Last week we found out we’ll be online for the rest of this year. Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts, officially closed all public schools through the end of the school year. We’d been closed for about six weeks already, but the closure was set to last only another couple of weeks, at least officially. But now the outage will last another 8 weeks.
I’ve been moving my courses online, in a limited way, for a very long time. I gave a talk to the Science Department in 2009 about making instructional videos for students to use at home. I used the title “Just in Time Teaching” to describe the idea that students could access videos when they were ready to learn, perhaps the night before a test. I made videos with a Sharpie, a large pad of paper, and a camcorder pointing down. My disembodied hand starred in these early videos.
In January of 2018 I gave a short talk at one of our Professional Development days about moving my courses online.
The idea wasn’t that we’d be stuck home during a pandemic. It was simply that putting my class materials online made it easier to manage a group of students that might miss classes due to college visits, concussions, illnesses, and more. By having much of my class exist online, I could help students fill in gaps they might miss much more easily.
Now we’re really stuck at home. Whatever we deliver to students won’t be as good as an education in person, but it’s what we find ourselves doing. It seems clear that mastery of some of the technologies we are using to deliver this education should be considered core competencies of the teaching profession. This may not happen again, but I don’t think we should assume it won’t. It will be interesting to see how this event changes education – even in person education – going forward.