On Being an Educator in 2020

Like many who work in my field, I’ve been thinking (and talking and Zooming but precious little writing) about online learning in the last few months. Here, at last, are a few of my thoughts.

To me, one of the issues that is most getting in the way of ensuring students learn is the labeling of courses. “Is this a remote class?” “Is this an online class?” “Is this a hybrid class?”

It really does not matter what we call our classes. There are “things” that we can do with online technologies that making teaching (and the work of managing the work done by teachers) more efficient and learning more effective. We should use those tools regardless of the meetings or lack of meetings of our classes. Likewise, we should reject those that do not improve our work regardless of the prompts or suggestions of school and technology leaders.

In some jurisdictions, it matters because terms like online are defined in union contracts, and there are different rules for online courses compared to other courses. My message to faculty is clear: It is the 21s century. Much effective teaching happens online. Yes, it takes time to learn to do it well. That is our profession today. You should not expect additional compensation or other rules when you teach online. Adopt technologies, including online technologies, and adapt your methods to use them. My message to unions is clear as well: Stop insisting on additional compensation or different rules for online teaching. Many individuals have modernized their practices on their own. Stop protecting those who avoid the responsibility of professional growth.

It is true that an education must include a variety of experiences. We want our business leaders to have been in art studios (for example) and art studios are places we cannot replicate online. But art teachers can leverage online tools to extend and enhance what happens in the studio, and this is what we should expect them to do. We know that business leaders will be communicating online throughout their careers. Despite the observation that people do not transfer skills they develop in one place to another (I know this first hand form having taught the same students math and science), I believe that business (and society) will be better served by business leaders who have communicated about art online.

The last few months have convinced me: Educators who refuse to become competent users of online tools are no longer qualified to be educators.