Teacher Preparation for Online Learning: Now Is the Time

Mary RiceToday’s blogger is Mary Frances Rice (University of New Mexico), who co-authored the article “Orienting Toward Teacher Education for Online Environments for All Students,” which appears in The Educational Forum. KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share access to the article free through June 30, 2020 at Taylor and Francis Online.

In March 2020, 1.3 billion learners at all levels were displaced from their educational buildings due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).

In the U.S., most school buildings closed for the rest of the shool year (Education Week, 2020). For many, closures of this magnitude were previously unthinkable.

Even as buildings closed, many schools and institutions of higher education adopted some form of remote emergency learning.

Aside from the psychological panic induced by COVID-19 that made transition to new ways of learning difficult, many students did not have the devices and reliable internet access necessary for online learning. In fact, many teachers did not. Moreover, teachers had not been prepared to teach online. Why not? Well, for many reasons (see Rice & Deschaine, 2020). For some teacher education programs, it was because they thought online teaching was not real teaching. For some programs, it was because they lacked resources—faculty with know-how and models to emulate. For others, it was because they (and their state licensing boards) were tightly tethered to the notion that (time in seat = learning) and online instruction disrupts that equation.

Regardless of the reason, teachers in many schools distributed devices as best they could and started sending work online to families.

Did they bring their strongest pedagogical practices to the emergency online work? Some probably did.

Success stories abound from teachers at schools who already had consistent access to infrastructure and who were already using digital resources. I have a research site right now where students are receiving private music lessons with instruments provided on a rent-to-own basis by the school as part of their home-based learning. In this school, teachers are also sending students to break-out rooms for conversations, reading bedtime stories to students, and making use of learning management systems for young children. In these nice, safe neighborhoods, teachers can parade in their cars and wave to students to lessen the distance while keeping everyone safe. Moreover, in these neighborhoods, parents can stay home with children, find places in their spacious homes to make fun spaces for learning, and monitor children’s formal learning for a few hours a day.

But that is not what it is like for most families.

In many schools, the worst pedagogies and the most deficit-laden attitudes followed them to remote learning.

In another school site where I am conducting research, students were assigned to watch a 45-minute slide presentation with narration about the Falkland Wars. Students were supposed to take notes and write an essay. This  expectation—to learn using one of the driest content delivery systems ever invented—is for 12-year-olds! In another district, parents of students with disabilities were barred from entering their children’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) virtual meetings because they did not have district email addresses. When parents were not logging on, school officials chalked it up to parental ineptitude instead their own.

And then, there are the teachers who are not able to teach at all.

The devastation of the virus in some communities has been so intense that teaching and learning are the last priorities—with good reason.

For example, the Navajo Nation on the Arizona/New Mexico border is fighting the virus while most community members lack running water (McGraw, 2020). Surely, if we have to choose between the internet and running water, the water should win, along with food and medical supplies. But in most communities, if they had decent internet bandwidth and families had access to devices and teachers were prepared to teach online and collaborate with families remotely, all students could do home learning with some success.

Although there were good reasons to prepare teachers to teach online before the pandemic, it is understandable that many educators and many communities were caught underprepared.

However, moving forward from COVID-19, it seems prudent for institutions of higher education who prepare teachers to make preparation to teach online and in blended or hybrid spaces their highest priority.

Yes, teaching online requires different types of skills (Pullham & Graham, 2018).

Yes, teaching online requires teachers to think about time and achievement differently (Yan & Pan, 2011).

Yes, teaching online increases the transactional distance between students and teachers which must be lessened through strategic actions from teachers (Moore, 1993).

But, teaching online can be done well.

Teaching online can be a positive relational experience for students (Rice & Carter, 2015). Teaching online can also support the development of critical digital literacies and other advanced skills (Blau, et. al., 2020). But stop-gap emergency will not ever be anything other than that. And if we continue to rely on it in times of trouble, we run the risk of exacerbating educational inequalities that are already beyond tragic and unacceptable.

Communities need internet.

Students need devices.

Teachers need preparation.

Parents need support. Let’s lay the blame for uneven remote learning where it belongs—lack of planning, lack of interest, and structural inequality.

Then, let’s fix it.


References

  • Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students?. The Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.
  • Education Week. (2020). Map: Coronavirus and school closures. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html
  • McGraw, G. (2020). How do you fight the coronavirus without running water? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/02/opinion/coronavirus-water.html
  • Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education. (pp. 22-38). Routledge.
  • Pulham, E., & Graham, C.R. (2018). Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching competencies: a literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411–432.
  • Rice, M. & Carter, Jr., R. A. (2015). With new eyes: Online teachers’ sacred stories of students with disabilities. In M. Rice (Ed.) Exploring pedagogies for diverse learners online (pp.205-226). Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Rice, M. F., & Deschaine, M. E. (2020). Orienting toward teacher education for online environments for all students. The Educational Forum 84(2),114-125.
  • UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19 educational disruption and response. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
  • Yan, H., & Pan, S. (2011). Rethinking time management of online instruction: Flexible or strict?. Open Education Research, 3. Retrieved from http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-JFJJ201103018.htm

Kappa Delta Pi and CourseNetworking Team Up to Support New Teachers

(INDIANAPOLIS)—Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, is partnering with CourseNetworking (CN), an innovative Indianapolis-based technology company in education, to draw on the Society’s rich legacy of high standards and excellence to support the professional growth and retention of new teachers.

Beginning teachers have high turnover rates that cost schools billions of dollars each year. One effective way to combat the revolving door of teachers and its negative effects on schools and students is to offer new teachers professional development. Dr. Richard Ingersoll, a prominent researcher and member of KDP’s esteemed Laureate Chapter, shared, “Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those that go into teaching are gone within 5 years.” KDP is perfectly positioned to address the needs of beginning teachers, as the organization has a presence on the campuses of more than 650 institutions nationwide, helping to graduate nearly 10,000 education students into the profession each year.

Beginning in fall 2018, KDP will offer new opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and skills through online learning as well as to establish a permanent eportfolio. A selection of courses, which will be both affordable and convenient, will help teachers develop competencies that can be applied immediately in their classrooms. After successfully proving their competencies in each course, teachers will earn micro-credentials in the form of official badges, and have an opportunity to earn certificates they can use as proof of their skills, as continuing education, and as evidence of these accomplishments on their eportfolio. Among the initial topics for P–12 teachers will be areas that KDP research has identified to be the most challenging for new teachers. The majority of the course offerings will be asynchronous, with learner engagement both independently and within an online community.

“CN is very excited to work with KDP in implementing the most advanced new-age learning environment, the CN Learning Suite,” shared Dr. Ali Jafari, CN Chairman and CEO. “The CN LMS provides easy access to new KDP certification and badge-based courses while the CN Social Network connects KDP members globally to network and collaborate. The CN ePortfolio offers a lifelong professional cyber image for all KDP members. With this collaboration, we can change the way scholarly societies network and conduct continued professional development.”

KDP President-Elect Dr. Victoria Tusken, who has worked in education for 30 years—including 4 as a Secondary Curriculum Coordinator in Illinois—believes that KDP has an opportunity to be at the forefront of ongoing professional growth for teachers. “To think about micro-credentialing in terms of steps toward mastering specific skills is just good professional development,” said Tusken. “The typical professional development never sticks. Practitioners need ownership of their professional development, and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ format often pushed down from districts proves to be viewed by practitioners as a waste of their time. But, to provide short courses around specific topics and competencies has a deep impact and a lasting value for practitioners.”

Though the initial offerings will be geared toward practicing P–12 educators, KDP plans to leverage its innovative model to address all three major focus areas of the Society’s current strategic vision, which are to (1) Recruit qualified candidates into the profession, (2) Support and enhance quality preparation of teachers, and (3) Retain effective teachers—particularly in high needs areas.

The projected timeline will make the courses and eportfolio available to KDP members and other educators prior to the Society’s 52nd Convocation, to be held in Indianapolis, IN from Wednesday, October 31 through Saturday, November 3, 2018. This year’s Convocation, themed ”Designing the Future,” will feature a cutting-edge experience where all attendees of all generations and experience levels not only gain knowledge and strategies, but also collaborate to design a future that is sustainable, equitable, and promising for ALL learners.

For more information about the eportfolio, please visit http://www.thecn.com/eportfolio, and for more information about KDP, please visit http://www.kdp.org. You can view the official press release here.

About Kappa Delta Pi
Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, was founded in 1911 at the University of Illinois to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. As a professional membership association and international honor society in education, KDP provides programs, services, and resources to its member educators to support and enhance their professional growth—all in an effort to advance quality education for all and to inspire teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges. With more than 650 active chapters and nearly 40,000 active members, the organization has seen great accomplishments and milestones in its 107-year history and is looking forward to a future where all children receive a quality education.

About CourseNetworking, LLC
CourseNetworking (CN) has a unique, next-generation technology solution for the education Industry supported by many years of thinking and research invested prior to the commercialization of the product. Built on a global education platform, the CN Suite offers a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS), Social Portfolio, Global Academic Social Network, and Badging, as well as other social collaboration functionalities to transform teaching and learning. The CN was built to ensure that teaching and learning opportunities are available for everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time, through the web or the mobile app. The CN also provides a full turnkey solution for system implementation in institutions. The CN is the fourth major research and entrepreneurial project of the IUPUI CyberLab. The CourseNetworking LLC was created by a capital investment from Indiana University and Ali Jafari in 2011.