By Mary Kate McGrath - March 19, 2020
In early March, with the novel coronavirus spreading across the United States, K-12 schools are increasingly making the difficult decision to cancel in-person school weeks, months, or potentially longer. More than 30,000 schools had shuttered as of Friday, impacting nearly 20 million students, most of whom will be moved to online learning platforms, according to the New York Times. Teachers, even those with experience with remote learning, fear how closures will threaten academic progress, safety, and social lives.
For example, running a digital classroom is more difficult with younger children than for adults, and will disproportionately impact low-income students or those with learning disabilities. Adequate training and communication between teachers and administrators can help fix hiccups and get the whole team on board with implementing new technology, including implementing new safety technology.
Health officials, local administrators, and teachers must collaborate to assist in leveraging new technology to manage the classroom. These tools can serve for multiple purposes such as internal communications to share up to date developments on the coronavirus pandemic and geo-polling to provide food or resources to students and staff in need.
Teachers moving to a remote teaching model might be ambivalent about utilizing new technology. But managing student safety is essential, even as schools move to a remote model.
Many teachers are going to have questions for administrators as a new technological tool is put into use. For most, it’s likely that they’re more familiar with physical security tools, such as door locks or physical panic buttons. Many educators, especially those who have been in the field for a long time, might be reticent to embrace new school safety tech. Much like other digital tools, these safety strategies are likely to become more ubiquitous in the coming months or days. Be sure to pay attention to common concerns among teachers about the new technology and encourage their buy-in as the tool is implemented across teams.
One question teachers might want to know, especially those moving to a remote learning model - is whether or not their personal device is compatible with a school safety technology. If a smartphone has app capability, any personal device can download a mass notification app and leverage its functionality from any location. If the user doesn’t have a smartphone and/or utilizes an older device, they can still benefit from the app. While the user won’t be able to download the app directly to their phone, they can still receive emergency notifications via SMS text-message.
Administrators can encourage teachers to get on board with new school safety technology by highlighting the helpful use cases for the mass notification app, especially with staff, teachers, and students working remotely from home. Below are just a few:
One crucial part of getting teachers on-board with a virtual school-safety program is to communicate throughout the process. If your school system is transitioning to new protocol or safety tools, management of communication with teachers and staff throughout is essential. Investment in a mass notification system might be a valuable tool for administrators looking to communicate to teachers, parents, and staff. Amid major structural changes, such as teachers moving to a remote classroom model or implementing a major new safety tool, reaching out to your team can be essential.
It’s also important to set up a hotline or question-box for any teacher new to using the technology. Communicate throughout implementation, as questions will inevitably come up. Make sure that every teacher feels comfortable signing up for a new technology tool and that they are supported throughout the process. Transition-periods can be difficult regardless of the tool, it's important for teachers to feel like their safety tools are effective and intuitive to use.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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