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Technology and Support: Helping Our Teachers Through the Pandemic

Celebrate Teachers

At the time of this writing, we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has struck every nation, every school, every teacher, every parent, and every student on Earth in some form or fashion. We went into lock down in March and April, some of us got back to school in June, and now we are planning the rest of 2020 and beyond. For Southern Hemisphere schools, they have trudged on throughout the pandemic without major breaks or stoppages. For Northern Hemisphere schools, we have gone through the strangest Summer Holidays in my lifetime.

Remote Learning

However, despite what has been written, schools never closed. The buildings closed and the classroom doors were shut, but the learning continued with only minor interruption. And with schools above the equator into the new school year, learning starts anew. Some have gone back to the buildings while others continue to engage in remote learning. Most schools worldwide are somewhere in-between.

Through this we have learned two undeniable facts: technology can be used to facilitate learning and teachers are amazing.

The technology we have implemented in schools for past couple of decades was put on full display during the pandemic. And despite its obvious warts, technology fundamentally met the charge of ensuring continued learning for those who have access.

Yet, as I have said numerous times, technology is merely a tool. The real heroes of our continued learning are the teachers. They took the uncertainty, confusion, and fear of the situation and treated them like a 6-year-old having a temper tantrum. They spoke softly but authoritatively, handled the crisis, and got on as best as they could showing strength of character and resolve. Then, as all good teachers do, went into their staff rooms and kvetched about with their colleagues…however, now the staff rooms were digital.

We had hoped by this point the virus would be on the downswing and life would be returning the nostalgic times we all fondly remember, namely 2019. Yet, the virus is still ever present, and our school situations are still ever-changing and uncertain.

With this, we have found that drawing upon our technology and our teachers are still the lynchpins for learning in the coming months. It is critical, that we support both in the following ways:

Keep the Technology Well Fed

The data systems and online services schools are employing at the moment are now mission critical. It is vital that schools ensure their continued up-time and reliability. They do this through regular checks, continued maintenance, and healthy relationships with their vendors. Schools need to keep their IT teams well-resourced and supported to make sure they are checking on the operational health of the technology on a daily basis. They need to make sure any updates provided by the developers are well researched prior to implementation, then carried out with close monitoring to avoid unforeseen damage. They should also conduct regular check-ins with the vendors to ensure they stay full informed of all changes to their vital systems.

Freeze Instructional Technology Architecture

Simply put, nothing new, nothing removed. There are two reasons for this, stability and stability. First, instructional technology ecosystems are delicate, complicated, and full of moving parts. A change could destabilize the system which would cause far more problems than any incremental gain. Further, teachers’ emotional wellbeing while using instruction technology at this time will become unstable if the technology they rely upon changes. Whether they are teaching remotely or in a socially distanced environment in the classroom, consistent and reliable technology will provide them the best environment for quality teaching.

Be Publicly Supportive of Teachers…

Celebrate Teachers

Unlike any time in my memory, teachers are working alone and working in conditions that are truly unknown. On the whole, teachers are communal workers needing their colleagues and peers for daily reinvigoration. Since that is not available to them, it is our job to be publicly supportive. Remind them they are doing a great job, the students are doing well, and we are proud of them. Put it on the school’s website, on social feeds, in newsletters. Make teachers understand just how wonderful they are.

…and Avoid Adding to Their Stress Levels

Our teachers have shown their grit and skill in this tough environment, but it has taken an immense physical, mental, and emotional toll. Many of them are parents themselves having to juggle home learning duties in addition to home-based teaching responsibilities. This is not the time to enforce difficult policies, to overly analyze them, or to give them additional tasks. My suggestions are that school move away from informative staff meetings to supportive ones. Put the procedural items in an email and let teachers talk to each other. Don’t make any curricular or programmatic changes. Move to more qualitative assessments away from heavily quantitative or data-based reporting. After all, any data we collect on our students or teachers around learning will have so much confounding variation from pandemic conclusions drawn from them will be worthless.

We all have high hopes that in the coming months airplanes and restaurants will be safe to sit in mask free. But when that actually will come to pass we cannot predict. In the meantime, our schools are best served by doing what they have been doing: relying on stable technology to connect students to learning and drawing upon the awesomeness of our dedicated teachers.

Stay safe everyone, you’re doing a great job!

This article was originally published in The International Educator in October, 2020.

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by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

You’re Doing Great – EdTech in the Time in COVID19

You're Doing Great During #COVID19

A restart of The EdTech Vlog in the middle of the COVID19 crisis. I am currently doing work as a consultant, a parent, business owner, EdTech support, PE coordinator, and at home learning coordinator. It’s tough…yet I see others having greater difficulty and still doing amazing things. I just wanted to say, YOU’RE DOING GREAT!

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by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

5 Tips for CyberSafety for Families During COVID-19


As families are homebound due to the COVID-19 virus, cybersafety and cybersecurity have become even more important. Children are spending more time online and the cyber dangers out there seem to be increasing. This has become a challenge for parents who are managing work, online learning, and increased parenting duties.

Here are a list of 5 tips for CyberSafety for families during COVID-19.

  1. Make online time a social activity in the house. Connect with pre-teens and teens using the very social media platforms they are using – Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, etc. Parental presence as a participant will lead to greater safety.
  2. No technology use behind closed doors…for anyone. If parents are going to surf or be on Social Media they should do it in common rooms, just as the children should. Charge devices in common rooms, and don’t allow them bedrooms, toilets, or behind closed doors. This may not work for video conferencing or certain work activities, but try to avoid those hidden spaces.
  3. Encourage dialog. Talk about what you see, share funny memes, don’t judge when a child shares something inappropriate. Discuss them openly and make the habit of sharing a safe activity. Parents should also share some of their experiences with children, both good and bad (though not inappropriate or NSFW content), so children feel in partnership rather than being controlled by parents.
  4. Set rules and guidelines and try to stick to them. Child must know what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour before they engage in online activities and they need to know consequences.
  5. Monitor and review activity on devices. It is important for parents to check search histories, read messages, look through photo streams, and review content that was posted by children to make sure they are safeguarded both as victims and those misbehaving.

CyberSafety comes through intention and partnership with children, not through heavy controls or limits.

Please Contact Me for further help and advice on CyberSafety or Digital Citizenship.

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