Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje was a guest on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson, speaking about the state of K-12 education amid the challenges caused by the pandemic. Moje was joined by MIT Associate Professor Justin Reich, and Mark Greathead, superintendent of Woodhaven-Brownstown Schools and president of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan.
The featured guests took questions from callers and covered issues such as the socio-emotional needs of kids, effective online curricula, demands placed on teachers, and adaptations to support students with individual education needs.
Due to the differing needs and concerns of students and their families, it is imperative that districts provide families with choices when it comes to schooling during the pandemic. However, the resources required to support hybrid teaching—both in terms of technology and personnel—are significant.
Callers reported widely varying experiences with education this fall. Younger children particularly seem to struggle to learn online. Moje said, “We really struggle to support young children in virtual environments in part because we rely so much on print—even in a technology-enabled environment, we are relying on print. Young children may not have the reading skills developed yet to be able to engage with print text on the screen.”
Moje added that engagement is simply not the same in two dimensions. Many teachers and parents have reported that children want to be away from the screen and they have seen children act out in frustration.
“What we need to be doing is figuring out how to push in the resources needed to build those technology environments to create spaces where children could be appropriately distanced and protected and to provide other kinds of supports as well. For example, I would love to see better technology tools, better platforms. The learning management systems are not as strong as they could be. We could be doing so much more to help our children become engaged. We could be using extended reality tools, artificial intelligence tools, but that investment just hasn’t been there.”
Moje also shared the news that the U-M School of Education, Michigan State University, and Michigan Virtual University will be contributing free professional development resources for educators to maintain inclusive education in online settings.