Oct 07 2020

How Do Teachers Make Hands-On Classes Work Online? With Tech and Innovation

With tech and creativity, K–12 educators are adapting classes such as auto mechanics and science labs to virtual learning environments.

It’s a shared challenge facing instructors whose classes typically involve labs or career and technical education: In the age of physical distancing and remote learning, how do educators re-create hands-on lessons online?

“How can I help someone learn to weld if they can’t come in and use the equipment?” asks Lori Romano, director of career, technical and adult education at Pasco County Schools in Florida. “How do you teach cosmetology when your students can’t touch any hair?”

The instructors within her department have found answers, Romano says, mainly because they had no other choice. When the district schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was sink or swim — they had to do something.

“Fortunately, CTE teachers are extremely creative and adaptable, and they truly love what they do,” she says. “The pandemic forced them to think outside the box, but most of them were already good at that anyway.”

Before the pandemic, there was greater interest and investment in CTE courses because of their value as pathways to viable careers. Now, though, many schools and most of the nation’s largest districts have started the new school year with full-time e-learning. Classes traditionally built around hands-on, in-person instruction — science labs, externships and classes in automotive repair or culinary arts, to name a few — are more difficult to offer in exclusively virtual environments. But those classes also are in demand:...

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Donna Grethen/Ikon Images (illustration); Magnilion/Getty Images (VR goggles); Arkadivna/Getty Images (wrench);