How can we leverage new learning opportunities to better support student learning at school?
When the pandemic escalated earlier this year, schools across the world were thrust into online learning environments. For many educational institutions, this dramatically changed the way teachers teach and most importantly the way students learned. On the one side, some schools were somewhat more prepared with already successful blended learning models that were being used as a part of normal ‘in school’ instruction, albeit used by certain teachers more than others. However, it was least a great starting point. But on the flip side…others were not.
As we now see schools across the globe beginning to return back to on-campus instruction, what can we now do to leverage the opportunity this pandemic has provided education? When this began EdTech teachers and leaders were all of a sudden thrust into the limelight and suddenly being looked to for answers to questions such as, ‘what does this look like?’ ‘Are our teachers and students prepared?’ ‘How will we do this?’. All of a sudden EdTech leaders began to consider, ‘is this the prime opportunity to showcase learning tools that support student learning – a silver lining perhaps?’
You don’t need to look far on the news and social media to see some amazing affordances that technology has played in allowing students to continue learning from home. Teachers dramatically upskilled themselves in aspects of content creation, online teaching, and tools they previously had never heard of. Even the term ‘zoom’ has taken a whole new meaning. So what can we do now? How can we use this silver lining the Edtech community is talking about as we begin to return to the classroom?
1. Assess new learning
Take time with teachers and students to reflect on the new skills learned and gained during this time. Focus specifically on the positive elements such as improved teacher awareness of EdTech tools, as well as identifying areas of students learning. This may include not only students who are more independent and self-directed, but also their recent exposure to a range of new online tools that can be brought back into the classroom through a blended learning model.
2. Leverage sound pedagogical models
Take aim at EdTech pedagogical models such as TPACK and SAMR which can assist teachers in classifying their use of the technology. Not only in assessing or focusing on online learning where they are sometimes forced to use the technology, but specifically planning for it in more meaningful ways in the blended classroom. Also, check out the‘ 4 Shifts Protocol’ by Scott McLeod for a slightly different perspective on teaching and learning with technology in an authentic manner.
3. Focus on the positive aspects of online learning
Sure, there are negatives to online learning and we now know more than ever that physical face-to-face teaching, particularly for young learners, is so important and much more time-efficient and effective. But try to focus on the affordances that technology has provided you. Use some of these focus questions to target responses.
– What elements of online learning made your teaching and student learning experience better or more concise?
– Was it the assessment techniques, the ability to track student work submissions all in one place?
– To provide specific and targeted feedback all in one place in multiple media forms?
– What aspects of this can be leveraged in a blended learning model?
4. Identify areas for improvement
Following on, reflect on the aspects of online learning which when coupled with face-to-face instruction in a physical classroom can lead to amazing learning experiences! We have all up-skilled ourselves in so many ways and teachers are some of the most creative professionals in the way they use various tools to support teaching and learning. So challenge yourself to find the areas of your online teaching that can be improved in a blended learning model.
5. Just do it – seriously!
Obviously we do not want students coming back to school and running an on-campus copy of online learning again. However, try and dedicate time to making the transition to blended learning. Long term, your students will thank you as the skills they are developing now will set them up for success later, you will thank yourself for the impact technology has on your teaching in the classroom with regard to student tracking, feedback and overall time management.
To conclude, we all don’t know what the future holds and whether or not this type of paradigm shift in education will cross our paths again. But one thing is certain, technology is the future and the sooner we must understand and harness it to support learning the better!
*article originally published on Global EdTech, October 5, 2020