Six Things Every Educator And Parent Should Know About Virtual Education
Not all screen time is created equal.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s sudden, dramatic impact on our educational system has administrators and teachers across the nation scrambling to build virtual infrastructures. The immediate, widespread dependency upon virtual tools to continue educating our students in the midst of an unprecedented international crisis has made us realize that the potential problems of the future are now the real problems of today.
The challenges that accompany this transition go beyond mere inconveniences. WiFi disparities and overwhelmed servers can result in connection issues, which disrupt workflow and waste time troubleshooting. There’s often an inherent discomfort in staring at another human through the lens of a computer camera. And then there’s the widespread fear of too much screen time in general. As a parent, I’m fully aware of these frustrations. However, the benefits of integrating virtual education into our learning processes will soon outweigh the inconveniences. Here’s why:
1. The technology will improve
As a 38-year-old, I am old enough to remember the age of dial-up internet. For those of you unfamiliar with this unique chapter in technological history, let’s just say it involved an awkward, distorted, hissing sound while you waited to connect to the internet via phone line. The speed at which technology now improves is remarkable, and one of the silver linings of this quarantine is that it’s forcing rapid advances in virtual communication software and infrastructure. Over time, technological disruptions will be minimized.
2. Virtual is not meant to replace traditional teaching methods
No virtual experience can compare to a great educator who is physically in the same space as a student. Virtual education is meant to supplement traditional teaching methods, not replace them. If anything, the integration of online platforms leads students to respect- and in many cases even to cherish- the classroom experience. Virtual engagement also creates an opportunity for teachers to connect with students one on one without the entire classroom knowing about the interaction. This may benefit individual students with different learning abilities, behavioral challenges, exceptional shyness, or other unique circumstances.
3. Virtual communication is now a skill set crucial to a student’s future
Regardless of what a student’s future holds, he or she will need to have experience communicating virtually. Job interviews, meetings, professional development, and even social interactions are increasingly shifting online. Developing a familiarity and understanding of these tools will be advantageous to students in both their professional and personal lives.
4. Not all screen time is created equal
The concerns that many parents and teachers have about screen time abuse are not unwarranted. Technology is moving faster than our ability to accurately determine its long term impact. But it’s important to remember that all screen time is not created equal. There is a difference between spending time on apps like Instagram and TicTok and engagement with educational value.
5. Virtual interactions remove geographical borders
Virtual technology connects classrooms to the entire world. This presents new, exciting opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Take, for example, a violinist on the West coast performing for a group of students on the East coast. Imagine the logistics and budget required to create that opportunity in a shared location. These kinds of creative applications are just the beginning of a virtual revolution.
6. Remote learning is germ-free and reduces carbon footprints
A viral outbreak isn’t the only reason why we will undoubtedly need to quarantine again in the future. Pollution levels in some cities are making the outdoors unsafe and scientists have been warning us that the United States is not immune to this global reality. In Beijing, residents often resort to a smartphone app that gauges air quality to decide whether or not to wear a mask when they venture outside. After the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not require much of an imagination to envision a future where Americans must do the same. If pollution levels continue to rise, virtual education presents a safer option than commuting while reducing our carbon footprint.
Virtual arts education is an emerging field being explored by the new company, CultureNet, co-founded by the author.