How Covid 19 Accelerated the Digital Transformation for Education

I recently had the pleasure to hear a session that took place during the ISTE 2020 conference late last year.  Here are some of the comments I took from it that I think would resonate with an Irish audience.

Chair Hardeep Gulati

Panel: Ivan Casanova, Ciera Leidheisl, Kimberly Nidy, Dr. Donald Robertson, Tracy Smith, Dr. Akilah Willery

Covid 19 was compared to ‘shoving teachers over the digital cliff.’  It was said that even in schools with a very good tech base, teachers still had to accelerate.

A very useful approach was to identify teachers with expertise who could act as tech mentors to colleagues.  It was recognised that while there were pockets of teachers who were familiar with the platform in use, others were not.  Some basic level of knowledge of any platform is required to be functional.

(Those on the panel were using Schoology as their Learning Management System (LMS), which is currently used by 25% of US students.)

With the return to school in September 2020, teachers found that many of the tech issues arising from the blended learning scenario had been dealt with.  This meant the focus could be on pedagogy and education, identifying the approaches best for the student and manageable for staff.

Given that there will be post Covid and it won’t be the same as before, it is important to be strategic in choices and decisions made now. For example, one hub in one place with one log-in cuts down on time wasting and frustration.  The thing to remember and reiterate is that ‘Digital does not equal magical’.

Survey showed that 70% of teachers in the US are dealing with students at home and at the same time online.  This is double the work.  Dedicated in person, the teacher also endeavours to be dedicated online.  The solution needs planning.  Scheduling is probably the answer.

Social and emotional:  students struggling.  The solution differs with the age groups.  One approach mentioned was where a teacher took a day a week  to just have fun.  It was also suggested that a proactive rather than reactive approach be taken.  There is the ongoing issue that some students have still not turned up.

What is the silver lining?

  • ALL students have been forced into this new way of learning.  Some pockets thrive on the remote learning and these are not ones that school would necessarily have identified to pilot it.
  • Focus has shifted more to the learning rather than the testing/assessment (as in pre Covid).  It has brought everything back to the learning.
  • It has forced change.

What about moving forward?

  • One step at a time with your platform
  • ‘Just in time’ learning for teachers – you don’t need to know everything about a platform before you start using it
  • Teacher to teacher support


  • Once remote teaching started, it was realised that most staff did not have personal devices to work from home on.
  • Many had viewed Schoology (or their district platform) as an optional practice, so there was a lack of knowledge across the staff
  • Challenge of making courses engaging
  • Tech questions to teachers, many from parents, became overwhelming particularly as they didn’t have the answers.

Useful innovations

On the platform create a parents space for tech questions.

Streamline routine tasks to save teacher time – ‘clear the brush’
NOTE:  Those on the panel primarily worked in the area of learning technologists in their respective schools/districts.

Posted in: