Hilliard Schools Connection: Pandemic has taught important lessons about future education

John Marschhausen
Guest columnist

The COVID-19 coronavirus has affected our lives in immeasurable ways.

School-age children will experience COVID gaps for many years. For many of our young people, COVID-19 is the most significant trauma they have experienced in their lives. The disruptions to daily activities, time-honored traditions and relationships are beyond comprehension.

John Marschhausen

We will not soon forget this time in our lives. We pray for those who are sick and mourn those who we have lost. We support each other, lift those in need and act with kindness.

Complaining about the coronavirus will do nothing to make our situation better. Placing blame doesn't make our situation better; negativity only cultivates more negativity.

Our Hilliard City Schools team already has created an Academic Recovery Plan. We will have more information soon; however, we will close any gaps our students might experience.

Successful organizations set themselves apart by reflecting on what we've learned. COVID-19 has revealed some truths about public education. What we've experienced with this virus can prepare us for future events and improve future operations.

Teachers are essential personnel

The past nine months have highlighted the importance of the traditional student-teacher relationship.

For decades, different organizations and institutions have explored many variations of eLearning. State governments have encouraged various charter and for-profit options for public education.

For some, online learning was appealing because of cost savings. Others saw opportunities with flexibility in time and space.

COVID-19 has demonstrated unquestionably that for most students, eLearning isn't the most effective instructional modality. Yes, for some students, online or blended learning is appropriate. Our Hilliard teachers in the Online Academy have done a remarkable job during a global crisis.

We are making the best of a once-a-century pandemic. Nevertheless, most students learn better in classrooms, with an elite teacher and their peers.

Technology is a tool – not a teacher

Hilliard is a One-2-One iPad district. We are exceptionally proud of our partnership with Apple.

The implementation of our Technology Task Force recommendations years ago prepared our school community to respond to the pandemic with skill and purpose.

We were better prepared than nearly every other district. Our transition to Canvas as our learning-management system set our current – and past – students up for success. Our graduates were ready for tomorrow as nearly every college shifted to online or blended courses.

Even with our success, COVID-19 has demonstrated what we already knew: iPads are excellent educational tools, but they will never replace teachers.

In-person education is superior to Zoom conferences and online lessons. We are social beings; we learn better together.

We all worry about screen time versus human connection. As we emerge from this crisis, our district once again will strive to seek an age-appropriate balance for the use of technology.

Technology will improve some operations

Although a Zoom conference on an iPad won't replace in-person instruction in Hilliard, there are some places that videoconferencing and flexible instructional options will continue in a post-COVID world.

For some parents, Zoom parent-teacher conferences worked better with busy schedules. This is especially true for parents with multiple children in different school buildings.

I anticipate moving forward parents will have an option for a Zoom conference or an in-person conference. From the comfort of one's own home, a 15-minute videoconference is more relaxing than driving to a school building – especially after a long day at work. Parents can connect with teachers, get a quick update on their students' progress and never leave their homes.

Special-education routine annual meetings also may be held via videoconferencing. For working parents, the ability to "jump on a Zoom" to connect with an education team simplifies the process.

When our district offers options, when we partner with parents to find what works best for everyone, we are more successful. The methods we've been forced to use during this crisis will provide options for the future.

For some upper-level high school students, the flexibility provided with blended learning might be appropriate in a post-COVID world.

For College Credit Plus students, online courses through Columbus State Community College provide transcripted college credits without driving downtown for class.

For our Tolles Career & Technical Center students, asynchronous online courses might get students in job placements faster. Future Tolles students could take their Hilliard classes through the Online Academy and earn technical-school credits at Tolles.

We've learned that for some learners, especially our older students, online learning fits a need.

Our passion for growth is one of the district's core values. Every event, even a crisis, provides opportunities for improvement.

COVID-19 has been incredibly difficult for all of us. We all look forward to a time when wearing masks and social distancing are in the past. We will learn from this trying time and be better in 2021.

John Marschhausen is superintendent of Hilliard City Schools.