In this Guest Blog Post, Bob Goodman, Executive Director of New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning (NJCTL), highlights the importance of ensuring that New Jersey students continue to engage in high quality teaching and learning experiences as educators navigate this new world of fully remote, online teaching. Teachers across the state are taking advantage of NJCTL’s free Math and Science courses, with close to 3,000 students currently enrolled and thousands more planned to be enrolled. For more information, read on below.
Current school closures are nothing like typical school closures with students missing a few days, or even a week, due to a snowstorm or a trip. A week off is at worst an inconvenience; it won’t harm a student’s morale, learning, or academic trajectory.
Schools have already been closed for weeks and we can’t expect them to reopen before the fall, when they may close again due to likely COVID-19 reoccurrences. We must provide effective remote education for children now… and be prepared to sustain that effort indefinitely.
As weeks go by, students need to be in an effective learning environment so they can experience the pleasure of discovering new things and taking on intellectual challenges and overcoming them. If they are isolated at home, without a dynamic learner-centered environment, they will likely become bored and demoralized.
That doesn’t mean that children should spend all day in front of a computer screen. A child’s day of learning at home should reflect the type of schedule they had in school. That is very different for K-5 and high school students. Parents must coordinate with their child’s school to help establish the appropriate balance between study, play, art, music, socializing, etc.
Accomplishing this spectrum of activities requires students have Internet access and a keyboard-equipped device with a sufficiently large screen to participate in online learning, as well as video chats with friends and family. This requires a desktop computer, laptop computer or Chromebook; tablets or phones are not enough.
While parents need to play a role in organizing their child’s day, they should not be put in the role of instructor; this is not the time to replace the highest ranked educational system in the country with homeschooling. Parents should help with organization, but teachers need to be the online instructors. However, teachers’ transition from effective classroom practice to effective online instruction can’t be expected to occur overnight.
New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning knows how challenging that transition can be. We are a major producer of new teachers of science, mathematics and computer science; in fact, we are the #1 producer of physics teachers in the U.S. Part of our teacher training involves teaching those subjects to teachers. We took five years to move from classroom to 100% online instruction; five years to try out and refine different approaches. We can’t expect teachers to transition as effectively in just a few weeks.
We are helping students, teachers and parents with the transition to remote learning in a spectrum of ways; from supporting live, synchronous instruction on Zoom with the free digital courses we developed for teachers to use in their classrooms, to supporting online asynchronous instruction by adapting the online courses we created to teach teachers.
Executive Director of New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning