Distance learning didn't need to be this hard: NYC schools failed to lay the groundwork for a transition
Added 03-27-20 08:13:02am EST - “The COVID-19 shutdown of New York City public schools, which began Monday, is forcing students and teachers from kindergarten through high school to tackle learning and teaching online, from their homes. Under the best of circumstances,…” - Nydailynews.com
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The COVID-19 shutdown of New York City public schools, which began Monday, is forcing students and teachers from kindergarten through high school to tackle learning and teaching online, from their homes. Under the best of circumstances, this wouldn’t be easy. But because the city’s Department of Education didn’t prioritize and sufficiently fund the use of instructional technology or online learning in our schools, it’s going to be a lot harder than it needed to be.
I witnessed firsthand how, upon taking office, the de Blasio administration ignored the critical role technology must play in learning and teaching in the 21st century. They disinvested in programs like iLearnNYC, the city’s custom-built portal for online learning. They seldom seriously integrated informational or instructional technologies into their strategic planning. Leadership at DIIT, the Division of Instructional and Informational Technology, had to beg for basic funding. Instructional technology and online learning leaders at the DOE’s central offices were disempowered or relocated to district and borough offices.
In short, the school system has no centralized strategy for citywide instructional technology and online learning. Today, you have to squint to find DIIT on the DOE’s organizational chart. As a result, the current move to online learning will be far more scattershot, confusing and inequitable than New York families deserve.
There were some important investments in instructional technology and online learning made during the previous administration — and some of these lessons, tools, and teams can still be leveraged. When I worked for the DOE under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there were two main technology groups. The first was DIIT, which focused on technological infrastructure: email, internet, basic devices, attendance and purchasing systems, and so on. The second was a mighty collection of instructional technology and online learning teams (the two are distinct) housed in the DOE’s curricular and innovation divisions. They consisted of educators who had developed expertise in using technology for learning, including the use of online learning methodologies.
Back then, it was clear that city leadership had a commitment to understanding how new technologies could support models of learning and teaching that promoted equity at scale. Instructional technology and online learning experts were valued, had decision-making power, sufficient staffing and decent funding.
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