So we have covered this very issue when it comes to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) several times in the past (see here, here, and here). The OTF’s latest efforts to confound the remote learning experiences of the past two and a half years with the mandatory e-learning graduation requirement comes in the form of a press release entitled “Parents, teachers call on Ontario Government to reverse trends toward defunding, mandatory virtual learning and privatizing of publicly funded education.” In it the OTF writes:
Mandatory virtual learning, and especially the hybrid model, proved a major set-back for a vast majority of students during the pandemic. These approaches to teaching and learning led to major declines in student motivation, readiness to learn, hands-on learning, attention span, the development of social-emotional skills and student wellbeing…
As we have tried to educate the media and education stakeholders for much of the past two and a half years, the emergency remote learning and the remote learning that schools, boards/districts/divisions, and governments implemented to address pandemic-induced school closures is quite different than the traditional online learning that has been practiced across the country for well over three decades. Further, as we described in our review of one of the two OTF reports, “most of what was written on the topic suggested remote/online learning impacted mental health with no evidence or there was a correlation between remote/online learning and mental health that researchers claimed was causal”- which is exactly what the OTF report does!
Unfortunately, the continued exercise of conflating, exaggerating, and even making up claims related to K-12 online learning cheapens the call for the public to pay attention to some very real issues that they should be concerned about. Organizations like the OTF that do this make themselves an easy target for the other side to dismiss their claims. When your opponent can point to significant and blatant holes in several parts of your argument, it makes it easy for them to argue that the public should ignore the rest of what you have to say because it is likely to suffer the same folly.
Simply put, the OTF should be more careful with how it frames the overall issue so that it is not as easy for other people to poke holes in their argument. Then maybe experts who understand the field can support the real concerns they raise, instead of spending all of their time trying to defend the hard working teachers who have built exceptional e-learning programs from coast-to-coast-to-coast over the past ~38 years.