VIRTUAL SCHOOL: TEACHERS WANT TO IMPROVE BUT TRAINING VARIES
AppleMagazine|AppleMagazine #458
After a rocky transition to distance learning last spring, Georgia teacher Aimee Rodriguez Webb is determined to do better this fall. She bought a dry-erase board and a special camera to display worksheets, and she set up her dining room to broadcast school lessons.

“I’m getting myself geared up for what I feel will prepare me and allow me to teach remotely with more fidelity now that I know what I want it to look like,” Rodriguez Webb said.

She and other teachers from suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County School District recently started three weeks of training as they prepare to launch the school year virtually.

With remote learning part of an increasing number of fall reopening plans, districts are facing pressure to improve after many students got left behind this spring in the scramble to close schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

But investment in training varies widely. While some school systems have offered new guidance on teaching from afar, many educators feel like they’re on their own.

More affluent school districts have used the summer to train teachers both on technology and getting the most from students who are learning at least partly online, according to Richard Ferdig, an education technology researcher at Kent State University. Teachers in those districts will perform well, he said.

“For the ‘have-nots,’ I’m concerned — not that they couldn’t do it, but that they weren’t necessarily given the right things to do it,” said Ferdig, who edits the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, which released a special issue and online book dedicated to professional development during the pandemic. “They’ve either been given nothing or they’ve been told, ‘Here’s the tools we bought for you,’ with very little support on how to integrate those tools into” teaching.

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