This week I sat down with Clint Winter, an educator and Instructional Technology Coordinator in Elbert County, Georgia, to discuss K-12 education during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a county employee, former teacher, and parent, this educator has experience with both online and in-person schooling from several perspectives.
Many families in Elbert County have switched to online instruction for the beginning of the 2020 school year, so I asked his thoughts as both an employee in the education system and as a parent on the effectiveness of the alternative education models being used now.
Clint’s main concern as a parent is that it can be hard to fill in for a classroom teacher -- there’s an inevitable gap. Learning and standards have changed since he was in school and he often has to go online to find what best meets the needs of his children. Plus, when he has to do his own work or participate in his own classes, being there for his kids can be difficult.
Teachers make a meaningful in-person connection with their students, and without in-person classes it’s difficult to create and maintain those connections. Feedback is more difficult, too, especially when students are simply following a program without a teacher’s input.
According to Clint, the biggest issue is the massive number of children in rural areas who don’t have access to high-speed internet, because providers simply don’t offer that option. Schools have tried to work around these shortcomings, but temporary fixes such as hotspots and downloaded lessons won’t work in the long run.
If the future of education is going to be in a hybrid format, internet equality must be addressed here in the United States. With such a significant number of students switching to online formats this is an issue that can not be ignored, not only in Georgia but all over the United States.