University of Montana faculty members Jingjing Sun and Allison Wilson from the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education have worked extensively in the field of child development and have kept close watch on the events of the past year.

Professor Wilson spoke to KGVO on Wednesday about her specialty, early education and the results of the pandemic on schoolchildren, and that she is optimistic about children returning to full time classes.

“It’s just a really exciting time as we transition back to school and full time face to face instruction,” said Wilson. “Some children have been going hybrid on and off, and I think especially for our teachers, there's been a lot that they've learned. There have been really exciting and really fantastic online opportunities, but I think even as we transition back to face to face.”

Wilson acknowledged that younger children have had the most difficult adjustment as they participated in online education.

“Certainly for our youngest learners, I think that it was probably the biggest struggle just because we know that best practices through ‘hands on’ really engaged learning works best through social peer to peer groups,” she said. “However, I do think that our teachers have been absolutely amazing and creative in the Google classrooms and various online platforms that they've come to learn how to utilize really quickly and substituted for those otherwise, face to face engagements.”

Wilson said that the rapid rise of online learning technology has benefitted both students and teachers during the pandemic.

“I think that the biggest learning experience has just been around the abundance of technology opportunities,” she said. “There are so many platforms out there that Google offers, from Google classrooms to chats and websites and all sorts of technology applications that I think have really stepped in to supplement the absence of the face to face interactions. I think that the continued use of some of those in addition to a typical face to face environment can really strengthen that classroom even more, especially around the area of family engagement.”

Moving forward, Professor Wilson shared her optimistic outlook at education in Montana’s schools.

“This is a unique situation that all of our students and our teachers and schools have experienced together,” she said. “Everyone's really well aware of what's at stake and how to be prepared as children come back even in this next fall, and that everyone is going to be coming back having gone through this pandemic together.”

Professor Sun is an assistant professor of educational psychology at UM.


From Wuhan to New York City: A Timeline of COVID-19's Spread


More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM