Back to School for 2021/2022, but not exactly Back to "Normal"Research on distance learning and hybrid learning for the back to school environment that includes distance learning tracking camera information.
2020 was an unprecedented year that truly changed the world we live in, and what the “new normal” has evolved into. Impacting all walks of life, all regions, all ages, we have had to change the way we communicate, socialize, congregate, and educate. K-12 education was hit especially hard with both teachers and students going from being in-class full time to everyone remote in the blink of an eye. Administrators scrambled to set up their teachers with remote teaching tools and equipment while parents scrambled to ensure their students had effective communication and connection abilities so they could stay engaged with their teachers. The challenge was real, but it was also awe inspiring to experience how quickly educators adjusted to the challenge in order to keep their students engaged, on-task and current.
Fast forward to the 2021/2022 school year after multiple evolutions of teaching and learning, from full remote, to teachers in the classroom with students at home, to hybrid formats with remote and in-class students. Entering into the Fall 2021 semester, most schools and districts are planning for full in-class instruction while many are keeping a hybrid option open. With variants such as Delta driving a new spike of COVID-19 cases throughout many regions of the country, additional changes and adjustments are inevitable. Furthermore, with much of the K-12 student populations being ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, preparations are continuously being made for multiple scenarios regardless of how the climate changes. The good part is, we now know how to do it, and with additional funding being made available to strengthen safety measures in-school as well as the virtual infrastructure, the challenge now is to ensure the correct technology is in place, but also technology that can be effective in multiple scenarios depending on unknown changes in the future.
In a recent co-partnered study conducted by Tech & Learning Magazine and AVer Information* with over 600 educators responding, over 80% of schools and districts had evolved into some form of Hybrid Learning by the end of the 2020/2021 school year. Out of those schools and districts, almost 60% would continue the 2021/2022 school year with hybrid options either still running or available if needed again with over 20% still unsure. However, the question still remains…what technologies are essential to support both in-class and hybrid learning as the climate continues to change?
According to the same study, during the peak of the Pandemic there were some key technologies that became essential for teachers in order to maintain both their connection with their students and the ability to provide digital, virtual curriculum. Laptops were of course #1 with 95% of teachers relying on them. 60% utilized some kind of webcam, either within the laptop, phone or Tablet, or a separate USB webcam.
Document Cameras came in next at over 30% mainly because of their portability, easily able to be taken between the classroom and home so teachers could continue to display physical content to their remote students. However, teachers began to find other creative ways to utilize their document cameras for remote and hybrid learning. Many document cameras can also double as a high definition web cam, able to capture the teacher live to connect with remote students. Also, document cameras have the ability to record, so teachers could record their lessons and upload them for absent students or later review of material. It is estimated that the demand for document cameras will continue to grow because of their effectiveness and usefulness is any environment, whether in-class, remote or hybrid.
Auto Tracking Distance Learning Cameras began to gain popularity as hybrid formats continued to grow. Almost 10% of districts have already implemented auto tracking cameras, but with almost 80% of districts planning to maintain some kind of hybrid options moving forward, the demand will continue to grow rapidly. Especially useful in a hybrid setting with some remote students and some in-class, an auto tracking camera automatically moves and tracks a teacher as he or she moves about the classroom without the teacher having to control it. Therefore, a teacher can move from the IFP to the dry erase board to the document camera, or to other students in the classroom and the camera will follow, keeping the teacher centered and engaged with remote students.
Finally, with the majority of schools and districts planning on having most students back in the classroom for the Fall 2021 semester, it will become essential for schools to maintain strict safety and sanitization guidelines. The CDC** has recently updated their K-12 safety guidelines, and because of the spike in the Delta variant are now recommending that all K-12 students, teachers and staff wear masks. Handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces will become essential in reducing the spread. 68% of responding educators reported using handy wipes for common surfaces and 40% reported using industrial cleaners for learning material and technology. With over 42% of educators having shared devices such as Chromebooks, tablets, headphones, and STEM Kits, industrial cleaners and wipes can be harsh on delicate electronics.
Schools and districts are starting to move towards UV sanitizing devices to clean electronics and other sensitive equipment and material. At the time this study was conducted, almost 12% were already deploying these kinds of devices, but with students returning to the classroom this Fall and with the common practice of sharing devices, the demand for these kinds of solutions will continue to rise as well.
Even though the overall spread of the Virus has slowed, the new variants have surged new cases in certain regions, and even has breakthrough cases with some who have been vaccinated. The takeaway from this data is that the threat is not over, and schools and districts have to have multiple plans in place depending on the ever-changing climate. We have all learned a lot over the past year and a half, however it is clear that continuing to increase the safety of both teachers and staff is the #1 priority.
*Survey Says: Post Pandemic Considerations for Classroom Tech. Tech & Learning Magazine in partnership with AVer Information, Inc. August 2021Go Back