If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot predict the future. Many of us experience newfound unease about putting anything on our calendars – knowing that we may not be able to proceed exactly as planned.
What we can do, however, is plan amidst the uncertainty and – as best we can – utilize available knowledge, resources, and opportunities to set ourselves and our students up for success.
What are some strategies that educators can employ to help them plan for the 2021-22 school year in light of an uncertain future? It is certainly not a simple question, but we believe that together, we can surge ahead confidently into the new school year. Here, we offer some of our thoughts.
1. Emphasize flexibility.
With the Delta and Lambda variants on the rise and cases surging in the U.S., it is not a given that schools currently planning to reopen in-person will be able to stay this way. The American Association of Pediatrics is currently recommending that all school-age children wear masks this fall, and early indicators suggest that a COVID-19 vaccination for children aged two years old and up will not be available until early 2022.
Given these trends, it is wise to consider ways to emphasize flexibility in your planning for the 2021-22 school year. Whether it is through ensuring all students have reliable off-campus Internet access, onboarding with helpful new tools, processes, and learning management systems, or providing professional training in hybrid learning environments to teachers, any steps that schools can take to facilitate a “toggle” learning model – in which in-person learning can quickly and smoothly transition into virtual or hybrid learning when needed – will reap dividends down the road.
Related: Enabling Learning Acceleration in a Post-Pandemic World
2. Secure available funding.
There are multiple avenues for securing federal funding to support your school’s off-campus connectivity program, and now is a strategic time to take advantage of these opportunities.
Released on May 11, the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program allocates $7.17 billion for the express purpose of providing 100% reimbursement for schools and libraries to provide adequate, reliable broadband connectivity to students, households, and communities whose need has heightened during the pandemic. The filing window opened on June 29 and will close on August 13, so make sure to get your applications in. For some helpful resources relating to ECF funding, visit our ECF webpage.
Outside of the ECF program, government programs such as the American Rescue Plan’s ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) fund are likewise available to help support your school or district’s student connectivity needs. Learn more about these additional funding sources here.
3. Embrace digital transformation.
While it’s easy to become discouraged amidst the challenges of the ongoing pandemic – which should certainly not be ignored – it’s also helpful to remember to acknowledge and celebrate the advances in learning that we have all witnessed over this past year.
A recent McKinsey study revealed that across all business sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation by 3 to 4 years – a trend that certainly has borne itself out in the realm of education. More and more, we are gaining familiarity and comfort with digital tools like videoconferencing and video recording tools, accessibility tools, online curriculum and textbooks, learning management systems, student support, and assessment integrity tools.
And for some students, remote learning has proven to be ideal. In particular, teachers have anecdotally reported that their students with learning or physical disabilities, students who are highly energetic and have a difficult time focusing in the physical classroom, and students who face social anxiety are among those who thrive in the virtual learning environment.
Given these exciting tech advancements, it’s clear that remote learning is here to stay. In fact, a fall 2020 RAND survey found that 1 in 5 schools have already adopted or plan to adopt a virtual schooling option post-pandemic. As networking speeds continue to accelerate, technology improves, and hardware costs decrease, online education will continue to grow in popularity and prevalence. It is vital that we work to meet the learning needs of children and adults, both inside and outside the classroom, so that they can succeed in an increasingly digital world.
Related: Distance Learning: Here to Stay
Kajeet: Your Partner in Education Connectivity
As a recognized leader in IoT connectivity solutions, Kajeet works with thousands of school districts who are facing these challenges. We witness the resilience and dedication these educators bring to their students each day, and we applaud them for their unwavering dedication to their students.
For over 10 years, Kajeet has had the privilege of working alongside our customers to meet their growing connectivity needs – both inside and outside the classroom.
“Working with Kajeet has been phenomenal… they have been involved and making sure that I have access to everything that I need. From a customer service standpoint, it’s been fantastic.”
Mark Barham, Director of Information Technology, City of Williamsburg
“Without our partnership with Kajeet, I don’t know how I would be sleeping at night right now trying to figure out how we are going to address the needs of those students. Of all the different logistical elements surrounding remote teaching and learning, the Kajeet one has been one of the smoothest ones we’ve had to deal with because it just works.”
Gary Lambert, Director of 21st Century Learning, Beekmantown Central School District
To learn more about how Kajeet may be able to help your school or district plan for an uncertain future, reach out to us today and we will be happy to connect with you.