Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is an incredibly challenging and difficult time for us and yet I believe we have an opportunity as educators to reshape and transform our education system from what we learned about COVID-19. We cannot continue with the status quo when we return to school; just the opposite, we need to be intentional and strategic in changing our schools for the good as a result of this pandemic.
Our schools will probably change dramatically in the next year or so, with thermal scanners at doors, everyone wearing masks, smaller class sizes, no large group assemblies, and so much more. What if we used what we learned over the months of online learning to transform education moving forward? I believe we have an opportunity to revamp learning and reconstruct the future of education as a result of what we learned from this pandemic.
6 ways COVID-19 can and should change education for the good:
1. Online Learning Continues
Without a doubt, many schools were scrambling to get their online learning communities up and running after their Governor shut down school. Some schools were frantically copying packets for kids to take home, others were trying to learn their learning management system (LMS), and some were even ordering digital devices to get in the hands of students. However, I believe being forced into online learning has strengthened the digital learning of our teachers and students. Plus, we realized the importance of an LMS in organizing and providing structure to online learning. The LMS empowers online learning discussions, allows the shy student to ask for help without drawing attention, provides cloud based assignment submission, strengthens personalized learning, and organizes the learning. This learning needs to continue even after the pandemic.
2. Redesigning Assessments & Assignments
How many kids do you think used Google to take a test in an online setting? I believe a ton have done this; consequently, online learning has stretched teachers in forcing them to design assessments that can’t be Googled. Now, teachers are compelled to design assignments that require higher levels of thinking; these are the types of questions that can’t be Googled. Interestingly, these are also the types of skills that employers are looking for, students who can think critically, problem solve, and analyze. Teachers need to design assessments and activities that have students create, publish, design, invent, and construct.
3. Digital Tools Dominate
I saw a sharp spike in the use of digital tools during our online learning to strengthen learning. Teachers are constantly sharing with me and other teachers digital tools they identified to support students during this time. Even the least digitally savvy teachers were venturing into using digital tools to connect with their students. Moving forward, we need to continue to identify digital tools to enhance learning and strengthen teaching. By doing this, we are preparing students for the future and designing learning which resonates with students. Educators must vow to continue embracing digital tools to enrich learning for students.
4. Virtual Professional Learning
One thing we saw an increase in during the pandemic is online professional learning. My teachers participated in the Apple 1-1 Virtual Coaching sessions and the feedback was outstanding, some of the best we ever received for professional learning. The online format is often more personalized, asynchronous, and provides the ability to ask questions and dig deeper without feeling embarrassed. It provides the educator a closer contact point to the learning and it’s much easier to watch again to relearn a particular topic. Furthermore, it grants greater access to high quality learning at a more affordable rate. For example, this summer’s VL Summer Conference is now virtual. Educators don’t need to pay for travel expenses and take time away from their family to learn from the best in education. CLICK HERE to attend the 2020 Virtual Visible Learning Conference.
5. Tighter Bonds with Parents
So many parents acted as surrogate teachers and the closeness between teachers and parents became a symbiotic relationship which needs to continue beyond this pandemic. Parents are more involved in their child’s learning than ever before, we need to build on this to help it continue beyond the days of online learning. For example, I hosted a Virtual Town Hall meeting, where we had close to 300 parents attend, and regular FB Live sessions in the evenings for parents to ask questions and get important updates on the school. We need to continue to identify ways to connect, communicate, and collaborate with parents at times and ways that are best for them, not the school.
Sadly, the equity divide in schools grew larger through the pandemic as students fell behind if they didn’t have WiFi or digital devices at home. My school district worked hard to make sure that every child has equal access to services, devices, and internet connectivity. Thanks to the leadership of our district office, our district was able to get reduced pricing of hotspots after reaching out to mobile phone carriers. It’s my hope that we learned the importance of every child to having a digital tool, internet connection, and the support to thrive in a digital learning culture. I believe this pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront and schools need to continue in working to overcome this challenge.
Let’s embrace this opportunity to reshape education for the advancement of all students. As educators, we need to take what we learned during this pandemic and work collaboratively to transform our schools for the benefit of every child.