Coronavirus: Recognizing the Upsides Now – For Later A Directors Perspective from the National Mental Health Innovation Center

By Mimi McFaul, Psy.D.

Just like that, remote classrooms have been going live starting the week of March 16 and continue to host online classes out of necessity. Teachers and students alike, most for the first time, are thrown into a new reality of doing school remotely, some within a matter of days. Modified learning plans and digital classrooms have been created – seemingly overnight.

All of this was activated by the public health charge to operationalize social distancing rules in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. For the educational system – the priority response was to meet social distancing rules while keeping learning happening. This challenge pressure tested our education systems in only the way a crisis can. It challenged teachers and school administrators to be creative, flexible, and to deliver – fast.

Digital tools and platforms became the front face of this classroom. These tools facilitated instruction, communication, and evaluation of learning. This is not the way we typically test technology solutions and their implementation. The urgency and timeline required focus to allow  technology to be the tool that gets education done; rather than filling its former role as a modern facilitator of learning to the usual (in-person) classroom experience.

Kids learned to adapt, despite uncertainty, and step back into a classroom they didn’t recognize – and adjust to a new way of approaching the school day. They used digital tools to connect with their teachers, get assignments, and see classmates on video. And they learned new ways to raise their hand in this virtual space, and instructed to mute their audio when multiple people started talking at once – to be “responsible digital citizens” in learning the norms of the virtual classroom. And those students got through the week – one day at a time – with the dedication of their teachers supporting them all along the way. This will be a significant lesson – that many students will take into their future endeavors as the digital revolution evolves.

I do not know what this will mean in the long-term for how technology is used in or outside of the classroom when this is all over. But I do know there will be important lessons, when we have to the time to reflect on what worked (and what didn’t). Because no matter what, this was a colossal test of agile technology implementation in the real world.

For now, technological advancements continues as providers embrace tele-therapy, tele-psychiatry, tele-medicine and use technology to communicate moment to moment insights from the front lines of this pandemic. Let’s take a lesson from our children and educators and continue to foster resilience and positivity wherever it can be found in our online communities.

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