“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” ~Albert Einstein
Many students, parents, teachers, and the general public have recently asked just what distance learning is in response to COVID-19. A primary definition is that school staff are creating opportunities for students that implement learning from home in place of traditional in-person instruction typically conducted in a school setting.
People should not expect distance education to replace in-person instruction completely or even match instruction hour-for-hour. Distance education is an opportunity for instruction to continue, maintain a connection, create some normalcy, and combat isolation.
San Luis Obispo County schools implemented distance learning shortly after schools placed in-person instruction on hiatus. This type of learning must be flexible and will not always match the traditional 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. schedule previously practiced through in-person instruction.
School districts, charters, private, and parochial schools have implemented various collaborative groups that are meeting via video chat to curate daily lessons by grade level, subject matter, and student need. Most Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have asked students to engage in structured academic lessons and social-emotional community-based lessons.
Many LEA activities throughout the county are being delivered through Google Classroom, incorporating videos of the teachers speaking and reading directly to students, as well as curating a wide variety of learning resources. Organized around Google Sites, Google Classrooms are shared with families and provide daily learning for different grade levels. Zoom is another platform in place throughout San Luis Obispo County.
A challenge for our still very rural county has been accessing devices and connectivity. Many parts of our county have limited connectivity resulting in traditional packets of work for students to complete with limited assistance from school staff. Additional challenges include varying levels of student workspace in homes, distractions that are sometimes more evident in a home setting, and the stress of our current medical emergency.
The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education recommends that families provide a routine that includes non-instructional time, continues to focus on basic needs such as healthy food, mental health, exercise, and physical distancing. All schools in our county, Cuesta College and Cal Poly, operate food distribution in conjunction with the San Luis Obispo County Food Bank. Emergency childcare centers are running to serve first responders and essential workers. Please consult www.readyslo. org for additional information. I have observed public employees across our county stepping up to meet the needs of the community and consider it an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.