Before the coronavirus pandemic, Osley Cook would ignore the emails for various digital teaching tools that appeared in his inbox. He didn’t see the point. A music teacher and band director at Roosevelt High School in Dallas, Texas, who has worked in education for 27 years, Cook already knew how to help his students learn: put instruments in their hands, hear them play songs, and go from there.
“We want to play those instruments,” says Cook. “We want to jam.”
Everything changed in the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 forced schools across the country to switch to remote and hybrid learning. Cook’s classroom was closed. Its instruments went unused. Unable to practice indoors and restricted to sporadic outdoor rehearsals, the school’s band performed at two football games instead of 10—and instead of having as many as 80 students participating, it had around 20.
“Normally, I would have students learn 15 to 20 songs for a football game,” Cook says. “Because of our limited practices, we played about five.”
Limits led Cook to adapt. He tweaked his curriculum, incorporating more musical theory into his lessons. He adopted some of the online programs he once ignored, including one that allows students to submit recordings of themselves playing pieces at home.
As his school returns to in-person instruction this fall, Cook is looking forward to once again jamming with his pupils. But he’s also embracing new technology, including a smart camera system that can track him around the classroom as it broadcasts to students still at home.
“If I’m teaching a mixed class of brass, woodwind, and percussion, when I’m working with the woodwind, the camera is over here with them,” Cook says. “If I walk over to percussion, then the camera follows me. Whoever I have watching on the digital side, they see the entire lesson.
“I’m a really good teacher. But I’m going to utilize some of this digital stuff.”
When it comes to change, Cook isn’t alone. From remote learning to parent-teacher relationships, the pandemic is creating and accelerating transformation across American education. And as the nation slowly begins to move forward from a once-in-a-lifetime disruption, many educators see an opportunity to rethink and reimagine the way they teach, work, and ultimately serve students.
“It could create, from a teacher’s perspective, a creative atmosphere,” says Patrick Cady, a high school history teacher in San Fernando, California. “Like, ‘what are the [new] things that we could do now?’”
Here are five ways education is changing:
Here To Stay
Has Never Been More
Equitable is the brand name of the retirement and protection subsidiaries of Equitable Holdings, Inc., including Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company (Equitable Financial) (NY, NY), Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company of America (Equitable America), an AZ stock company with main administrative headquarters in Jersey City, NJ, and Equitable Distributors, LLC. Equitable Advisors is the brand name of Equitable Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI and TN).