Friday, April 10, 2020

Emergency Remote Teaching is About People Not Technology

Attendance at my emergency remote teaching classes has been very close to 100%. Frankly, this didn’t surprise me at all. Apparently I should have been surprised. According to a poll reported by NPR, 4 In 10 U.S. Teens Say They Haven't Done Online Learning Since Schools Closed The difference between public and private shows a huge difference though. According to the article  “47% of public school students saying they have not attended a class, compared with just 18% of private school students.”

I don’t think that it is enough to say public or private though. I attended a public magnet high school as a student myself and even today that school bucks the trend. According to a New York  Times article “At Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the city’s most competitive, Serge Avery, a social studies teacher, said 98 percent of his students have been participating in daily online activities,”

There is a lot at play here of course  Privilege is a major factor but there is more to that. Somewhere around 61% of Brooklyn Tech’s students qualify for free or reduced cost lunch.

I was asked specifically about why my school has such a high participation rate.

There is no one thing at play. I think the school culture has a lot to do with it. I think this is true of any school. Education is important to our students. They give up something to attend our school. There is a parallels here with Brooklyn Teck. Both school require leaving one’s local high school and travelling. Both schools make it hard to git in but provide a lot of support to students who do attend.

My school started planning and preparing students and teachers for this weeks before we went online. It was no big surprise when it happened. Students were mentally ready to move online. Many of the tools we use online are tools they have been using for a long time. They were already used to receiving and turning in assignments online for example. Many of them have used video chat of one form or another for years.

I think relationships between students and teachers (perhaps part of the culture) also plays a part. Part of our school’s whole belief system is that students are known, valued, and treasured. Students joke about it some but they know it is a core value and respond well to it.

At its core this is a people issue not a technology issue. Students participate if they see the value in participating. We are still grading - progress reports come out today and we have been online for four weeks. Parents want their kids to learn. That is what they are paying for and they do so because they value education. Students do tend to value what their parents value.

If school matters, students attend.

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