Technology is quickly becoming a prevalent part of our nation’s educational system, most prominently as a supplemental instructional tool. Chromebooks, for example, are in use more and more frequently at the K-12 level with teachers providing face-to-face guidance and instruction. However, because of the increasing teacher shortage, there often are no on-the-ground teachers to fill key roles particularly in high-demand areas such as upper level sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, and so on. Technology is being used to provide those teachers, often working across the country or in some cases, internationally. This can be a workable solution, under the right circumstances. Some caveats, however, include:
- Many school districts still don’t have access to high-speed Internet which is required for videoconferencing and streaming.
- Heavy use of technology requires up-to-date hardware and software – many states keep reducing funding to local school districts and administrators must often make tough fiscal choices.
- Simply purchasing hardware and software doesn’t guarantee that it will be used properly – school districts must provide on-sight training and support for students, teachers, and staff.
- All technology tools must be properly maintained and serviced – this can be contracted out to local technicians but money must still be allocated for this purpose. It should be noted that some small school districts are experimenting with using high school students as technicians; this can work as long as they are properly supervised but there are still some risks that come with that model.
Regarding the teachers themselves, there are still several issues that school districts must resolve, including:
- How do districts ensure that these teachers are effective instructors
- Do they evaluate their performance in the same way that they evaluate teachers on-the-ground?
- Will districts insist that these virtual teachers complete a background clearance check to protect the safety of students?
- Will districts (and states) insist that virtual teachers living in other states or nations be properly licensed or certified in their home state or will exceptions be made?
- Will virtual teachers be paid according to the same salary scale as teachers on the school campus?
- Will virtual teachers working full-time for school district or a consortium be limited to working only for that one entity as is expected for those on-the-ground, or is it possible they could in reality hold multiple full-time positions?
- How do these teachers interact with parents/caregivers?
- Who provides on-the-ground support/mentoring for struggling students?
- How will school districts and state departments of education know for sure that this is a successful and sustainable model?
What other questions and concerns must be resolved before we start using videoconferencing as the “go-to” answer to resolve the teaching shortage? Want to talk about it some more? Reach out to me.