The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the classroom experience for students of all ages, and the future of the education system will forever be changed going forward. In particular, the benefits of integrating emerging technologies into the learning environment mean American classrooms may never fully return to the old “normal.” As a result, schools will need to make significant changes to ensure the physical safety of students as the COVID-19 pandemic continues while also providing dynamic and engaging classroom experiences.
Changing Classrooms to Ensure Student Safety
The primary focus, as schools prepare to reopen, should be the safety of students and staff. According to an article on post-COVID classrooms by The Hindu, it is clear that “any new school being constructed should consider the pandemic and ensure that the planning of built spaces will address these conditions going forward. Existing schools will have to look into their current infrastructure and make appropriate adjustments.”
To keep students safe from current and future strains of the COVID-19 virus, schools should strongly consider making the following changes to their physical spaces:
- Installing sanitization stations (including dividers) at each entrance
- Performing regular maintenance on HVAC and air filtration systems
- Renovating classrooms to increase the amount of natural ventilation and sunlight
- Reducing the maximum occupancy of classrooms or cafeterias
- Utilizing more outdoor learning spaces
- Increasing the regularity at which school facilities are cleaned and sanitized
Is Digital Learning Here to Stay?
Parents and students should prepare for digital learning to endure long after the pandemic has subsided. In his article 5 Reasons Digital Learning is Here to Stay, Stephen Thomas states that “today’s students are constantly connected, digitally savvy and on-the-go learners. For instructors looking to maximize their efforts and equip students with the skills they need to succeed, the importance of digital cannot be overstated.”
While remote learning is not without challenges, educators cannot ignore the advantages. Here are three major reasons Thomas believes digital learning is here to stay:
- Increased access to student insight
The one-size-fits-all approach to education is not working for all American students. Instead, teachers must be able to tailor their curriculum to students’ varied and individual needs. Classroom analytics allow teachers to access real-time data that gives them a better understanding of how students learn. The insight technology allows, along with its capability for near-instant feedback, helps teachers adjust their lesson plans to meet the needs of all students.
- Unlimited access to educational content
Thanks to the power of the internet, learning environments are no longer confined to the physical boundaries of the classroom. Students can now learn from experts, or visit historical sites, from all over the world. The possibilities are endless.
- Increased student access to course content
Digital learning materials can reduce the cost to students or districts. Additionally, students who may have physical, mental or financial challenges that prevent them from attending school regularly won’t be left behind in the era of digital learning. Keeping students connected to their class and well equipped to learn is a massive advantage.
Supporting Technology in the Classroom
The shift to a hybrid model blending in-person and remote instruction is quite daunting without the right tech support. Here are two areas schools must address as they prepare for a return to the classroom with hybrid technology tools:
- Device charging and storage
Charging laptops and tablets could be problematic as few, if any, American classrooms are equipped with enough outlets to power each student’s device. However, Tech Carts, such as those manufactured by lockncharge, can charge up to forty devices at a time. In addition, the security of their storage functionality is great for classrooms with younger students.
- Infrastructure monitoring
School tech personnel will need to closely monitor power usage and device health. According to EdTech Magazine, utilizing a tool like EcoStruxure allows tech support to “be on the scene promptly, already armed with a thorough understanding of the issue” when problems arise. Additionally, tools like EcoStruxure can help optimize settings and configurations to ensure optimal energy usage.
Adjusting to the new normal of education won’t happen overnight. Teachers and administrators must carefully plan how to navigate a blended learning model while also emphasizing student safety. An MA in Early Childhood Education at Eastern Michigan University can fully prepare future educators for any challenges that may lie ahead.