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Technologies, Challenges and Needs of K-12 Teachers in the Transition to Distance Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Technologies, Challenges and Needs of K-12 Teachers in the Transition to Distance Learning during... In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 schools in the United States closed and teachers transitioned to distance learning. The purpose of this survey research study is to determine technology resources and strategies K-12 teachers have used in this transition. Additionally, this study examines the difficulties teachers experienced, along with support they wish they had during the transition. Findings indicate that a wide variety of websites and applications were used to provide academic continuity, the majority of which were familiar to teachers. In the transition process, teachers were faced with various challenges, including difficulty engaging students and parents, a lack of school/district guidelines, and student Internet and computer access issues. Recommendations to prepare for future emergencies include making clear plans for emergencies and incorporating online components and training within current face-to-face classes and professional development. . . . . . . Keywords COVID-19 Emergency Distance learning K-12 Online learning Pandemic Teachers In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 teachers wish they had to help them during the transition. This schools in the United States closed and teachers were asked to information will help teachers, technology support staff, and ad- transition their courses online. Many teachers were unpre- ministrators better respond to similar challenges in the future. pared for this transition and faced great challenges for deliv- ering quality instruction in an online format. The current pan- demic gives teachers and administrators a chance to evaluate the readiness of schools for distance education and increase Literature Review readiness for future emergency situations. Because the current COVID-19 pandemic is unique, few School closings for localized catastrophic events such as studies have examined how teachers transition to distance learn- weather events, protests, and disease outbreaks are unfortu- ing in an emergency. Currently, it is important to understand nately somewhat common (Bates, 2013;Wong et al., 2014). what websites and applications teachers used to convert their The good news is that these closings are usually temporary classes for distance learning, what strategies they adopted to learn and localized in nature, and as a result do not require distance about technology-based solutions, and what challenges they en- learning to keep students connected (Wong et al., 2014). In countered. In addition, it is important to know what support fact, in a two-year (2011–2013) study of unplanned school closures, Wong et al. (2014) found that most unplanned school closures are due to weather and natural disasters. In uncertain and emergency situations, educational oppor- * Gregory M. Francom tunity can do much more than provide learning opportunities [email protected] to students. It can help to sustain mental and physical well- Sang Joon Lee being and offer stability and hope for the future (INEE, 2004). [email protected] Distance learning methods are therefore essential in situations Halle Pinkney where face-to-face instruction cannot continue (Creed & [email protected] Morpeth, 2014;Hanssen &Rana, 2007;Laprairie &Hinson, 2006). In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 school Mississippi State University, 2208 Plum Road, district leaders were forced to develop plans for distance Starkville, MS 39759, USA TechTrends learning because it was difficult to tell when regular face-to- et al., 2017). The restart phase consisted of restarting the face instruction could resume. teaching process with students whether in newly re- Though the literature is sparse concerning academic conti- established physical classrooms or online. During the recon- nuity during pandemic events, there are some written sugges- solidate phase, earthquake aftershocks occurred, forcing fac- tions to help plan for academic continuity during emergency ulty to adopt more relaxed attendance requirements and allow events in general (see Bates, 2013; Creed & Morpeth, 2014; students to choose between online and face to face learning Laprairie & Hinson, 2006). These suggestions show that ed- depending on their needs (Mackey et al., 2012). In the review ucational institutions benefit greatly from emergency manage- and reflect phase, the university had recovered from the earth- ment plans to support academic continuity in situations like quake, yet some faculty still used online teaching tools and the current pandemic (Bates, 2013; Laprairie & Hinson, 2006; practices adopted during the recovery (Mackey et al., 2012; Wong et al., 2014). In order to keep students from falling Tull et al., 2017). Based on this experience, the researchers behind academically, institutions must develop strategies to have suggested that all face-to-face courses should have on- respond to crisis events that make face-to-face instruction im- line components already in place for when an emergency hap- possible (Bates, 2013). Despite the need for preparation, a pens, so that academic continuity can be provided during review of the literature reveals that many K-12 institutions short-term disruptive events (Bates, 2013;Tullet al., 2017). are not prepared for academic continuity in the face of a pan- Czerniewicz et al. (2019) studied faculty perceptions dur- demic. In one study conducted during a flu outbreak, Duford ing the emergency closure of higher education institutions in (2008) discovered that few school superintendents knew who South Africa. Interviews revealed that faculty felt prepared to had the authority to close schools in the case of a pandemic teach online to the extent that they had already used online emergency. A similar study of New York City K-12 Principals technologies in face-to-face classes. In this experience, staff at found that over 84% of schools had no plan for a pandemic, the university were inundated with a high workload as they and 80% of principals in schools that did have a pandemic supported faculty and students in their teaching and learning plan were not familiar with it (Thomas et al., 2007). efforts (Czerniewicz, 2020; Czerniewicz et al., 2019). Whatever their level of preparation, during the current COVID-19 pandemic many K-12 teachers who are used to Emergency Remote Teaching in K-12 Education teaching only face to face are being forced to quickly transi- tion to online learning on an emergency basis (Butcher, 2020). In the area of K-12 education, a literature review reveals one The type of pre-planned and carefully developed online learn- relevant research study of faculty experiences with ERT. Fox ing that takes place under normal circumstances is not hap- (2004) shared the experiences of a group of eight K-12 teachers pening because of time and resource constraints (Hodges who had to support ERT during school closures in Hong Kong et al., 2020). Hodges et al. (2020) have used the term “emer- due to a SARS epidemic. In this situation, the level of instruc- gency remote teaching” (ERT) to describe the hastily prepared tion provided to students varied greatly because there were no online learning that is happening because of the pandemic. clear guidelines on how much teaching and learning should Though the COVID-19 pandemic is unique in its scope, there continue to take place. Most teachers in this study struggled have been prior studies of faculty experiences where ERT was to teach online for a variety of reasons (Fox, 2004). First, there necessary both in higher and K-12 education. was a gap between the training that had previously been pro- vided to teachers – which was focused on face-to-face teaching Emergency Remote Teaching in Higher Education – and the online teaching that they were being required to do during the pandemic (Fox, 2004). Also, once classes went on- An earthquake event that shut down face-to-face classes at a line, most of the students were absent or lurking in online ac- university is described in studies by Mackey et al. (2012)and tivities and sessions. There was also a feeling among faculty Tull et al. (2017). Mackey et al. broke down the process of that their students did not fully understand how to learn in an returning to academic continuity into four phases of faculty online environment (Fox, 2004). Fox concluded that teachers activity, including: (a) react, recover and redesign; (b) restart; needed more clear guidelines about how much teaching and (c) reconsolidate, and (d) review and reflect. During the react, learning should happen, more training specifically for online recover and redesign phase, the university administration and learning practices and technologies, and a better understanding faculty had to re-establish communication with students and of the affordances of potential online learning technologies. then begin the redesign process to put courses online (Mackey et al., 2012;Tulletal., 2017). Many faculty members did not Preparing for Distance Learning feel ready to teach fully online, and had to work hard to learn and prepare for online learning. As a result, some faculty Some key suggestions for faculty who are preparing for ERT formed their own informal support groups to share informa- can be found in the literature. First, a plan should be in place tion about online learning technologies and practices (Tull for leveraging online learning in the case of an emergency TechTrends (Bates, 2013; Duford, 2008; Laprairie & Hinson, 2006). As Instrument delineated in this plan, it is important for schools to ready a communication channel to provide students, faculty and stake- The survey included 13 questions asking about distance learn- holders with timely updates on emergency situations ing websites and applications being used, strategies used to (Czerniewicz et al., 2019; McLennan, 2006;Tulletal., 2017). quickly gain knowledge about distance learning options, diffi- Faculty should also be prepared in advance to understand and culties encountered in transitioning to distance learning, and use blended and online learning practices and tools (Mackey assistance needed when preparing for distance learning and et al., 2012; Tulletal., 2017). Students also will need to be able tools and practices. Additionally, the survey items featured de- to understand the greater burden of responsibility that they re- mographic information such as students’ Internet access and ceive when learning remotely, and administrators and faculty computer availability for distance learning, teachers’ teaching should expect some students to have lower access to the experience, grades, subject areas, and 1:1 classroom (see appen- Internet and computers for online learning than others dix). The focus of the survey was on distance learning practices (Czerniewicz, 2020;Fox, 2004;Mackeyet al., 2012). Finally, adopted in the transition from face-to-face to online learning. each face-to-face class should have online components already Items in the survey were informed by the literature on the adop- in place for when an emergency makes it necessary for classes tion of technology tools and resources among K-12 teachers, to go fully online (Bates, 2013;Mackeyetal., 2012;Tullet al., and the researchers’ experience working with K-12 teacher 2017). It is likely that schools that have followed these guide- technology use. For instance, there are a variety of documented lines are responding to the challenges of the current pandemic barriers to technology use in K-12 education (e.g., Daoud et al., more effectively than schools that have not. 2020; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Kopcha, 2012), and also general studies about the tools and resources that teachers use for both online and face-to-face teaching and learning (e.g., Purpose of this Study Howley et al., 2011; Rice, 2012; Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). Ideas from these studies were incorporated into the survey items The purpose of this survey research study is to gain a clear when they were deemed applicable to the issues teachers were picture of how K-12 teachers have transitioned to distance facing in the COVID-19 pandemic. learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study ad- dresses the following questions: Data Analysis 1. What websites and applications have participants used to For open-ended survey questions, qualitative content analysis support distance learning as a result of the pandemic? methods were used to determine patterns and themes in sim- 2. What strategies have teachers used and what difficulties ilar responses. Examples of these questions include “how is have they encountered when shifting to distance learning? learning happening,”“what strategies did you use to quickly 3. What support do teachers wish they had in adapting to gain knowledge about new websites and applications,” and distance learning? “what kind of help do you wish you would have had as you prepared to support distance learning?” Quantitative descrip- tive statistical methods were used on the other survey ques- tions about LMSs used, websites and applications used, and Method difficulties encountered. These questions were also analyzed for factors using demographic responses earlier in the survey During widespread school closures in the United States due such as state, grade level, teaching experience, 1:1 classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey was sent to email lists of and percentage of learning still happening. Additionally, a chi- teachers in the states of Mississippi and South Dakota (N = square test of independence was conducted to see whether 15,341). These two states were chosen for the study because there were any differences for difficulties encountered be- the researchers had working ties to teachers in those states. tween teachers in South Dakota and Mississippi. Teacher email addresses were systematically gathered from available school websites in both states, therefore, teachers whose email addresses were not available on a school website Results were excluded from this study. The web-based survey link was sent out via email in May 2020, after the pandemic forced A total of 388 valid responses were collected in this survey. schools to close and move their courses online. Follow up Out of this total, 52% come from Mississippi, 39% come from emails were also sent later to encourage participation. All South Dakota and 10% did not specify their state. Teaching research materials and procedures were approved by the insti- experience ranged from 1 year of experience to 20+ years. tutional review board of the researchers’ university. Lower elementary teachers make up 13% of the respondents, TechTrends while 11% teach in upper elementary grades, 18% teach mid- who have parents who care about their education.” Another dle school, and 38% teach high school. Respondents teach in teacher shared, “The ones that worked willingly when school many different subject areas including music, math, science, was open are still working.” social studies, English/language arts, technology/computer science, etc. A full 62% of respondents indicated that their Websites and Applications Used to Communicate classroom was 1:1 (featuring a tablet/computer for each stu- dent) while 38% indicated that their classroom was not. When The top 10 websites and applications used to communicate asked about the percentage of their students who had Internet with students included Google Classroom, Zoom, email, and computer access sufficient for learning, participants Remind, Canvas, School Status, ClassDojo, Google shared that 66% had Internet and 65% had computer access. Meet/Hangouts, YouTube, and Schoology (see Fig. 1). However, teachers also mentioned a wide variety of other applications and websites, from additional learning manage- How Learning Is Still Happening ment systems (LMSs), to basic communication tools (such as texting, google voice, phone calls), to video and screencast Respondents indicated that learning was still happening applications (including Screencastify, Screencastomatic, and through various methods even after schools were closed. EdPuzzle) to general drill and practice or tutorial websites One common type of learning was review work, which cov- (like iReady, Khan academy, IXL, MobyMax, and BrainPop). ered subjects such as math, reading, writing, spelling and even life skills. Teachers were also using videos, journals, projects, research papers, and quizzes/tests to continue with the learn- Websites and Applications Used to Accept Student ing. A variety of subject areas were represented in this ques- Work tion. For example, one physical education teacher stated, “I have sent out activities to get their heart rate up.” Amusic For this question, many of the same websites and applications teacher also responded saying “Students submit music perfor- were mentioned, and again a wide variety of these resources were mance and auditions through video.” These responses show listed. The top 10 websites and applications mentioned include that teachers from a variety of subject areas sought innovative LMSs (including Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology), ways to encourage participation and learning. Email, Google Apps for Education, iReady, Seesaw, messaging Some of the responses to this question revealed teachers’ apps (including Remind and texting), and Zoom (see Fig. 2). In opinions about types of students still learning. For example, addition to the top 10 websites and applications mentioned, there one teacher’s response to the question stated that “Those who were a variety of other websites and applications used during the want to do well on their ACT next year are working, and those pandemic, showing a diversity of use among educators. These Fig. 1 Websites and Applications used to Communicate with Students 42 42 24 24 Number of Responses TechTrends Fig. 2 Websites and Applications used to Accept Student Work 22 22 15 15 applications ranged from tutorials (Khan Academy, IXL, new to them, teachers indicated that on average only 26% of MobyMax), video sharing sites (Flipgrid, EdPuzzle) and literacy these websites and applications used during the pandemic sites (CommonLit, ReadWorks) to other communication and were new to them. assessment tools (ClassDojo, NearPod, Quizziz) and even paper-based assignments. Learning Management Systems Used Overall, a wide variety of websites and applications were used by teachers as they adjusted to the pandemic. When Participants responded to questions about the LMSs used be- asked about how many of the websites and applications were fore and after the pandemic broke out. Google Classroom was Fig. 3 Learning Management Systems used Before and During the Pandemic Used Before the Pandemic Used During the Pandemic 58 58 60 54 26 26 1 1 0 0 Number of Responses TechTrends Table 1 Top 5 practices and tools that teachers plan to use after the the top LMS before the pandemic, and the most highly used pandemic LMS during the pandemic (see Fig. 3). Use of Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard and Edmodo were reduced during Teaching Practices/Tools Frequencies Percentage the school closures. While interpreting these results, it is im- Learning management systems 156 49.1% portant to remember that for some respondents, teaching may Online resources 97 30.5% have completely discontinued during the pandemic. Communication 75 23.6% A final survey question on LMSs allowed respondents to Web conferencing 69 21.7% indicate the ways in which the LMS was being used to support Screen, video, audio recording 58 18.2% learning. Responses indicated that LMSs were primarily used to facilitate the submission and grading of assignments, followed by sharing learning materials, sharing videos and providing announcements and updates (see Fig. 4). In addition, some teachers also received help from their district or state. For example, one teacher commented, “Our Strategies Used to Gain Knowledge about Websites school district quickly sent out information to us as well as and Applications websites and application ideas daily.” Not all interaction with district support was helpful, however, and some teachers men- When faced with new challenges for supporting distance tioned difficulties with district support and restrictions. For learning during the pandemic, many teachers took advantage instance, one teacher shared, “I researched Zoom and had of technology-supported solutions and self-teaching. Teachers one meeting with students before the district banned the used YouTube tutorials, independent google searches for in- meetings.” formation, trial-and-error and reaching out for help from other teachers as their main strategies for gaining knowledge. One teacher stated, “I did not have a Google Classroom before this, Teaching Practices and Tools that Will Continue to Be but I had been to a couple intro workshops on it [...] Used SimpleK12 offered free webinars and they helped a lot.” Many teachers supplemented their web searches and self- Many teachers indicated a desire to continue using online teaching with online forums through sites such as Facebook teaching practices and tools even after the pandemic is over where they were able to communicate with teachers from all (see Table 1). A high school science teacher wrote, “All of over. One teacher said, “I joined a couple online forums/ them have unique features that have been really helpful to groups (mainly on Facebook) to hear what other teachers are accomplish what I needed them to […] I think I will continue using to help.” using all of them in some way.” Another teacher said, “I will Fig. 4 How Learning Management Systems are Being used to Support Learning Number of Responses TechTrends be incorporating almost all of what I have learned into class- These initial top 10 codes on difficulties were categorized room teaching. It will allow me to differentiate instruction into five areas: students (44.0%), remote teaching (36.9%), much more efficiently.” One teacher believed, “I will be a technology (34.6%), parent involvement and home environ- better teach [sic] after this.” ments (10.6%), and school district and administration (4.3%). Almost half of the respondents plan to keep using their Each of these areas will be discussed. LMS after returning to face-to-face instruction. A full 30% First, teachers found that it was difficult to contact and of teachers also plan to use many online resources available communicate with students, get them participating and moti- for their subjects, including video sharing sites like YouTube vated, keep them engaged, and make them accountable for and Khan Academy and other online learning sites such as their learning. Reaching out to students through technology IXL, MobyMax, iReady, ReadWorks, CommonLit, and Epic. was difficult, and some students also showed a lack of interest Many teachers also indicate that they will continue using in schoolwork. One high school teacher said, “The greatest communication tools and practices when school opens up difficulty was to reach all of the students and get them to again. Remind, ClassDojo, GroupMe, and Seesaw are some participate and complete assignments.” Even if students of the applications teachers mentioned they would continue to joined a live session, it was hard to know whether students use. One teacher wrote, “I will say my parent communication were engaged in learning. One math teacher wrote, “The lack skills have increased dramatically over the course of the past of instantaneous feedback to and from students has been the month or two, that should be a boon whether we’re in a tradi- biggest downside to my current model.” Additionally, tional or online setting in the future.” teachers felt that many students were not ready for distance About 21% of teachers plan to continue using web confer- learning. Another math teacher mentioned, “My students as a encing tools like Zoom and Google Meet to support virtual whole were not very computer literate [...] I feel like I had to field trips, guest speakers and participation by absent students. begin by teaching them how to turn on the computer.” About 18% of teachers who created their own videos using Second, setting up a distance learning course, finding and screen and video capture tools like Screencastify, Loom, and creating online resources, monitoring student progress and Flipgrid also showed an interest in continuing to use these providing instructional support were challenging in distance tools for lectures, tutorials, and assignments. One English learning. Many teachers felt that they had limited knowledge teacher explained the rationale for continuing to use these and skills for distance learning and thus had to learn new tools, “students said they liked to be able to ‘hear’ the infor- things on the fly. One teacher wrote that the greatest difficulty mation more than once and pause my video so they could was “The frustration of learning to understand how to orga- think and write.” nize a Canvas course in an attractive and user-friendly way.” Many teachers also mentioned the lack of time to prepare Greatest Difficulties Encountered distance learning and grade student assignments. One English teacher wrote, “No time to plan. We closed school on a Friday, heard nothing, and then had 24 hours to get a Teachers encountered many difficulties while transitioning to distance learning. There were 350 valid responses to this distance learning plan to our students.” Since teachers had to stay home and work, they had to balance instructional time open-ended question and these responses were coded for anal- ysis. Table 2 shows the top 10 difficulties that teachers with family needs. One high school science teacher wrote that mentioned. it was difficult, “finding the time to prepare my lessons and Table 2 Top 10 difficulties that teachers encountered in distance learning Code Frequency Percentage Internet/computer access 108 30.9% Participation/motivation/engagement/accountability 80 22.9% Contact to/communicate with students 53 15.1% Parent involvement/Home environments 37 10.6% Course setup & conversion/online resources 34 9.7% Limited knowledge/skills/learning new 28 8.0% Time 26 7.4% Monitor/feedback/instructional support 26 7.4% Teaching styles/subjects 20 5.7% Student readiness for distance learning 17 4.9% TechTrends convert them into a digital format while also trying to entertain difference in responses about access between the two states my OWN children and help them with their own learning.” [χ (1) = 29.29, p <.001]. Third, Internet and computer access was a significant chal- lenge for teachers working to support distance learning. A middle school science teacher said, “I work for a rural area Help Teachers Wish they Had where I have spotty internet service and many of students do not have computers and/or internet access to complete any- Respondents to this open-ended question indicated that thing I was creating.” Another teacher commented, “Some knowledge and skills in using technology, student Internet students do not have access to good online connections […] and computer access, more time for preparation, and better they have to drive closer to populated areas or to the front of a guidance would have helped them effectively make this tran- school to get on Wi-Fi.” For this reason, some teachers had to sition (see Table 3). Only 10.3% of teachers felt that they were prepare both paper packets and online assignments. prepared or fully supported during the transition. Fourth, teachers noticed a lack of parent involvement and A full 27% of teachers wished they had previous training or support. Since many students were not motivated or prepared professional development on learning management systems, for online learning and it was difficult for teachers to contact digital tools, online resources, and distance learning. One and engage them without support from parents. Many teachers teacher wrote: were not able to communicate with parents, or realized that parents could not provide support needed for their children. A I wish I had more training on the technology needed for high school English teacher said: this type of teaching […] I wish I had used it with my students in the classroom before distance learning came I was confronted many times with parents who were to be, it would have made everyone's lives easier. totally unprepared to provide a structured environment for their students to learn. I was told, “I can't make them Another teacher responded similarly, saying “Iwish wecould do it,”“It doesn't count anyway,”“I don't believe the have had more training on the platform we used: Google students should be forced to work on schoolwork right Classroom, and that the students would have had some kind now,”“They are going to pass anyway, so I am not of practice with it before this all happened.” going to fight with them.” Fifty-six teachers (19.9%) wished that students had ade- quate Internet and computer access. A Mississippi high school Lastly, teachers experienced school and district leadership is- teacher wished for “a way to get affordable service to students sues. Primarily, teachers were confused about what they who didn’t have any AND a way for them to check out a should do after converting to distance learning. Many teachers laptop to use.” A South Dakota teacher also shared, “It would felt that they did not have a clear understanding of expecta- have been ideal for each student having an iPad or laptop or tions for class meetings, learning resources, student perfor- computer to use, along with internet access.” mance, and grading. A middle-school English teacher wrote: Many teachers discussed the lack of time to prepare for distance learning. One teacher wrote, “IwishIwouldhave There also was little guidance provided by administra- just hadtimetoprepare somethingbetter[…]wehad the tion, and we did not meet as a staff prior to or during the weekend to get things up and running so it was learn-as- school closure […] determining what to assign, how you-go.” Also, teachers wished that they would have had much to assign, and how to approach assessment and/ clear guidance on what platforms and tools to use, appro- or grading were also areas I wrestled with. priate level of student workload, grading, and attendance to make sure all teachers were on the same page. A PE teach- In addition, some schools did not allow teachers to hold online er wrote, “I think having guidelines/expectations […] sessions or teach new content. Other schools limited access to would have been nice. It feels either like I’mdoing way websites like YouTube, which teachers could have used to too much, or maybe not enough at other times.” Another provide online learning resources. English teacher mentioned, “Our district was not clear Although many teachers in the two different states shared about expectations and changed guidelines several times similar difficulties, there were differences between teachers in in the first few weeks […] that caused a lot of stress with South Dakota and Mississippi. As shown in Fig. 5, a majority what to use or not use online.” of teachers in South Dakota were worried about how to moti- Additional help items that teachers mentioned they could vate and engage students in distance learning, yet a majority of have used included teaching resources available for distance teachers in Mississippi had concerns about adequate Internet learning, more parental support and involvement, previous and computer access for students. A chi-square test of inde- experience using technology, tech support, ways to commu- pendence showed that there was a statistically significant nicate with students, and collaboration with other teachers. TechTrends Fig. 5 Top 10 greatest difficulties mentioned by teachers in SD and MS TechTrends Table 3 Help that teachers wish that they would have had to transition appears that these first-order barriers for teachers and students to distance learning alike still exist at home and can significantly reduce the op- portunity for students to learn online, especially in rural areas Code Frequency Percentage (Howley et al., 2011; Sundeen & Sundeen, 2013). In the cur- Information/Instruction/training/PD 76 27.0% rent study, the perception among teachers was that the gap Access to Internet/computer 56 19.9% between students with and without Internet and computer ac- More time/preparation 41 14.5% cess also served to increase the gap between low and high Policy/guidance/plan/grading 38 13.5% performing students. This concern was also raised in Teaching resources 22 7.8% Czerniewicz’s(2020) discussion of a university shutdown in Student readiness 22 7.8% which inequities in student learning resulted from inequities in Parental support 18 6.4% technology access. Previous experience/tech integration 18 6.4% Teacher comments from this study indicate that a possible Tech support/tools 14 5.0% unanticipated benefit of the pandemic is continued use of Ways to communicate 12 4.3% adopted websites and applications even when normal school Collaboration 12 4.3% resumes. Similar benefits were found in previous studies of university shutdowns in which teachers continued to use the tools they had adopted during the shutdown (Fox, 2004; Mackey et al., 2012;Tull et al., 2017). This continued use of Discussion new technologies could lead to long-term benefits for learning by enhancing communication between teachers and students/ The results from this study show how teachers have parents and supporting efficient management of assignments responded to the challenge of transitioning to distance and content. learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Student participation and engagement continue to pose sig- websites and applications were used to facilitate the nificant issues for distance learning (Barbour et al., 2015; Fox, learning process among students, yet the majority of 2004). In the current study, teachers faced great difficulties these were already familiar to the teachers who adopted communicating with students, getting them to participate them. This finding is in line with the experience described and stay engaged, and making them accountable for their by Czerniewicz et al. (2019) in which most teachers felt learning. During the pandemic, some schools and districts prepared to teach to the extent that they already knew the were not ready with a plan to effectively support student technology tools required. In the current study, few learning from a distance, and therefore could not enforce requirements for students to participate or submit teachers felt like they were prepared to make the shift to distance learning. With little time to learn, teachers pri- assignments. There was also a lack of clear guidelines for marily used those websites and applications with which teachers about recommended technology tools, student they were already familiar. These results underscore the learning workload, and attendance expectations. In a importance of ongoing technology professional develop- previous study, Fox (2004) describes similar experiences in ment opportunities for teachers. which there was a high variability of workload for both In this study, teachers exhibited ingenuity in the ways that teachers and students due to the lack of clear school/district they gained knowledge of websites and applications by using guidelines. In the current pandemic, the lack of school or online resources and social media networks. These district plans was likely a significant factor leading to wide approaches are similar to those mentioned by Tull et al. differences in learning activity from class to class. (2017) in which teachers setup their own online communities Similar to findings in Fox (2004), students and their to share information. However, this study also showed that parents in the current study were unprepared to take upon teachers’ learning and adoption of new websites and applica- the higher level of responsibility that comes with distance tions can only go so far if school and district leadership and learning. Many students did not have much experience policies disallow adoption of such tools. with technology, and this study suggested that it was chal- This study has also indicated that a significant group of lenging to teach them how to manage their own distance students may still not have Internet and computer access suf- learning via technology. Teacher comments also indicated ficient for distance learning. Previous studies show a positive that parents were unable to or did not want to create a correlation between home Internet access and school perfor- structured environment for learning. Parent involvement mance (Bauer et al., 2020; Daoud et al., 2020). Ertmer and in education remains an important factor in the quality Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) discuss how first-order barriers to of student learning (Anderson & Minke, 2007), yet there teacher technology use have been reduced in the classroom as is evidence in this study that some parents will offer re- more technologies become available for use. However, it sistance to learning activities that teachers implement. TechTrends Limitations centered models of education that are compatible with dis- tance learning (see Reigeluth & Karnopp, 2013). These Limitations of this study stem from the low response rate methods are focused more on student learning in whatever among potential respondents from the states in the study. circumstance and less on time in a classroom, and are made The low response rate was likely a result of the timing of the possible and necessary by current technological and societal survey, which occurred right in the semester in which the advances. Professional development that fits within these new COVID-19 pandemic had made drastic changes to teachers’ models could cover setting up routines and technology tools work. Because of this, caution should be used when for learning during the first weeks of class and then interpreting the results of this study. transitioning to exclusively online learning that continues these routines as the need arises. In addition, future profes- sional development opportunities could support teachers in Conclusion helping students to take better ownership of learning using technological tools and resources (see An & Reigeluth, The recent COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school 2012; Reigeluth et al., 2016). closures, forcing many teachers to adopt distance learning Finally, in uncertain times that require a more blended practices and tools in order to provide academic continuity. learning approach, school and district technology leadership In times of uncertainty, educational opportunity becomes even must adopt an open attitude toward new technological tools more important because it can sustain mental and physical and resources. Overly-prohibitive policies that block or disal- well-being along with hope for the future (INEE, 2004). low the use of potentially useful websites and applications will Therefore, distance learning methods become essential to sup- need to be relaxed so that teachers can adopt and use new port academic continuity (Creed & Morpeth, 2014;Laprairie technology tools to support learning (Francom, 2016). With &Hinson, 2006). these changes in mind, schools can be better prepared for School districts need to plan for the possibility of academic continuity during future school closings, whether shifting from face-to-face to distance learning. The plan because of the current COVID-19 pandemic or for other should include actions to take based on different severities emergencies. of emergency situations and explain how much learning should happen, what technologies teachers should use, and what standards students should be held to (Fox, 2004). These plans shouldbecommunicatedtoparents and students as well as the greater school community. Appendix Teachers in the current study stressed the importance of regular quality communication with parents as they strived Survey Instrument Items to support learning at home. Parents should be guided on how to support their children’s learning and how to pro- & Your current primary role at your school vide a structured environment at home that is conducive to & Your school district name learning. Some states already require students to take an & Your years of teaching experience (round to the nearest online course before they can graduate (Etherington, year) 2017). This approach may better prepare students and par- ents for the rigors of online learning when it becomes nec- & 1–5 essary. Any district plan will also need to consider the level & 6–10 of computer and Internet access that students have at home, & 11–15 and seek to mitigate circumstances in which only some & 16–20 students have full computer and Internet access for & More than 20 years learning. Prior to the pandemic, most technology professional devel- & Grade levels that you teach opment opportunities for teachers have been focused on & Subject areas that you teach supporting face-to-face learning in the classroom (Fox, & Would you consider your classroom(s) to be one to one? 2004; Liao et al., 2017). The experience of the pandemic must (a one-to-one classroom always has a computer or tablet change our thinking to support models of learning not based available for each student) on time in the classroom, but on more flexible learner- centered education opportunities that are both online and face & Yes to face (Fox, 2004;Mackey etal., 2012). Many notable efforts & No to redesign schools have led to more opportunities for learner- TechTrends Conflict of Interest The authors have no relevant financial or non- & About what percentage of your students have Internet ac- financial interests to disclose. The authors have no conflicts of interest cess sufficient to continue learning at home? to declare that are relevant to the content of this article. We consulted & About what percentage of your students have computer extensively with the IRB at Mississippi State University who determined access sufficient to continue learning at home? that our study was exempt from full IRB review. An IRB exemption was granted from the IRB of Mississippi State University. & About what percentage of the learning that happened be- fore the pandemic is still happening now for your Informed Consent Informed consent was obtained from all individual students? participants included in the study. & If learning is still happening among your students, please describe how it is still happening? & What distance learning websites or applications are you References using to help communicate with your students? & What distance learning websites or applications are you An, Y., & Reigeluth, C. (2012). Creating technology-enhanced, learner- using to allow your students to submit work? centered classrooms: K-12 teachers’ beliefs, perceptions, barriers, and support needs. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher & What other websites or applications (if any) have you Education, 28(2), 54–62. adopted to support student learning in response to the Anderson, K. J., & Minke, K. M. (2007). Parent involvement in educa- pandemic? tion: Toward an understanding of parents’ decision making. The & What percentage of the websites or applications you are Journal of Educational Research, 100(5), 311–323. https://doi.org/ 10.3200/JOER.100.5.311-323. using were new to you before the pandemic? Barbour, M. K., McLaren, A., & Zhang, L. (2015). It’s not that tough: & Check the learning management systems that you have Students speak about their online learning experiences. Turkish been using. Online Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 226–241. Bates, R. (2013). Institutional continuity and distance learning: A symbi- & I used this learning management system before the otic relationship. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 16(4). pandemic Bauer, J. M., Hampton, K. N., Fernandez, L., & Robertson, C. (2020). & I am using this learning management system now Overcoming Michigan’s homework gap: The role of broadband Internet connectivity for student success and career outlooks & Blackboard (SSRN scholarly paper ID 3714752). Social Science Research Network. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3714752. & D2L Brightspace Butcher, J. (2020). Public-private virtual-school partnerships and federal & Canvas flexibility for schools during COVID-19 (Mercatus center research & Google Classroom paper series) [special edition policy brief]. Mercatus Center. & Moodle Creed, C., & Morpeth, R. L. (2014). Continuity education in emergency & Schoology and conflict situations: The case for using open, distance and flexible learning. Journal of Learning for Development, 1(3). & Edmodo Czerniewicz, L. (2020). What we learnt from “going online” during uni- & ITS Learning versity shutdowns in South Africa. PhilOnEdTech. https:// & Other system philonedtech.com/what-we-learnt-from-going-online-during- university-shutdowns-in-south-africa/ Czerniewicz, L., Trotter, H., & Haupt, G. (2019). Online teaching in & If you are using a learning management system, please response to student protests and campus shutdowns: Academics’ describe how you are using it to support learning. perspectives. International Journal of Educational Technology in & What strategies did you use to quickly gain knowledge Higher Education, 16(1), 43–65. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239- about new distance learning websites and applications? 019-0170-1. & What were the greatest difficulties you encountered when Daoud, R., Starkey, L., Eppel, E., Vo, T. D., & Sylvester, A. (2020). The educational value of internet use in the home for school children: A you prepared to teach students via distance learning? systematic review of literature. Journal of Research on Technology & What kind of help do you wish you would have had as you in Education,1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2020. prepared to support distance learning? & Of the teaching practices and tools that you have adopted Duford, D. G. (2008). Perceptions of School Superintendents and a Community Task Force Regarding the Health, Pedagogical, in response to the pandemic, which ones do you think you Social, and Economic Policy and Planning Decisions for will continue to use once the pandemic is over? LongTerm School Closure Due to Pandemic Influenza-A Multi- Method Approach [doctoral dissertation]. St. John Fisher College. Declarations We consulted extensively with the IRB at Mississippi Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher technology State University who determined that our study was exempt from full IRB change. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3), review. An IRB exemption was granted from the IRB of Mississippi State 255–284. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2010.10782551. University. Informed consent was obtained from all individual partici- Etherington, C. (2017). Five states require online learning credits for high pants included in the study. No funding was received for conducting this school graduation. ELearningInside News. https://news. study. The authors have no financial or non-financial interests, or other elearninginside.com/five-states-require-online-learning-credits- conflicts of interest related to this study. high-school-graduation/ TechTrends Fox, R. (2004). SARS epidemic: Teachers’ experiences using ICTs. In R. McLennan, K. L. (2006). Selected distance education disaster planning Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer, & R. Phillips (Eds.), lessons learned from hurricane Katrina. Online Journal of Distance Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Learning Administration, 9(4) https://www.westga.edu/~distance/ Conference (pp. 319–327). ASCILITE. ojdla/winter94/mclennan94.htm. Francom, G. M. (2016). Barriers to technology use in large and small Reigeluth, C. M., Beatty, B., & Myers, R. (2016). The learner-centered school districts. Journal of Information Technology Education: paradigm of instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth, B. Beatty, & R. Myers Research, 15,577–591. (Eds.), Instructional-design theories and models: The learner- Hanssen, G. M., & Rana, T. A. (2007, May). E-learning as part of centered paradigm of education. Routledge. disaster recovery planning. International Educational Technology Reigeluth, C. M., & Karnopp, J. R. (2013). Reinventing schools: It’stime Conference, Nicosia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus https:// to break the mold. Rowman & Littlefield Education. eric.ed.gov/?id=ED500138. Rice, K. (2012). Making the move to K-12 online teaching: Research- Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020). The based strategies and practices. Pearson. difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Ruggiero, D., & Mong, C. J. (2015). The teacher technology integration Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the- experience: Practice and reflection in the classroom. Journal of difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online- Information Technology Education: Research, 14,161–178. learning Sundeen, T. H., & Sundeen, D. M. (2013). Instructional technology for Howley, A., Wood, L., & Hough, B. (2011). Rural elementary school rural schools: Access and acquisition. Rural Special Education teachers’ technology integration. Journal of Research in Rural Quarterly, 32(2), 8–14. Education, 26(9), 1–13. Thomas, G. A., Morse, S. S., Alvarez, W., Soloff, L., Abramson, D. M., INEE. (2004). Minimum standards for education in emergencies, chronic & Redlener, I. E. (2007). The New York City principals pandemic flu crises and early reconstruction (p. 96). https://www.unicef.org/ survey: Are schools prepared? (p. 15). National Center for disaster violencestudy/pdf/min_standards_education_emergencies.pdf preparedness. Kopcha, T. J. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology Tull, S., Dabner, N., & Ayebi-Arthur, K. (2017). Social media and e- integration and practices with technology under situated profession- learning in response to seismic events: Resilient practices. Journal al development. Computers & Education, 59(4), 1109–1121. of Open Flexible and Distance Learning, 21(1), 63–76. Laprairie, K. N., & Hinson, J. M. (2006). When disaster strikes, move Wong, K. K., Shi, J., Gao, H., Zheteyeva, Y. A., Lane, K., Copeland, D., your school online. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, Hendricks, J., McMurray, L., Sliger, K., Rainey, J. J., & Uzicanin, 35(2), 209–214. https://doi.org/10.2190/D154-XK20-7264-5013. A. (2014). Why is school closed today? Unplanned K-12 school Liao, Y.-C., Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., Karlin, M., Glazewski, K., & Brush, closures in the United States, 2011–2013. PLoS One, 9(12). T. (2017). Supporting change in teacher practice: Examining shifts https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113755. of teachers’ professional development preferences and needs for technology integration. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(4), 522–548. Publisher’sNote Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdic- Mackey, J., Gilmore, F., & Dabner, N. (2012). Blended learning for tional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. academic resilience in times of disaster or crisis. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 122–135. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Techtrends Pubmed Central

Technologies, Challenges and Needs of K-12 Teachers in the Transition to Distance Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

TechtrendsJun 26, 2021

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Pubmed Central
Copyright
© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2021
ISSN
8756-3894
eISSN
1559-7075
DOI
10.1007/s11528-021-00625-5
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Abstract

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 schools in the United States closed and teachers transitioned to distance learning. The purpose of this survey research study is to determine technology resources and strategies K-12 teachers have used in this transition. Additionally, this study examines the difficulties teachers experienced, along with support they wish they had during the transition. Findings indicate that a wide variety of websites and applications were used to provide academic continuity, the majority of which were familiar to teachers. In the transition process, teachers were faced with various challenges, including difficulty engaging students and parents, a lack of school/district guidelines, and student Internet and computer access issues. Recommendations to prepare for future emergencies include making clear plans for emergencies and incorporating online components and training within current face-to-face classes and professional development. . . . . . . Keywords COVID-19 Emergency Distance learning K-12 Online learning Pandemic Teachers In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 teachers wish they had to help them during the transition. This schools in the United States closed and teachers were asked to information will help teachers, technology support staff, and ad- transition their courses online. Many teachers were unpre- ministrators better respond to similar challenges in the future. pared for this transition and faced great challenges for deliv- ering quality instruction in an online format. The current pan- demic gives teachers and administrators a chance to evaluate the readiness of schools for distance education and increase Literature Review readiness for future emergency situations. Because the current COVID-19 pandemic is unique, few School closings for localized catastrophic events such as studies have examined how teachers transition to distance learn- weather events, protests, and disease outbreaks are unfortu- ing in an emergency. Currently, it is important to understand nately somewhat common (Bates, 2013;Wong et al., 2014). what websites and applications teachers used to convert their The good news is that these closings are usually temporary classes for distance learning, what strategies they adopted to learn and localized in nature, and as a result do not require distance about technology-based solutions, and what challenges they en- learning to keep students connected (Wong et al., 2014). In countered. In addition, it is important to know what support fact, in a two-year (2011–2013) study of unplanned school closures, Wong et al. (2014) found that most unplanned school closures are due to weather and natural disasters. In uncertain and emergency situations, educational oppor- * Gregory M. Francom tunity can do much more than provide learning opportunities [email protected] to students. It can help to sustain mental and physical well- Sang Joon Lee being and offer stability and hope for the future (INEE, 2004). [email protected] Distance learning methods are therefore essential in situations Halle Pinkney where face-to-face instruction cannot continue (Creed & [email protected] Morpeth, 2014;Hanssen &Rana, 2007;Laprairie &Hinson, 2006). In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 school Mississippi State University, 2208 Plum Road, district leaders were forced to develop plans for distance Starkville, MS 39759, USA TechTrends learning because it was difficult to tell when regular face-to- et al., 2017). The restart phase consisted of restarting the face instruction could resume. teaching process with students whether in newly re- Though the literature is sparse concerning academic conti- established physical classrooms or online. During the recon- nuity during pandemic events, there are some written sugges- solidate phase, earthquake aftershocks occurred, forcing fac- tions to help plan for academic continuity during emergency ulty to adopt more relaxed attendance requirements and allow events in general (see Bates, 2013; Creed & Morpeth, 2014; students to choose between online and face to face learning Laprairie & Hinson, 2006). These suggestions show that ed- depending on their needs (Mackey et al., 2012). In the review ucational institutions benefit greatly from emergency manage- and reflect phase, the university had recovered from the earth- ment plans to support academic continuity in situations like quake, yet some faculty still used online teaching tools and the current pandemic (Bates, 2013; Laprairie & Hinson, 2006; practices adopted during the recovery (Mackey et al., 2012; Wong et al., 2014). In order to keep students from falling Tull et al., 2017). Based on this experience, the researchers behind academically, institutions must develop strategies to have suggested that all face-to-face courses should have on- respond to crisis events that make face-to-face instruction im- line components already in place for when an emergency hap- possible (Bates, 2013). Despite the need for preparation, a pens, so that academic continuity can be provided during review of the literature reveals that many K-12 institutions short-term disruptive events (Bates, 2013;Tullet al., 2017). are not prepared for academic continuity in the face of a pan- Czerniewicz et al. (2019) studied faculty perceptions dur- demic. In one study conducted during a flu outbreak, Duford ing the emergency closure of higher education institutions in (2008) discovered that few school superintendents knew who South Africa. Interviews revealed that faculty felt prepared to had the authority to close schools in the case of a pandemic teach online to the extent that they had already used online emergency. A similar study of New York City K-12 Principals technologies in face-to-face classes. In this experience, staff at found that over 84% of schools had no plan for a pandemic, the university were inundated with a high workload as they and 80% of principals in schools that did have a pandemic supported faculty and students in their teaching and learning plan were not familiar with it (Thomas et al., 2007). efforts (Czerniewicz, 2020; Czerniewicz et al., 2019). Whatever their level of preparation, during the current COVID-19 pandemic many K-12 teachers who are used to Emergency Remote Teaching in K-12 Education teaching only face to face are being forced to quickly transi- tion to online learning on an emergency basis (Butcher, 2020). In the area of K-12 education, a literature review reveals one The type of pre-planned and carefully developed online learn- relevant research study of faculty experiences with ERT. Fox ing that takes place under normal circumstances is not hap- (2004) shared the experiences of a group of eight K-12 teachers pening because of time and resource constraints (Hodges who had to support ERT during school closures in Hong Kong et al., 2020). Hodges et al. (2020) have used the term “emer- due to a SARS epidemic. In this situation, the level of instruc- gency remote teaching” (ERT) to describe the hastily prepared tion provided to students varied greatly because there were no online learning that is happening because of the pandemic. clear guidelines on how much teaching and learning should Though the COVID-19 pandemic is unique in its scope, there continue to take place. Most teachers in this study struggled have been prior studies of faculty experiences where ERT was to teach online for a variety of reasons (Fox, 2004). First, there necessary both in higher and K-12 education. was a gap between the training that had previously been pro- vided to teachers – which was focused on face-to-face teaching Emergency Remote Teaching in Higher Education – and the online teaching that they were being required to do during the pandemic (Fox, 2004). Also, once classes went on- An earthquake event that shut down face-to-face classes at a line, most of the students were absent or lurking in online ac- university is described in studies by Mackey et al. (2012)and tivities and sessions. There was also a feeling among faculty Tull et al. (2017). Mackey et al. broke down the process of that their students did not fully understand how to learn in an returning to academic continuity into four phases of faculty online environment (Fox, 2004). Fox concluded that teachers activity, including: (a) react, recover and redesign; (b) restart; needed more clear guidelines about how much teaching and (c) reconsolidate, and (d) review and reflect. During the react, learning should happen, more training specifically for online recover and redesign phase, the university administration and learning practices and technologies, and a better understanding faculty had to re-establish communication with students and of the affordances of potential online learning technologies. then begin the redesign process to put courses online (Mackey et al., 2012;Tulletal., 2017). Many faculty members did not Preparing for Distance Learning feel ready to teach fully online, and had to work hard to learn and prepare for online learning. As a result, some faculty Some key suggestions for faculty who are preparing for ERT formed their own informal support groups to share informa- can be found in the literature. First, a plan should be in place tion about online learning technologies and practices (Tull for leveraging online learning in the case of an emergency TechTrends (Bates, 2013; Duford, 2008; Laprairie & Hinson, 2006). As Instrument delineated in this plan, it is important for schools to ready a communication channel to provide students, faculty and stake- The survey included 13 questions asking about distance learn- holders with timely updates on emergency situations ing websites and applications being used, strategies used to (Czerniewicz et al., 2019; McLennan, 2006;Tulletal., 2017). quickly gain knowledge about distance learning options, diffi- Faculty should also be prepared in advance to understand and culties encountered in transitioning to distance learning, and use blended and online learning practices and tools (Mackey assistance needed when preparing for distance learning and et al., 2012; Tulletal., 2017). Students also will need to be able tools and practices. Additionally, the survey items featured de- to understand the greater burden of responsibility that they re- mographic information such as students’ Internet access and ceive when learning remotely, and administrators and faculty computer availability for distance learning, teachers’ teaching should expect some students to have lower access to the experience, grades, subject areas, and 1:1 classroom (see appen- Internet and computers for online learning than others dix). The focus of the survey was on distance learning practices (Czerniewicz, 2020;Fox, 2004;Mackeyet al., 2012). Finally, adopted in the transition from face-to-face to online learning. each face-to-face class should have online components already Items in the survey were informed by the literature on the adop- in place for when an emergency makes it necessary for classes tion of technology tools and resources among K-12 teachers, to go fully online (Bates, 2013;Mackeyetal., 2012;Tullet al., and the researchers’ experience working with K-12 teacher 2017). It is likely that schools that have followed these guide- technology use. For instance, there are a variety of documented lines are responding to the challenges of the current pandemic barriers to technology use in K-12 education (e.g., Daoud et al., more effectively than schools that have not. 2020; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Kopcha, 2012), and also general studies about the tools and resources that teachers use for both online and face-to-face teaching and learning (e.g., Purpose of this Study Howley et al., 2011; Rice, 2012; Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). Ideas from these studies were incorporated into the survey items The purpose of this survey research study is to gain a clear when they were deemed applicable to the issues teachers were picture of how K-12 teachers have transitioned to distance facing in the COVID-19 pandemic. learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study ad- dresses the following questions: Data Analysis 1. What websites and applications have participants used to For open-ended survey questions, qualitative content analysis support distance learning as a result of the pandemic? methods were used to determine patterns and themes in sim- 2. What strategies have teachers used and what difficulties ilar responses. Examples of these questions include “how is have they encountered when shifting to distance learning? learning happening,”“what strategies did you use to quickly 3. What support do teachers wish they had in adapting to gain knowledge about new websites and applications,” and distance learning? “what kind of help do you wish you would have had as you prepared to support distance learning?” Quantitative descrip- tive statistical methods were used on the other survey ques- tions about LMSs used, websites and applications used, and Method difficulties encountered. These questions were also analyzed for factors using demographic responses earlier in the survey During widespread school closures in the United States due such as state, grade level, teaching experience, 1:1 classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey was sent to email lists of and percentage of learning still happening. Additionally, a chi- teachers in the states of Mississippi and South Dakota (N = square test of independence was conducted to see whether 15,341). These two states were chosen for the study because there were any differences for difficulties encountered be- the researchers had working ties to teachers in those states. tween teachers in South Dakota and Mississippi. Teacher email addresses were systematically gathered from available school websites in both states, therefore, teachers whose email addresses were not available on a school website Results were excluded from this study. The web-based survey link was sent out via email in May 2020, after the pandemic forced A total of 388 valid responses were collected in this survey. schools to close and move their courses online. Follow up Out of this total, 52% come from Mississippi, 39% come from emails were also sent later to encourage participation. All South Dakota and 10% did not specify their state. Teaching research materials and procedures were approved by the insti- experience ranged from 1 year of experience to 20+ years. tutional review board of the researchers’ university. Lower elementary teachers make up 13% of the respondents, TechTrends while 11% teach in upper elementary grades, 18% teach mid- who have parents who care about their education.” Another dle school, and 38% teach high school. Respondents teach in teacher shared, “The ones that worked willingly when school many different subject areas including music, math, science, was open are still working.” social studies, English/language arts, technology/computer science, etc. A full 62% of respondents indicated that their Websites and Applications Used to Communicate classroom was 1:1 (featuring a tablet/computer for each stu- dent) while 38% indicated that their classroom was not. When The top 10 websites and applications used to communicate asked about the percentage of their students who had Internet with students included Google Classroom, Zoom, email, and computer access sufficient for learning, participants Remind, Canvas, School Status, ClassDojo, Google shared that 66% had Internet and 65% had computer access. Meet/Hangouts, YouTube, and Schoology (see Fig. 1). However, teachers also mentioned a wide variety of other applications and websites, from additional learning manage- How Learning Is Still Happening ment systems (LMSs), to basic communication tools (such as texting, google voice, phone calls), to video and screencast Respondents indicated that learning was still happening applications (including Screencastify, Screencastomatic, and through various methods even after schools were closed. EdPuzzle) to general drill and practice or tutorial websites One common type of learning was review work, which cov- (like iReady, Khan academy, IXL, MobyMax, and BrainPop). ered subjects such as math, reading, writing, spelling and even life skills. Teachers were also using videos, journals, projects, research papers, and quizzes/tests to continue with the learn- Websites and Applications Used to Accept Student ing. A variety of subject areas were represented in this ques- Work tion. For example, one physical education teacher stated, “I have sent out activities to get their heart rate up.” Amusic For this question, many of the same websites and applications teacher also responded saying “Students submit music perfor- were mentioned, and again a wide variety of these resources were mance and auditions through video.” These responses show listed. The top 10 websites and applications mentioned include that teachers from a variety of subject areas sought innovative LMSs (including Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology), ways to encourage participation and learning. Email, Google Apps for Education, iReady, Seesaw, messaging Some of the responses to this question revealed teachers’ apps (including Remind and texting), and Zoom (see Fig. 2). In opinions about types of students still learning. For example, addition to the top 10 websites and applications mentioned, there one teacher’s response to the question stated that “Those who were a variety of other websites and applications used during the want to do well on their ACT next year are working, and those pandemic, showing a diversity of use among educators. These Fig. 1 Websites and Applications used to Communicate with Students 42 42 24 24 Number of Responses TechTrends Fig. 2 Websites and Applications used to Accept Student Work 22 22 15 15 applications ranged from tutorials (Khan Academy, IXL, new to them, teachers indicated that on average only 26% of MobyMax), video sharing sites (Flipgrid, EdPuzzle) and literacy these websites and applications used during the pandemic sites (CommonLit, ReadWorks) to other communication and were new to them. assessment tools (ClassDojo, NearPod, Quizziz) and even paper-based assignments. Learning Management Systems Used Overall, a wide variety of websites and applications were used by teachers as they adjusted to the pandemic. When Participants responded to questions about the LMSs used be- asked about how many of the websites and applications were fore and after the pandemic broke out. Google Classroom was Fig. 3 Learning Management Systems used Before and During the Pandemic Used Before the Pandemic Used During the Pandemic 58 58 60 54 26 26 1 1 0 0 Number of Responses TechTrends Table 1 Top 5 practices and tools that teachers plan to use after the the top LMS before the pandemic, and the most highly used pandemic LMS during the pandemic (see Fig. 3). Use of Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard and Edmodo were reduced during Teaching Practices/Tools Frequencies Percentage the school closures. While interpreting these results, it is im- Learning management systems 156 49.1% portant to remember that for some respondents, teaching may Online resources 97 30.5% have completely discontinued during the pandemic. Communication 75 23.6% A final survey question on LMSs allowed respondents to Web conferencing 69 21.7% indicate the ways in which the LMS was being used to support Screen, video, audio recording 58 18.2% learning. Responses indicated that LMSs were primarily used to facilitate the submission and grading of assignments, followed by sharing learning materials, sharing videos and providing announcements and updates (see Fig. 4). In addition, some teachers also received help from their district or state. For example, one teacher commented, “Our Strategies Used to Gain Knowledge about Websites school district quickly sent out information to us as well as and Applications websites and application ideas daily.” Not all interaction with district support was helpful, however, and some teachers men- When faced with new challenges for supporting distance tioned difficulties with district support and restrictions. For learning during the pandemic, many teachers took advantage instance, one teacher shared, “I researched Zoom and had of technology-supported solutions and self-teaching. Teachers one meeting with students before the district banned the used YouTube tutorials, independent google searches for in- meetings.” formation, trial-and-error and reaching out for help from other teachers as their main strategies for gaining knowledge. One teacher stated, “I did not have a Google Classroom before this, Teaching Practices and Tools that Will Continue to Be but I had been to a couple intro workshops on it [...] Used SimpleK12 offered free webinars and they helped a lot.” Many teachers supplemented their web searches and self- Many teachers indicated a desire to continue using online teaching with online forums through sites such as Facebook teaching practices and tools even after the pandemic is over where they were able to communicate with teachers from all (see Table 1). A high school science teacher wrote, “All of over. One teacher said, “I joined a couple online forums/ them have unique features that have been really helpful to groups (mainly on Facebook) to hear what other teachers are accomplish what I needed them to […] I think I will continue using to help.” using all of them in some way.” Another teacher said, “I will Fig. 4 How Learning Management Systems are Being used to Support Learning Number of Responses TechTrends be incorporating almost all of what I have learned into class- These initial top 10 codes on difficulties were categorized room teaching. It will allow me to differentiate instruction into five areas: students (44.0%), remote teaching (36.9%), much more efficiently.” One teacher believed, “I will be a technology (34.6%), parent involvement and home environ- better teach [sic] after this.” ments (10.6%), and school district and administration (4.3%). Almost half of the respondents plan to keep using their Each of these areas will be discussed. LMS after returning to face-to-face instruction. A full 30% First, teachers found that it was difficult to contact and of teachers also plan to use many online resources available communicate with students, get them participating and moti- for their subjects, including video sharing sites like YouTube vated, keep them engaged, and make them accountable for and Khan Academy and other online learning sites such as their learning. Reaching out to students through technology IXL, MobyMax, iReady, ReadWorks, CommonLit, and Epic. was difficult, and some students also showed a lack of interest Many teachers also indicate that they will continue using in schoolwork. One high school teacher said, “The greatest communication tools and practices when school opens up difficulty was to reach all of the students and get them to again. Remind, ClassDojo, GroupMe, and Seesaw are some participate and complete assignments.” Even if students of the applications teachers mentioned they would continue to joined a live session, it was hard to know whether students use. One teacher wrote, “I will say my parent communication were engaged in learning. One math teacher wrote, “The lack skills have increased dramatically over the course of the past of instantaneous feedback to and from students has been the month or two, that should be a boon whether we’re in a tradi- biggest downside to my current model.” Additionally, tional or online setting in the future.” teachers felt that many students were not ready for distance About 21% of teachers plan to continue using web confer- learning. Another math teacher mentioned, “My students as a encing tools like Zoom and Google Meet to support virtual whole were not very computer literate [...] I feel like I had to field trips, guest speakers and participation by absent students. begin by teaching them how to turn on the computer.” About 18% of teachers who created their own videos using Second, setting up a distance learning course, finding and screen and video capture tools like Screencastify, Loom, and creating online resources, monitoring student progress and Flipgrid also showed an interest in continuing to use these providing instructional support were challenging in distance tools for lectures, tutorials, and assignments. One English learning. Many teachers felt that they had limited knowledge teacher explained the rationale for continuing to use these and skills for distance learning and thus had to learn new tools, “students said they liked to be able to ‘hear’ the infor- things on the fly. One teacher wrote that the greatest difficulty mation more than once and pause my video so they could was “The frustration of learning to understand how to orga- think and write.” nize a Canvas course in an attractive and user-friendly way.” Many teachers also mentioned the lack of time to prepare Greatest Difficulties Encountered distance learning and grade student assignments. One English teacher wrote, “No time to plan. We closed school on a Friday, heard nothing, and then had 24 hours to get a Teachers encountered many difficulties while transitioning to distance learning. There were 350 valid responses to this distance learning plan to our students.” Since teachers had to stay home and work, they had to balance instructional time open-ended question and these responses were coded for anal- ysis. Table 2 shows the top 10 difficulties that teachers with family needs. One high school science teacher wrote that mentioned. it was difficult, “finding the time to prepare my lessons and Table 2 Top 10 difficulties that teachers encountered in distance learning Code Frequency Percentage Internet/computer access 108 30.9% Participation/motivation/engagement/accountability 80 22.9% Contact to/communicate with students 53 15.1% Parent involvement/Home environments 37 10.6% Course setup & conversion/online resources 34 9.7% Limited knowledge/skills/learning new 28 8.0% Time 26 7.4% Monitor/feedback/instructional support 26 7.4% Teaching styles/subjects 20 5.7% Student readiness for distance learning 17 4.9% TechTrends convert them into a digital format while also trying to entertain difference in responses about access between the two states my OWN children and help them with their own learning.” [χ (1) = 29.29, p <.001]. Third, Internet and computer access was a significant chal- lenge for teachers working to support distance learning. A middle school science teacher said, “I work for a rural area Help Teachers Wish they Had where I have spotty internet service and many of students do not have computers and/or internet access to complete any- Respondents to this open-ended question indicated that thing I was creating.” Another teacher commented, “Some knowledge and skills in using technology, student Internet students do not have access to good online connections […] and computer access, more time for preparation, and better they have to drive closer to populated areas or to the front of a guidance would have helped them effectively make this tran- school to get on Wi-Fi.” For this reason, some teachers had to sition (see Table 3). Only 10.3% of teachers felt that they were prepare both paper packets and online assignments. prepared or fully supported during the transition. Fourth, teachers noticed a lack of parent involvement and A full 27% of teachers wished they had previous training or support. Since many students were not motivated or prepared professional development on learning management systems, for online learning and it was difficult for teachers to contact digital tools, online resources, and distance learning. One and engage them without support from parents. Many teachers teacher wrote: were not able to communicate with parents, or realized that parents could not provide support needed for their children. A I wish I had more training on the technology needed for high school English teacher said: this type of teaching […] I wish I had used it with my students in the classroom before distance learning came I was confronted many times with parents who were to be, it would have made everyone's lives easier. totally unprepared to provide a structured environment for their students to learn. I was told, “I can't make them Another teacher responded similarly, saying “Iwish wecould do it,”“It doesn't count anyway,”“I don't believe the have had more training on the platform we used: Google students should be forced to work on schoolwork right Classroom, and that the students would have had some kind now,”“They are going to pass anyway, so I am not of practice with it before this all happened.” going to fight with them.” Fifty-six teachers (19.9%) wished that students had ade- quate Internet and computer access. A Mississippi high school Lastly, teachers experienced school and district leadership is- teacher wished for “a way to get affordable service to students sues. Primarily, teachers were confused about what they who didn’t have any AND a way for them to check out a should do after converting to distance learning. Many teachers laptop to use.” A South Dakota teacher also shared, “It would felt that they did not have a clear understanding of expecta- have been ideal for each student having an iPad or laptop or tions for class meetings, learning resources, student perfor- computer to use, along with internet access.” mance, and grading. A middle-school English teacher wrote: Many teachers discussed the lack of time to prepare for distance learning. One teacher wrote, “IwishIwouldhave There also was little guidance provided by administra- just hadtimetoprepare somethingbetter[…]wehad the tion, and we did not meet as a staff prior to or during the weekend to get things up and running so it was learn-as- school closure […] determining what to assign, how you-go.” Also, teachers wished that they would have had much to assign, and how to approach assessment and/ clear guidance on what platforms and tools to use, appro- or grading were also areas I wrestled with. priate level of student workload, grading, and attendance to make sure all teachers were on the same page. A PE teach- In addition, some schools did not allow teachers to hold online er wrote, “I think having guidelines/expectations […] sessions or teach new content. Other schools limited access to would have been nice. It feels either like I’mdoing way websites like YouTube, which teachers could have used to too much, or maybe not enough at other times.” Another provide online learning resources. English teacher mentioned, “Our district was not clear Although many teachers in the two different states shared about expectations and changed guidelines several times similar difficulties, there were differences between teachers in in the first few weeks […] that caused a lot of stress with South Dakota and Mississippi. As shown in Fig. 5, a majority what to use or not use online.” of teachers in South Dakota were worried about how to moti- Additional help items that teachers mentioned they could vate and engage students in distance learning, yet a majority of have used included teaching resources available for distance teachers in Mississippi had concerns about adequate Internet learning, more parental support and involvement, previous and computer access for students. A chi-square test of inde- experience using technology, tech support, ways to commu- pendence showed that there was a statistically significant nicate with students, and collaboration with other teachers. TechTrends Fig. 5 Top 10 greatest difficulties mentioned by teachers in SD and MS TechTrends Table 3 Help that teachers wish that they would have had to transition appears that these first-order barriers for teachers and students to distance learning alike still exist at home and can significantly reduce the op- portunity for students to learn online, especially in rural areas Code Frequency Percentage (Howley et al., 2011; Sundeen & Sundeen, 2013). In the cur- Information/Instruction/training/PD 76 27.0% rent study, the perception among teachers was that the gap Access to Internet/computer 56 19.9% between students with and without Internet and computer ac- More time/preparation 41 14.5% cess also served to increase the gap between low and high Policy/guidance/plan/grading 38 13.5% performing students. This concern was also raised in Teaching resources 22 7.8% Czerniewicz’s(2020) discussion of a university shutdown in Student readiness 22 7.8% which inequities in student learning resulted from inequities in Parental support 18 6.4% technology access. Previous experience/tech integration 18 6.4% Teacher comments from this study indicate that a possible Tech support/tools 14 5.0% unanticipated benefit of the pandemic is continued use of Ways to communicate 12 4.3% adopted websites and applications even when normal school Collaboration 12 4.3% resumes. Similar benefits were found in previous studies of university shutdowns in which teachers continued to use the tools they had adopted during the shutdown (Fox, 2004; Mackey et al., 2012;Tull et al., 2017). This continued use of Discussion new technologies could lead to long-term benefits for learning by enhancing communication between teachers and students/ The results from this study show how teachers have parents and supporting efficient management of assignments responded to the challenge of transitioning to distance and content. learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Student participation and engagement continue to pose sig- websites and applications were used to facilitate the nificant issues for distance learning (Barbour et al., 2015; Fox, learning process among students, yet the majority of 2004). In the current study, teachers faced great difficulties these were already familiar to the teachers who adopted communicating with students, getting them to participate them. This finding is in line with the experience described and stay engaged, and making them accountable for their by Czerniewicz et al. (2019) in which most teachers felt learning. During the pandemic, some schools and districts prepared to teach to the extent that they already knew the were not ready with a plan to effectively support student technology tools required. In the current study, few learning from a distance, and therefore could not enforce requirements for students to participate or submit teachers felt like they were prepared to make the shift to distance learning. With little time to learn, teachers pri- assignments. There was also a lack of clear guidelines for marily used those websites and applications with which teachers about recommended technology tools, student they were already familiar. These results underscore the learning workload, and attendance expectations. In a importance of ongoing technology professional develop- previous study, Fox (2004) describes similar experiences in ment opportunities for teachers. which there was a high variability of workload for both In this study, teachers exhibited ingenuity in the ways that teachers and students due to the lack of clear school/district they gained knowledge of websites and applications by using guidelines. In the current pandemic, the lack of school or online resources and social media networks. These district plans was likely a significant factor leading to wide approaches are similar to those mentioned by Tull et al. differences in learning activity from class to class. (2017) in which teachers setup their own online communities Similar to findings in Fox (2004), students and their to share information. However, this study also showed that parents in the current study were unprepared to take upon teachers’ learning and adoption of new websites and applica- the higher level of responsibility that comes with distance tions can only go so far if school and district leadership and learning. Many students did not have much experience policies disallow adoption of such tools. with technology, and this study suggested that it was chal- This study has also indicated that a significant group of lenging to teach them how to manage their own distance students may still not have Internet and computer access suf- learning via technology. Teacher comments also indicated ficient for distance learning. Previous studies show a positive that parents were unable to or did not want to create a correlation between home Internet access and school perfor- structured environment for learning. Parent involvement mance (Bauer et al., 2020; Daoud et al., 2020). Ertmer and in education remains an important factor in the quality Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) discuss how first-order barriers to of student learning (Anderson & Minke, 2007), yet there teacher technology use have been reduced in the classroom as is evidence in this study that some parents will offer re- more technologies become available for use. However, it sistance to learning activities that teachers implement. TechTrends Limitations centered models of education that are compatible with dis- tance learning (see Reigeluth & Karnopp, 2013). These Limitations of this study stem from the low response rate methods are focused more on student learning in whatever among potential respondents from the states in the study. circumstance and less on time in a classroom, and are made The low response rate was likely a result of the timing of the possible and necessary by current technological and societal survey, which occurred right in the semester in which the advances. Professional development that fits within these new COVID-19 pandemic had made drastic changes to teachers’ models could cover setting up routines and technology tools work. Because of this, caution should be used when for learning during the first weeks of class and then interpreting the results of this study. transitioning to exclusively online learning that continues these routines as the need arises. In addition, future profes- sional development opportunities could support teachers in Conclusion helping students to take better ownership of learning using technological tools and resources (see An & Reigeluth, The recent COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school 2012; Reigeluth et al., 2016). closures, forcing many teachers to adopt distance learning Finally, in uncertain times that require a more blended practices and tools in order to provide academic continuity. learning approach, school and district technology leadership In times of uncertainty, educational opportunity becomes even must adopt an open attitude toward new technological tools more important because it can sustain mental and physical and resources. Overly-prohibitive policies that block or disal- well-being along with hope for the future (INEE, 2004). low the use of potentially useful websites and applications will Therefore, distance learning methods become essential to sup- need to be relaxed so that teachers can adopt and use new port academic continuity (Creed & Morpeth, 2014;Laprairie technology tools to support learning (Francom, 2016). With &Hinson, 2006). these changes in mind, schools can be better prepared for School districts need to plan for the possibility of academic continuity during future school closings, whether shifting from face-to-face to distance learning. The plan because of the current COVID-19 pandemic or for other should include actions to take based on different severities emergencies. of emergency situations and explain how much learning should happen, what technologies teachers should use, and what standards students should be held to (Fox, 2004). These plans shouldbecommunicatedtoparents and students as well as the greater school community. Appendix Teachers in the current study stressed the importance of regular quality communication with parents as they strived Survey Instrument Items to support learning at home. Parents should be guided on how to support their children’s learning and how to pro- & Your current primary role at your school vide a structured environment at home that is conducive to & Your school district name learning. Some states already require students to take an & Your years of teaching experience (round to the nearest online course before they can graduate (Etherington, year) 2017). This approach may better prepare students and par- ents for the rigors of online learning when it becomes nec- & 1–5 essary. Any district plan will also need to consider the level & 6–10 of computer and Internet access that students have at home, & 11–15 and seek to mitigate circumstances in which only some & 16–20 students have full computer and Internet access for & More than 20 years learning. Prior to the pandemic, most technology professional devel- & Grade levels that you teach opment opportunities for teachers have been focused on & Subject areas that you teach supporting face-to-face learning in the classroom (Fox, & Would you consider your classroom(s) to be one to one? 2004; Liao et al., 2017). The experience of the pandemic must (a one-to-one classroom always has a computer or tablet change our thinking to support models of learning not based available for each student) on time in the classroom, but on more flexible learner- centered education opportunities that are both online and face & Yes to face (Fox, 2004;Mackey etal., 2012). Many notable efforts & No to redesign schools have led to more opportunities for learner- TechTrends Conflict of Interest The authors have no relevant financial or non- & About what percentage of your students have Internet ac- financial interests to disclose. The authors have no conflicts of interest cess sufficient to continue learning at home? to declare that are relevant to the content of this article. We consulted & About what percentage of your students have computer extensively with the IRB at Mississippi State University who determined access sufficient to continue learning at home? that our study was exempt from full IRB review. An IRB exemption was granted from the IRB of Mississippi State University. & About what percentage of the learning that happened be- fore the pandemic is still happening now for your Informed Consent Informed consent was obtained from all individual students? participants included in the study. & If learning is still happening among your students, please describe how it is still happening? & What distance learning websites or applications are you References using to help communicate with your students? & What distance learning websites or applications are you An, Y., & Reigeluth, C. (2012). Creating technology-enhanced, learner- using to allow your students to submit work? centered classrooms: K-12 teachers’ beliefs, perceptions, barriers, and support needs. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher & What other websites or applications (if any) have you Education, 28(2), 54–62. adopted to support student learning in response to the Anderson, K. J., & Minke, K. M. (2007). Parent involvement in educa- pandemic? tion: Toward an understanding of parents’ decision making. The & What percentage of the websites or applications you are Journal of Educational Research, 100(5), 311–323. https://doi.org/ 10.3200/JOER.100.5.311-323. using were new to you before the pandemic? Barbour, M. K., McLaren, A., & Zhang, L. (2015). It’s not that tough: & Check the learning management systems that you have Students speak about their online learning experiences. Turkish been using. Online Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 226–241. Bates, R. (2013). Institutional continuity and distance learning: A symbi- & I used this learning management system before the otic relationship. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 16(4). pandemic Bauer, J. M., Hampton, K. N., Fernandez, L., & Robertson, C. 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Published: Jun 26, 2021

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