In 2014, Michael Trucanno a World Bank policy specialist said epidemics can pose as “black swans” that will push education technology into the mainstream.
As a Senior Education and Technology Policy specialist, Mr. Trucanno had underscored the importance of “tipping points” that support arguments promoting the use of desktop or mobile technologies, processes, and resources as a common means of providing education to students. At that time, the World Bank policy specialist was referring to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) infectious disease that emerged in China in 2003.
Today, proponents of education technology are calling the Covid-19 epidemic as one of the “black swans” that Mr. Trucanno alluded to in his remarks about education technology. Schools were the firsts to shut down when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came to learn that the first case of non-travel related, person-to-person transmission had already transpired in a U.S. community.
In heeding the CDC’s advice that the novel coronavirus disease will spread like wildfire throughout the country, a number of school districts embarked on distance learning initiatives to carry out their mission for the 2019-2020 school year.
Unfortunately however, aggressive responses like closure of business establishments and shelter-at-home mandates came rather late, allowing the infectious disease to spread at a rapid rate. As schools will be closed for an indefinite period of time, many are not well-equipped to shift to computer and mobile-based distance learning, particularly public schools that receive limited state and federal funding.
Will Covid-19 Push Educational Technologies into the Mainstream?
In big cities like those in New York and Los Angeles, school districts are faced with the challenges of devising distance learning plans for vulnerable youths who constitute the bulk of their student population. This vulnerable group comes from low-income families, and children of migrants who are still learning English and/or living in shelters for the homeless.
In the State of Kentucky, district plans are more inclined toward holding make-up classes as soon as the country overcomes the Covid-19 crisis. Apparently, the state does not have enough resources to provide disadvantaged learners with digital devices and Internet connectivity that will allow them to access online learning resources.
Although Washington state’s Northshore School District was one of the first to come up with a robust distance learning plan, implementation was put on hold. As it is, the state is in dire need of funding for providing equitable services to address the heightening economic crisis. .
School officials at Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools said they were able to distribute Internet hotspots and learning to students who have limited access to educational technologies. A spokesperson said district leaders are still devising plans geared toward distance learning that will engage special-needs students.
Although Covid-19 appears to be the black swan event that will prompt school districts to adopt distance learning by way of computer technologies, pushing it into the mainstream of educational services is unlikely. After all, the pandemic has resulted in economic crisis that prevents many school districts from adopting long-term distance learning in educating sturents.