The United States is trying, desperately, to get back to pre-COVID-19 economy with students in school. From an information technology perspective, it is quite disappointing that we have not shifted our thinking. COVID-19 asked us to integrate technology so more students can experience distance learning, and the cost savings associated, but the leadership does not have the foresight to ask "What's next?". COVID-19 is not a hoax, as the president suggested, nor will it "just go away". Because we are trying to "live with it" and get back to "normal", so far, 239,842 (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html) Americans have died from it. This is a difference of almost 9,000 since I started writing this article on Monday. Right now, Europe is bracing for a 2nd lockdown, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-europe-second-wave-lockdowns/, where the coronavirus caseload had previously been "under control". We have yet to learn 1) without a vaccine, the virus is in control 2) COVID-19 caused a disruption so we must ADJUST to new needs for working families.
Urban education was not fine before COVID-19 and is not fine during COVID-19. We have the opportunity to make it better post COVID-19 with visionary leadership. The question remains "What's next?" According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), SARS, MERS and Coronavirus are linked. The website, https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/covid-19, states "COVID-19 research efforts build on earlier research on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which also are caused by coronaviruses. MERS is a viral respiratory disease that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012 and has since spread to 27 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Some people infected with MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) develop severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. From its emergence through January 2020, WHO confirmed 2,519 MERS cases and 866 deaths (about 1 in 3). Among all reported cases in people, about 80% have occurred in Saudi Arabia. SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003, though cases subsequently were tracked to November 2002. SARS quickly spread to 26 countries before being contained after about four months. More than 8,000 people fell ill from SARS and 774 died. Since 2004, there have been no reported SARS cases. COVID-19 is not a once in a lifetime experience. We have to expect another airborne communicable disease will happen in our lifetime. Can we use these lessons learned to prepare our economy for technology based learning in smaller settings? Why yes, yes we can!
How can we remodel education for working families using technology? First, let's become more realistic that young children learn most through play. 10 years ago, when Pennsylvania allowed e-learning called cyber charter schools, my students stayed at their day care center for learning until the 3rd grade. If an outbreak happens at a day care center the risk is much lower since the transmission is contained to a smaller set of children than the typical school setting. Time, https://time.com/5902291/childcare-coronavirus/, reports a Denver teacher quit her job to open up an education center and now makes the same money with a much smaller student population. The students benefit, the teacher benefits and the state benefits with lower maintenance fees for school buildings.
Colleges across the country have been forced to implement e-learning, quickly, as the virus spread across the campus. Now these empty class rooms can be "repurposed" as leased space to elementary, middle and high schools for a hybrid learning model. I agree that students need interaction with their teachers. We act like there is classroom learning or e-learning. The third model of education is the hybrid model. According to Panorama Ed, https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/hybrid-learning-return-to-school, "Hybrid learning combines face-to-face instruction with online learning. In the context of coronavirus school re-openings, a hybrid model would reduce the number of students in the building by moving some of the course delivery online. Sometimes referred to as blending learning, hybrid learning lends itself to individualized learning, collaboration via online discussions, and several modes of interacting with course content for different learning styles." My experience, working in the learning department at Deloitte, tells me that efficient hybrid learning, where the students take ownership to manage their time, can be more successful than regular classroom learning. This model is a very effective solution, in Philadelphia, where most of the school buildings are so dilapidated that students are unable to return for ventilation hazards anyway.
In order to prepare for the next pandemic, can we admit that we have not taken a systemic approach to building the technology infrastructure in the United States. In other words, we have operated from a reactive state instead of proactive. Although internet usage is required to apply for most jobs, interact with government and provide alternatives to learning in school, only 80% of the United States is equipped with internet access at home. The FCC, https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/eighth-broadband-progress-report, wrote "further implementation of major reforms newly adopted by the Federal Communications Commission is required before broadband will be available to the approximately 19 million Americans who still lack access."
"In an era when broadband is essential to innovation, jobs, and global competitiveness, the Report concludes that the FCC – and the nation – must continue to address obstacles impeding universal broadband deployment and availability." These are some of the questions we must ask knowing another mutation of MERS, SARS and COVID-19 is on the horizon. How can we shape our educational landscape to include technology NOW in order to stabilize our economy with the ability to avoid another global lockdown? What is next?