Teaching with technology has increased in priority: it ranked as practitioners’ number seven priority challenge in 2019, and ranks as practitioners’ number two priority challenge in 2020.
Schools’ sudden dependence on digital learning has caused a major disruption for teachers. Teachers have different levels of experience, comfort, and confidence using technology. Those with less experience are struggling most to adapt, which means their students are falling behind.
Educators report that much of the work happening at home in the early weeks of remote learning was “repetitive, boring, or strictly ‘review,’ with little differentiation occurring.” Teaching diverse learners, including English learners and special education students, using technology is an urgent challenge; teachers report a lack of virtual supports to replace the in-person services students usually receive.
Though many of the in-person lessons teachers had planned wouldn’t be effective virtually, some teachers do not feel supported to try new tools and pedagogical techniques. Their professional development has not included sufficient training on the selection or effective use of edtech, so many are trying to simultaneously train themselves while supporting their students.
Many students are not used to navigating online learning platforms independently or solving their own technical issues, and some teachers are feeling responsible for providing this student tech support in order to keep learning going. Teachers report that their students and families would benefit from training and resources on using technology for learning.
“Embedding technology and teaching technological skills [was not] mandated, and there are many gaps in their inclusion in programming and the skills students are taught. This makes learning remotely even more challenging because students have little experience with platforms or with problem-solving technical issues.”
– High school teacher
The abrupt transition to remote learning has also altered student assessment and grading. While many educators have shifted their focus from preparing students for high-stakes standardized testing to supporting student engagement or social-emotional learning, teachers are still expected to grade students. Some educators feel unprepared to assess students’ growth and mastery of skills from a distance.
“How can grading be equitable when you have other mitigating factors like access and time? … How can an educator assign a grade if [factors] like access, accommodations, and general tech breakdown interfere with their abilities to show their understanding in a timely way?”
– High school teacher