhuis of the University of Northern Colorado and Liz Kolb of the University of Michigan, the session kicked off grappling with the current challenges educators and students have been facing due to the shift to remote learning. Despite the strenuous difficulties that students face, there is a bright lining: new benefits and prospects are on the horizon as educators look to reform the country’s current education system.  

Online Educating and Learning Pedagogy

Torrey Trust of the University of Massachusetts Amherst spoke to the need for teacher preparation programs to create ways to be well equipped with the necessary skills and toolsets to deliver the most effective pedagogy possible. With the transition to online learning, we must utilize innovative approaches that will meet students at their needs. Communication served as a critical factor in the past months as educators and students wrestled with remote learning’s ongoing challenges. A sharpened strategy for recognizing relevant differences among pathways and programs would be needed to better understand the results of various types of planning. What is clear is that because of COVID-19, evolving technology that increases usability and connectivity, is creating significant changes in the way we teach. Kirschner (2015:) states,

if one looks at teaching as a profession based upon a ‘combination of complex cognitive and higher-order skills, highly integrated knowledge structures, interpersonal and social skills, and attitudes and values’ (Van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2012), the TEL distinction need not be made. Teachers need to receive training in how to apply what they have learnt ‘in a variety of situations (transfer) and over an unlimited time span (lifelong learning)’. TEL is simply the newest tool on the horizon (p. 312).

The development of effective learning opportunities and the integration of online tools will encourage teachers to try new ideas, consider creative options, and focus on their own practices. For K-12 education entities throughout our nation and globally to be a foundation of success, corroboration of teacher preparedness is necessary.

Preparation Institutes 

The need for building communities of inquiry and practice through collaborative approaches to pedagogy is at all-time high. I appreciate both Michael McVey of Eastern Michigan University and Jon Clausen of Ball State University speaking about the current institutes that are aiding educators as it relates to assessing and incorporating tools and skills needed for remote learning. Teacher-preparation programs, however, are often seen as having a lower rank than professional and graduate-level programs. When thinking about teacher preparation programs, the educator preparation community also needs to analyze policymakers directly connected to education policy. Policymakers must understand that school reform alone cannot provide all students with the necessary framework for a successful education. An economic plan to go along with the reconstruction that brings all students up and fills educational and non-educational gaps is needed.

Inclusivity in Remote Learning

When we think of inclusive practices, it is critical to remember students with special needs, disabilities, and exceptionalities. Lisa Dieker from the University of Central Florida spoke about specific programming that involves affording accessibility that meets the students’ needs. ducation policies and programs must embrace the commitment to inclusive practices. The pandemic has brought to light a lack of diversity between teaching and resources that schools prioritize. It is difficult to determine how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect student’s needs and academic performance long term; however, there is enough information from existing research on learning during quite comparable educational experiences, as well as news and observations on how education is produced during the crisis, assessing the likely consequences on educational outcomes both overall and for relativistic students (García et al., 2017). Utilizing this data, teacher educators can proactively plan for the upcoming stages post-pandemic that will be implemented in hopes of sustaining programming that will commit to teacher’s career growth such that they are up to speed with successful pedagogical approaches, when engaging in online learning.

Needless to say, it presents many obstacles, but focusing only on potential possibilities and online learning advantages is critical to the success of all constituents of the education system. Nonetheless, particularly in times of crisis, a holistic approach to education that meets students’ academic, social, and emotional needs is necessary. As educators, we must be filled with the right resources to bring to the table. Although the onus of grappling with the changes due to the pandemic has been placed on students and educators, there is a need to call attention to other constituents that contribute to the success of one’s remote learning. 

Online Graduate Education 

Robert Moody from Fort Hays State University focused on online graduate education related to the ever-changing education system. The most significant change the pandemic has brought to higher education is a renewed emphasis on distance learning. If you have already decided to pursue your graduate degree online, this may or may not be as of a significant change as for those who started in the classroom at a traditional brick and mortar.  Regardless, many graduate schools have massively increased their online class offerings in response to the need to keep people physically separated—some have also moved to 100 percent remote instruction, at least temporarily.

Many times, graduate students are often the second thought to decisions that are made. There is a need to discuss the needs of graduate students related to remote learning and the layers that affect their studies. COVID-19 has been challenging for all graduate students, but it has been especially difficult for doctoral students in research-oriented programs who are conducting research. For a graduate student, mentorship during tumultuous times is critical to one’s success in the program. Mentorship provides reassurance that even in the face of adversity, there are people who are happy to be open, compassionate, understanding, and versatile regardless of the situation (Lasater et al., 2021). These are trying times that are affecting graduate students in profound ways. Demonstrating understanding and humanity can go a long way toward reassuring students that they are not alone in this.

Moving Forward

Education is a necessary obligation for the continued existence of a democratic society.

The coronavirus crisis posed significant threats to educators and students’ health and growth, necessitating a solution that prioritized social and emotional learning, health, and well-being. Significant crises, on the other hand, provide innovative ways to revisit the status quo. Despite the many unknowns as schools prepare for the 2021–22 academic year, one thing is certain: teacher preparation plans are well positioned to continue the critical task of training educators and leaders that our students require—educators that can handle the demands of emerging technologies, volatile funding, structural racism, and the worsening of income inequalities for traditionally marginalized students. Nonetheless, the educator training curriculum is preparing teachers to not only deal with the present situation at and, but also to join the drive to reimagine schools and classrooms where all students are empowered. The bottom line is that the educator preparation community must take this opportunity to reform the infrastructure to include the excellence and justice that every student requires to succeed through inventive pedagogy.

Leslie Ekpe is a graduate student at Texas Christian University and a Holmes Scholar.

References

Carrillo, Carmen & Flores, Maria Assunção. (2020) COVID-19 and teacher education: a literature review of online teaching and learning practices, European Journal of Teacher Education, 43:4, 466-487, DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2020.1821184

García, Emma, and Elaine Weiss. 2017. Education Inequalities at the School Starting Gate: Gaps, Trends, and Strategies to Address Them. Economic Policy Institute, September 2017.

Kirschner, P. A. (2015). Do we need teachers as designers of technology enhanced learning? Instructional Science, 43(2), 309–322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-015-9346-9.

Lasater, K., Smith, C., Pijanowski, J. and Brady, K.P. (2021), “Redefining mentorship in an era of crisis: responding to COVID-19 through compassionate relationships”, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMCE-11-2020-0078

Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Kirschner, P. A. (2012). Ten steps to complex learning (2nd ed.). New York: Taylor & Francis

 


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