Guest editorial

Rebecca Reynolds, Samuel K.W. Chu
2020 Information and Learning Science  
Introduction to the special issue on emergency remote teaching (ERT) under The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools, universities and other education institutions to shut down for a number of months in 2020. Some of these institutions may have reopened, but many are still closed. To facilitate teaching and learning activities during this difficult period, educators from around the world and at all levels have shifted from in-class teaching and learning to emergency distance or remote
more » ... ching. Emergency remote teaching (ERT) is a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate mode due to crisis circumstances. The primary objective is to quickly provide temporary, reliable access to instruction and support during a crisis. The goal is not to re-create a robust educational ecosystem (Hodges et al., 2020) ; nonetheless, educators still aim to optimize quality of instruction, adapting to local conditions while relaxing accountability goals and often evaluation and measurements. ERT is not the same thing as distance learning; it is a situation of triage and one in which schools, teachers and communities are all doing their best amidst challenging emergency circumstances. The persistence of digital divides will necessarily impede success of predominantly online ERT. For instance, a relatively small, but significant, proportion of families in all the US states still lack home internet access and adequately functioning computing devices, which poses serious problems for children in accessing a school's provision of ERT if it is predominantly online in format. Some states and internet service providers are offering free and subsidized networking accounts to families, loaner device technologies, etc.; however, the reach of these programs was far from universal as of Spring of 2020, under the pressures of swift transition to remote teaching. It is unclear how readily accessible subsidized technology affordances will become for students, should COVID conditions and the need for ERT continue; this will vary regionally. Digital divide gaps may necessitate that some schools and teachers provide workaround non-technology-based instructional options such as send-home activities and assignments, phone conferences, etc. Another key challenge inherent to providing ERT is that local conditions vary so widely across state, regional and national boundaries, as it pertains to public education policies, standards, processes, and accountability goals, as well as pandemic health conditions and population demographics. As a result, centralized, generalizable guidelines are elusive. Further, pandemic conditions are not static, they are constantly shifting, making ongoing planning a continuous moving target. This has been referred to in the press as "building the plane as we fly it." Any set of guidelines is only as helpful as its capacity to be customized for local contexts and evolving pandemic conditions across time. Guidelines vary as to their "level of analysis"for instance, broad guidelines may aim to support educators with general principles for implementation of ERT at a high level of applicability, e.g. regardless of grade level or school subject domain, etc. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) for example offers a set of broad guidelines to teachers and districts, whom they first and foremost exhort to work closely with their local community members to "ensure digital equity" (ISTE guideline's first imperative) (Snelling and Fingal, 2020) . ISTE urges educators and school leaders to facilitate the anticipatory practicing of emergency protocols prior to any given event, to provide clear expectations to all constituents, to take time to plan, to prepare an emergency backpack or bag of materials in case school access is impeded, to establish daily schedules and routines, to provide robust learning by breaking Guest
doi:10.1108/ils-05-2020-144 fatcat:pffxmfxmwvdijnlrmtjodryz3y