Technology and The Digital Transformation of Discipline in Our Schools
An analysis on the transformation of education during COVID-19 and how we can use what we’ve learned to improve discipline methods in our schools.
Often times, significant life events birth new ways of thinking and give way for agents of change to impact society progressively. As this global pandemic leads an epic trail of lessons learned, education systems across the country deserve recognition for the remarkable adaptation to our circumstances. Largely due to technology, in all its ubiquity of the digital space, distance or remote learning and instruction have become a fundamental framework of learning — by choice or force.The stories shared in meetings on Zoom, Instagram, and Twitter reflect the resilience of school districts across America.
Recently, I sat in amazement as I watched my nine-year-old nephew participate in a Google classroom video call. Watching him sit quietly as his instructor led the class, the sudden realization of the transformative power of technology, when facilitated correctly, engrossed my thoughts and engaged my curiosity. Could distance learning be an equitable alternative to the common methods of out-of-school suspension and expulsion? The possibility that technology can transform the way we discipline our students is cardinal to improving deleterious statistics such as dropout rates and recidivism among this population of students.
Thinking about the technology, I juxtaposed our current conditions to assess the digital inequities that exist, contemplating how I — we — can apply the timely quarantine adaptations to enhance and shore up the fault lines that currently exist in our valuable, yet vulnerable, education systems. In my current role as an education analyst positioned at the intersection of education policy and technology, I believe the opportunity to cement the bridge between the two worlds is at an all-time high. Amidst the current ebb and flow of adjusting to a quarantined lifestyle, due to the hostile spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, education is sharply pivoting to the future. Current methods of disciplining students are archaic and lead to student outcomes that are unfavorable. We now have a fundamental understanding of how to leverage technology as the panacea for shifting the current state of discipline in education.
As a scholar of education leadership and the art of teaching, my passion and research on the school-to-prison pipeline have driven me to be observant of our schools’ discipline problems, the methods employed to correct them, and the impact on student academic achievement.
Students who are disproportionately disciplined miss a critically high number of days in school, and the research that exists suggests this is a key component to the extensive pipeline. Missing days in school means students are inherently missing learning instruction, exacerbating the adverse implications of exclusionary discipline practices. This is the connecting tubular pipeline piece of why it is imperative we use technology and, more specifically, distance learning to alleviate the academic fallout of suspension and expulsion. Keeping these students engaged in active learning while working to rehabilitate them can be critical to their overall behavior, outlook and academic achievement.
Students who are suspended or expelled from school are commonly sent home without direct instruction for three, five, or even 10 days at a time and are expected to return to school adequately prepared to learn or not — depending upon personal or pre-determined objectives and the intentions of leadership and administration.
Understanding the difficulty of this transition is something that requires insight into what students are tasked with socially, emotionally and academically, and should be considered for developing appropriate learner and behavioral support systems. This growing body of research examines how missing a high number of days of instruction, consecutively or intermittently, negatively impacts student achievement. Whether the cause or effect, students who are frequently absent and missing instruction, suffer academically.
The move to remote learning has commoditized learning for students with access to technology — even more so for providing a tangible learning framework, network and collaborative learning community for all students, especially for those who miss instructional time during a suspension or expulsion
Rehabilitate — learning is inherent to this.
The ability to democratize technology for adequate instruction and guidance support is a fundamental barrier that prohibits rehabilitation. Generally, when students are suspended, academic and social contact with the child is limited to brief exchanges on continuing education and how they plan to catch up on the work that is missed during their absence. The opportunity for improvement lies in providing students with access to instruction, tutoring and behavioral guidance with counselors or administrators to ensure students are on a pathway to improvement while at home. Students’ ability to continue to engage in instruction with teachers and administration, or lack thereof, can have lasting effects on their academic progression, but the following edtech companies, along with many others, have developed platforms for educators to facilitate learning and engagement remotely.
· Edmodo — This platform facilitates seamless communication and engagement with parents, students and teachers. With the ability to post events, create assignments, measure student performance and even collaborate with other educators, this platform is designed to merge digital education towards a more socialized networking experience.
· Classdojo — A free learning platform for teachers, allows students, parents and administrators to collaborate in real-time. Teachers can facilitate learning as well as help with behavior by motivating students and sharing their successes with their families and administrators. The point system employed by the platform is also an influencer on behavior and when utilized correctly, can be very impactful. Currently, they are offering a free communication tool for schools and families.
· A comprehensive list of platforms and tools for educators to utilize and facilitate learning for all students and outcomes can be found here.
Access — A fundamental pillar of learning
Facilitating effective distance learning can be quite cumbersome, but the impact of engaging learning experiences is underscored in student academic achievement. To be successful at it, both educators and students need the proper tools and resources to exchange information. As this global pandemic has exposed disparities related to access to resources and tools, schools are grappling with scaling distance learning for students that live in Underserved Communities of Triumph, referring to communities lacking necessary resources to operate in today’s society. What has been revealed is that many of these students don’t have some of the most basic tools such as personal computers or access to the internet, that are essential to learning in the digital age. These disparities that exist, underscore larger issues in the national discourse of equity and academic achievement gaps for the majority of students of color living in these areas. The enduring resiliency of these students is pronounced as they navigate this pandemic and continue to press on and forward in their academic endeavors.