“The question is, ‘How might we radically change our P-12 schooling systems so that marginalized student groups will not be dependent on charity and at an educational disadvantage during a crisis of this magnitude in the future?’” wrote Stephanie Hawley, Chief Equity Officer at Austin Independent School District, in “Convergence in the Crisis: Educational Equity and Social Justice.” It is a piece in which Hawley gives her insights on recommended steps for leading multi-system change and equity progress as well as questions to re-imagine schools.
Certainly, we must consider short-term solutions and help spread the word about food pickup and other pieces of important info for families in our area, but we also must start thinking about what changes need to be made longterm. I know we are all swamped, anxious, and dealing with a lot, but if we don't start pushing back against short term inequitable solutions, they could become longterm. And if we don't start seeking longterm solutions, then we're missing a real opportunity to disrupt the systems that are already being disrupted. Our administrators, central offices, technology leaders, and more in our districts are looking for solutions right now. Let's help guide that conversation and those solutions towards equitable outcomes. If we are advocating for inequities in our library's, school's, or district's during "normal" times, then we have to try when and how we can to continue to do so now. There are inequities that are becoming apparent to previous naysayers. Here in a Tweet from Dr. Rosa Perez-Isiah asks a key question:
What will we do about it?
Other Questions to Consider
During our roll outs of emergency remote learning are people taking equity concerns into account? (I saw teacher Julie Jee refer to the education that schools are currently trying to facilitate as emergency remote learning on Twitter. This felt like an accurate description of what is taking place. I will use that phrasing in this piece.)
Are students in need being provided meals? Does everyone that need that information have it? How is that information being sent out? What is being done for students without internet? For students with IEPs? For ELL students whose parents speak another language primarily? - How can you help? What resources can we curate and share? What can you spread the word on and how?
What inequities has this brought to light about your specific school or district? How can you advocate to not just temporarily change them but also permanently? Who can you have conversations with? What if you tried stretching your sphere of influence a bit further?
What language are you using when you discuss COVID 19? Are you stepping in and up when/if you hear others using xenophobic or racist language?
We have all had an onslaught of offerings temporary, permanent, upgrades, new resources, etc. from various educational companies. After having some conversations with some fellow school librarians in my state, these some of the considerations to take into account:
We’ve all likely seen some articles about different districts and access levels that are happening during remote learning. Here’s one of many examples about two districts in Connecticut. One of the many equity concerns with schools rolling out emergency remote learning is access to internet/technology. Some companies are providing temporary free internet access, such as Charter Communications or Comcast’s Internet Essentials. Some providers are also waiving late fees, increasing hotspots, or providing higher mobile data. Some households may have internet but have limited bandwidth or have several people sharing the same device. Here Daniel Stanford, Director of Faculty Development and Technology Innovation at DePaul University's Center for Teaching and Learning, lays out the bandwidth and immediacy of different remote learning options and proposes some counter options for high bandwidth and high immediacy that may not work for all families. You can see a graphic he created about this below.
We also need to think about apps/sites that are compatible with most devices, so folks can work from phones or other devices. You can use a phone to call into most video chats, so make sure that's an option for folks. Some folks have also been discussing overly stringent video chat rules for students on Twitter (i.e. camera must be on, noise free area), while I understand those were likely set with good intentions, we must remember that not every student may feel comfortable showing others their room/houses or may just be having a rough day emotionally and not want to be on camera. It's hard for adults to even be in a noise free area right now with spouses, pets, children, etc. all sharing a space while people try to work. So while some procedures might need to be in place for safety of our students or to aide in the flow of conversation, we need to be mindful to not overdo the rules of these interactions they get to have during this time of isolation.
These are areas we can consult with our staff on, and I've had some staff members ask me questions about fair use and copyright and technology, especially in regards to online read alouds. You are the copyright expert and a technology advisor in your building.
I’ve seen several webinars, trainings, etc. offered for educators to support them in transitioning to remote teaching or showing them how to use specific resources. There are also some happening tied into remote learning and equity from folks such as Dr. Sheldon Eakins, Alex Shevrin Venet, Tiffany Jewell, ISTE, and SLJ. Dr. Sheldon Eakins, who was featured in an earlier post on “Librarians can be Leaders for Equity: An Interview with Dr. Sheldon Eakins,” worked with Marcus J.W. Borders to create Teaching Online: A Step-By-Step Course to Launch and Lead an Equitable Online Classroom, a free online course being offered through Leading Equity. Dr. Eakins also recently posted this podcast episode with Dr. Christian Chan about “How to Support Our Children’s Mental Health During a Pandemic.”
Teaching Tolerance has been continuously thinking and writing about teaching during the coronavirus, starting with their piece on “Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus” back in mid-February, which is a must read that can help us understand more about these conversations and help us navigate them. As we’ve seen on the news, there has been a noticeable and concerning continued increase in harassment against Asian Americans (and Asians globally) since then. Remember that languages matters in how we refer to the virus and explain it to kids and others. (Here’s some info from the World Health Organization about best practices for naming infectious diseases. They discourage using names of geographic locations, which can fuel xenophobia.) In recent weeks Teaching Tolerance has written about “Teaching Through Coronavirus: What Educators Need Right Now,” “How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism,” “A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus,” and in the days since I started writing this they have also come out with “Online Teaching Can Be Culturally Responsive.”
Dr. David E. Kirkland shared this resource on Twitter, it's a piece he wrote on "Guidance on Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Remote Education: Centering Equity, Access, and Educational Justice." He clarifies his thoughts on what culturally responsive-sustaining remote education is, outlines what it looks like, lists what various parties involved need to know and do, and more.
I've been looking for ELL And IEP resources as well. So far for ELL students I'm mainly seeing people discuss translator apps and programs that folks use during the school year as well (i.e. Microsoft Translate, Google Translate, Say Hi). For Special Education resources, so far these are two I have found, the Peel District School Board Special Education Resource Page and Wide Open School. (These are not my areas of expertise. I'm open to feedback on different resources.) Also if our teachers aren't already using resources that can read to the kids (i.e. World Book Online, Immersive Reader) or need captioning (Google Slides), this can be a time to share those resources we may already be familiar with when they need them.
"Because these are unprecedented times, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine systems. This is a total shakeup of every aspect of our society. The world is upside down right now and that means when we turn it right-side up again, it’s never going to look the same. And we can start envisioning now how it might look instead," writes Angela Watson in her piece and podcast episode about school closings. Think about the longterm solutions and big picture vision when you can while we are dealing with the short-term problems and temporary solutions.
Take a deep breath. You got this. You're already working hard to support your students and teachers. While doing that, look for the inequities in your systems (district, building, library, etc.). They are there. Draw attention to them, ask questions, have tough conversations, and help move things towards equity. Disrupt.
The purpose of the ISTE Librarians Network is to promote librarians as leaders and champions of educational technology and digital literacy. The key mission is to provide a professional learning community where librarians can leverage technology knowledge and expertise to improve school library programs, increase access to information, and foster strong teaching and learning environments in a connected world.