What Kind of Learning Are We Doing? The State of our Education during the Pandemic

April 16, 2020

After last week’s American Association for State and Local History’s Conversation series on Empathetic Audience Engagement During a Crisis which focused on how museums should be addressing the needs of and helping the members in the community, I decided to take a look at what is happening with education outside of the museum field. I wanted to see what education experts are discussing and sharing with the public on addressing learning during this pandemic, and to see what else museums are doing as well as what museums could do for our communities. The following is some information I have been gathering on the current state of our education system.

Our educational system was especially affected by the pandemic when the school buildings closed for the rest of the school year, and left students, parents, and teachers with the task of attempting to continue education from their homes. Museum professionals do what they can to reach out to the community with resources on coping with the stress, anxiety, and many emotions we are feeling while living in a pandemic; they also provide education programs for varying audiences including students, teachers, and families. We have seen varying types of museum programs and activities released on their websites and social media platforms. We are also seeing reactions to and a lot of discussion about the current state of our education system.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution released an opinion piece earlier this month that was guest written by two University of Georgia professors in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, Stephanie Jones and Hilary Hughes. Hughes and Jones discussed in Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning or online schooling on how learning has changed during this pandemic and that it is different from the learning mediums we are used to under normal circumstances. They made these points in their piece:

So, let’s call this what it is: Covid-19 Schooling; or better yet, Teaching and Learning in Covid-19. What we’re doing today is teaching and learning to be in Covid-19.

This is not business as usual and it is unethical to act as if it could be. No one can (or should) expect the Covid-19 schooling happening at home to be anything close to usual, and perhaps this moment is providing all of us a chance to do something different: learn to be.

We continue to figure out each day how to proceed teaching and learning while we are facing this pandemic. It is most likely hard at first to figure out a new routine for education especially for parents and guardians who are suddenly have to deal with finding ways to educate their children; for students who have to adjust to not being able to interact with their peers and teachers as they are used to; and for educators who have to figure out quickly how to transition their lessons into an online format.

Hughes and Jones’ article was included in a reading list from a recorded podcast on WBUR-FM (Boston’s NPR News Station)’s website. They were also guests on the podcast with Luvelle Brown (superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in New York) and Henry Bucher (7th Grader at Deerpark Middle School in Austin, Texas) whose school district moved asynchronous learning via Google Classroom. All of the guest speakers on the podcast episode called COVID-19 Learning: How Parents, Teachers And Professors Are Adapting Their Approach To Education shared their insights on what is happening with education during the crisis and how they are coping with the transitions. They also stressed that what is important right now for education is for students to learn how to be, and this is an opportunity to take a moment to learn how to live in this new reality. The reading list also includes advice from a homeschool teacher and an article from the Washington Post about education leaders conclusions on the effect the crisis has on children’s learning.

The NWEA, a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency as well as providing insights to help tailor instruction, released possible outcomes of the coronavirus closures in article on their site (their information can be found in the resources list below). They pointed out some cautions while sharing the projections:

While the COVID-19 school closures have some characteristics in common with a summer break, many school systems and families across the country are implementing various online curriculum, instruction, and progress monitoring resources to offset the disruption. However, trauma, joblessness, and an increase in the number of families facing food insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence, and even the illness or death of a loved one could make academic projections even bleaker for our most vulnerable populations.

We need to remember that the families and educators are going through a lot in their personal lives while trying to figure out how to keep education going during this pandemic, and find a way to support them not just by promoting educational opportunities. The authors of the article continued by sharing what must be done to start supporting educators and families during this time:

Policymakers and the education community should further their work to provide support, especially in math, to students while school is disrupted.

Educators will need data now more than ever to guide curriculum and instruction to support students.

Researchers, policymakers, and schools should work together to understand potential policies and practices for recovery.

In the meantime, we should connect with our communities more than we previously have in the museum field to learn what they need from us.

There are a number of places that are contributing to provide assistance to help parents, guardians, students, and educators through this unpredictable time. For example, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center shared an online Care Package which is a collection of creative offerings by artists, writers, and scholars who they have collaborated with in recent years. The care package includes varying approaches to addressing uncertainty, anxiety, and grief through vision, reflection, and healing. Also, Google provided a hub of information and tools for teachers to help them during the crisis to help make teaching online easier.

As museum professionals, we should remember to take care of the human needs of our audiences as well as provide virtual education resources. Stay safe out there, and remember to be good to one another.

Links:

Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning or online schooling: https://www.ajc.com/blog/get-schooled/opinion-this-not-home-schooling-distance-learning-online-schooling/b9rNnK77eyVLhsRMhaqZwL/

AASLH Conversations: Empathetic Audience Engagement During a Crisis: https://learn.aaslh.org/products/recorded-webinar-aaslh-conversations-empathetic-audience-engagement-during-a-crisis

COVID-19 Learning: How Parents, Teachers And Professors Are Adapting Their Approach To Education: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/04/15/covid-19-learning

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Care Package: https://smithsonianapa.org/care/

Google’s Teach from Home: https://teachfromhome.google/intl/en/

 

2 thoughts on “What Kind of Learning Are We Doing? The State of our Education during the Pandemic”

  1. I think that Museums in Australia, like the US, really have a chance to do more to help the community using some of their educational resources. Many museums are already matching museum tours to various school curriculums, offering outreach programs to schools that can’t visit, offering virtual tours and have resources on line for kids and teachers. It wouldn’t take much to get these things online more fully. They need to promote their services more. I noticed on Instagram @museumswithmarisa is offering online lectures to adults and kids instead of her private tours at The Met. It’s a great chance for museums to reacquaint themselves with their local communities and make friends before their doors reopen.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s