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Should Schools Use Classrooms as Online Learning Monitoring Stations?

It’s a model already moving forward in some districts.

The back to school options keep changing and shifting. Online. Hybrid. In-Person. But, a new idea has recently cropped up and is making the rounds … classrooms used as online learning monitoring stations. An opinion piece in the New York Times calls them SCOLs (Safe Centers for Online Learning) and Tucson Unified School District is already moving forward with the concept.

The premise of this concept involves all students learning via online schooling. The teachers instruct remotely, but some students can go to a classroom where monitors or other staff members watch over them.

Who does it help?

Many families can continue with online learning, but many cannot. Whether the parent(s) work outside the house, the household is not set up for online access, the student has special needs, or the student isn’t safe at home … some students are better served by going to a school and classroom setting during education hours.

Many paras and staff members have also found themselves without employment, so this could allow those who are willing (maybe with additional incentives?) to return to work.

There are also many ways this could be structured to benefit students. Since each child is learning independently via their device, different age groups could be assigned to the same room. This ultimately allows families to remain together and decrease exposure. They could also go to the closest school in their district, rather than one that requires bussing.

Who does it hurt?

Well, that’s the thing. We worry about the precedent that online learning monitoring stations set … in a variety of areas including:

1. That EdTech can replace teachers

If a teacher can instruct remotely from afar, with monitors in the classroom facilitating getting online, tech problems, or even answering any one-on-one questions, do teachers become more obsolete? Can one teacher teach multiple classes? Can EdTech learning programs replace teachers even more?

2. That paras are less important than teachers

Our paras are extremely important and we hate the idea that they could be viewed as less important, and thus expendable by allowing them to be exposed in classroom settings when teachers are allowed to stay home. Although proponents of this solution feel that the number of students in the classroom would be far less and allow for social distancing.

3. That teachers are little more than glorified childcare providers

Many opponents of this solution feel that the emphasis is on getting children into a classroom setting as a means of childcare instead of education. The precedent this sets is that teachers exist to babysit children rather than teach them. This viewpoint long term continues to devolve the importance of the education system.

4. That students can learn effectively in this environment

There’s still so much to be determined, but while this option may solve some problems, it may introduce others. If one student gets sick in the classroom, do they all quarantine? Will students have access to any physical activities during the day or will they be stuck in the classroom? What assistance and socialization will they receive? Can they focus? And ultimately, would a home environment serve them better?

Like all the back to school options being considered, there appears to be no single one that solves all problems and makes everyone happy.

What are your thoughts on using classrooms as online learning monitoring stations? Share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE.

Also, teachers shouldn’t have to choose between their students and their own health … but here we are.

Posted by Nikki Katz

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor at WeAreTeachers. She is also an author and an ex-rocket scientist. Her two young adult novels 'The Midnight Dance' and 'The King's Questioner' are on sale in stores now!

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