A look at the future of education, post COVID-19

NOW: A look at the future of education, post COVID-19

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It’s been a long couple of months for many in the education field. There have been a lot of changes made this year just so students can continue to learn whether it be in person or virtually.

But how did schools make it work and will those changes be long-lasting?

"When you think about what schools do and the process of educating kids. That's different. And it's forever going to be different," Phillip Brackett, Technology Director for Eau Claire Public Schools said.

“I think we're in a spot where we're, we're learning together. And our teachers have just done a really magical job of guiding that," Todd Cummings, the South Bend Community School Corporation Superintendent said. 

"I think teachers have discovered that students are capable of doing far beyond what the teachers may have expected," Brackett said.

When the pandemic started, schools had to figure out what to do, and fast.

"Here in Eau Claire we've had, we had probably about a third of our students at the beginning of the school year. Opted to stay home and be involved in a virtual kind of a school environment," Brackett said.

For years, there has been an upward trend towards more technology in schools it becomes apparent as kids are starting to bring laptops home with them.

"These carts were in classrooms, and they were full of Chromebook devices and so in the spring we emptied them all up and we handed them, you know to kids as they were heading home to hunker down.," he said. "We've decided that that's going to be our model moving forward. And that one to one kind of a deployment model. We might not have headed in that direction as quickly.”

The pandemic sped up that process and demanded teachers and administrators be ready for it.

"You've got people who felt very uncomfortable with technology in the spring, who's been forced to, you know, acclimate to that," he said.

And it’s forced districts to pay up, in more ways than one.

"The fact that we passed out with our food and nutrition staff nearly 1.2 million meals, how our transportation department provided wi fi on all of our buses so that we can make sure that students and their families had wi fi, the board of trustees and Governor Holcomb's office in securing the gears grant, which enabled us to pass out hotspots," Cummings said. "Of course, we passed a referendum this year, which allowed us to raise teacher pay.”

A lot has changed this school year, but will any of it stick? Like an over-reliance on virtual education?

"You know, I don't think we're gonna see an over-reliance, but I think we're going to see it as a really good option," he said.

"This idea that a teacher serves a primary role of delivering knowledge to a student. I think that's, that's been exposed as kind of an antiquated way of thinking of things instead. Students have the right tools and access to the internet, they can get information from any number of sources. So then the teacher becomes more of a guide," Brackett said.

Because of virtual learning, there is an overemphasis on students being their own teachers and that might have long-lasting effects.

"So not only are we teaching, knowledge, not only are we educating, but we're also giving students the tools that are eventually going to need for success in the workplace success in life. And so that's part of the shift that we're seeing in education," he said.

A scary thing might also be a good thing in the end.

“Oh, yeah, no, no question," he said.

A good thing that perhaps will continue into the future.

"We were innovators in providing bus wi fi to the city. Now what we would like to do is help continue that conversations to put the resources that we have on buses and on hotspots. How do we make that citywide? And how do we all work together to make sure that all of our families are connected," Cummings said.

A connected family, a connected school, a connected community.

"How do we make sure that we're meeting the needs of all of our students and families who do want a virtual option? We've already started working on that for next year," he said.

And when it comes to the way they clean schools, Cummings said that will most likely stay too.

"Absolutely," he said. "How we clean and how we how we manage our facilities, I think we're all going to have long lessons from that.”

So while COVID has been difficult, many are coming out the other side perhaps better off.

“I think in many cases, it's brought out the best in us it's brought out the best in our teachers brought the best in transportation, food nutrition, the folks who clean our buildings, it's brought out the best about how we care about one another," he said.

But with all this innovation, one thing is missed, the kids.

"We miss our students. We miss interacting with them. We missed seeing the ball games, and we are looking forward to a time when we can have them back," he said.

The Learning Curve is taking a hiatus until after New Years. But we are still following a lot of story ideas - like are schools the safest place for your kids?

If you have a good idea or just want to comment, reach out to us at LearningCurve@abc57.com

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