Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Planning For School in the Fall of 2020

This time of year I always start thinking about the next school year. Even though I don’t expect to be teaching (announced my retirement already) I can’t stop thinking about the fall. Will schools be in their buildings or will the start the year teaching remotely. Universities are thinking about a possible school year without students on campus. I don’t think anyone wants that. It’s a worst case situation.

There are some learnings we can use which ever way we go though. As I have written earlier, my school is using virtual machines that students can connect to from home. I really hope this is in place in the fall. It opens the door for so many options, especially but not exclusively, for computer science programs. If I were at VMware or Microsoft I would be working on cookbook solutions for school IT people to work with over the summer.

Other options like servers hosted on Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) may also be good options. They would have to work on good pricing and easy to follow instructions for IT people, teachers, and students though to make it work.

I know schools using GitHub very effectively as well. That has an advantage of teaching an important industry skill. It has the disadvantage in that students may not have the right software of powerful enough computers at home. Maybe a hybrid solution with GitHub and some virtual machines would help here. Again, none of this scales with training resources for teachers. Not every It person is as good as the one at my school. And even he is constantly learning new things.

Learning Management Systems may have to adapt as well. Can your schools LMS distribute and collect assignments? many can but some cannot. Schools are likely to be looking closely at how well their LMS handles remote teaching.

Our current computer conferencing solutions seem much better suited for industry than for education. Other issues are showing up just because so many more people are using these tools. Poor Zoom has been playing catchup with concerns for the last month. Google Meet has also be changing and improving because of feedback from educators. Microsoft Teams is used by a few (and they mostly like it) but not many seem to know about it. I do expect a lot more online training for Teams aimed at schools to come. There is already a lot. Perhaps all of these companies, if they get a chance to catch their breath, will start looking closely at the needs of educators.

I have already seen surveys from companies asking teachers what problems they have and how they are trying to solve them. Teacher needs have never gotten so much attention from companies large and small. Maybe we’ll see a big jump in functionality for schools and teachers. A man can hope.

Right now we don’t know what will happen in the fall. Will there be enough testing and treatment for families to feel comfortable sending there children into schools which are germ factories in the best of times. Or will we be starting the year teaching and learning remotely? No one really knows. So we plan for the first and hope for the best.


Garth said...

The problem with remote teaching is not the tech or the material, it is the humanity. I taught at the university level for 10 years and did not enjoy it. It lacked connection to the students. To me teaching is more than content. It includes social interaction with students. Helping them with life issues. At the ages 14 - 18 life is a major struggle. Teachers can sometimes provide a little guidance to smooth out the bumps. That really cannot be done with remote methods. Another factor is the daily interaction with the marginal students. Remotely they fade away. I am seeing that now. The students that struggle in the building are simply vanishing. In the building I can actually see them face-to-face and find out what the issue of the day is. They sometimes will react to that.

Mr. Coxall said...

I have used AWS Educate foe the last 2 years. It is free and works really well.
So, so glad I had it all set up and working this year.
My students did not miss a single beat.

Alfred C Thompson II said...

I would love to hear/read more about how you are using AWS Educate?