“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”- Bob Marley
It was in February 2020 when I said to my colleagues, “If they shut us down for 2 weeks, we’ll shut down for good. It’s our end.”
It’s August 2021 and since that quote of mine, this is how the timeline goes:
In March 2020 schools shut down.
We switched to online learning and at the same time, we rushed to learn new methodologies, new web tools and platforms. By May 2020, we had been sharing new practices with colleagues, forming social media groups, supporting each other, comparing notes on tools and approaches. In the summer of 2020, we prepared ourselves even more, we attended more courses, read articles, explored pedagogies. We, by then, had applied so many new things: zoominars, hybrid and blended classes; we learned the craft!
One thing we know at this point is that we cannot return to the world as it was before. Period. Not because I know online education will prevail- which it might but I am not certain. We cannot return to the world as it was before because we have changed. Our educational reality today is co-constructed with technology. We now use technology to teach, connect and collaborate with students, parents and peers. And so, we need a framework for all this reality, we cannot even think ‘outside the box’ because there’s no box. We are making the box as we speak. We need educational skills and methodologies that meet the needs of the new reality.
Our question is… What now?
We know, we feel that we have to rethink and redesign education. We need to become techsperts, with educational technology being central in our skillset and at the same time, we need to be, think, feel as educators; however, we are now educators who embrace technology and pedagogies that include the best of both worlds: multi-sensory lessons with edtech features.
Practically, we need to take decisions on practical stuff:
1) Our LMS is our new space. It’s a world, a place where things should be happening. Homework tasks, discussions, fora, self-paced learning tasks and assessment can take place there.
We need this sense of space an LMS creates, we need to be able to ‘meet-up’ somewhere! We can share reading materials, grade assignments, meet up asynchronously, and comment on each other’s work.
2) Our platform (be it zoom, webex, teams, bbb etc)
It’s our live interaction space, it’s where we see faces, smiles, frowns, sleepy eyes. And it’s a different place than our 3D classroom so we have to be different too. We need to make our lessons interactive and multimodal. We need not forget that children should also touch the paper pages of a book, move around, stop looking at the ‘screen-in-screen’. Above all, we need to create pedagogical frameworks where our learners are not passive consumers of screen time, and instead, they are active co-constructors of the lesson, they have choice and a voice and their voice is heard.
3) Our pedagogical framework
Yes, it’s not the same. We cannot roll on the floor, whisper in each other’s ears, or hold hands. Yet, there are things we can do to make our lessons more meaningful and engaging. We need to remember that the human and the technological element should be going hand-in-hand to promote more humanity. So, use the ‘breathe-in-breathe-out’ technique in your lessons. Make sure you alternate between structured & gameful activities. Create communities and encourage bonding by using lots of pair & group work for synchronous & asynchronous classes. Don’t forget the physical and kinesthetic aspect: have your students move around, dance, go outside the 4 walls.
Don’t say ‘we’ll see how it goes’. We are part of the decision making of how it goes. Be ready for blended or fully online scenarios and choose them already. Train your teachers, your students and their parents about the benefits of the new reality and show them how the changes will be implemented. Involve everybody! Remember, there’s no box- we’re creating it! Invest in a good internet connection, buy equipment your students can borrow, but above all, invest in knowledge, in teacher education and in good web-tools and platforms.
What about the parents? What now? We need to see parents as partners and not as barriers. Let’s ask ourselves how we can help them better understand the new world in education. We need to start by investigating how they are experiencing this new situation. Let’s ask ourselves questions like, How do we communicate with parents effectively? How are we actively empowering and believing in families? What are families’ needs, and how are we working with them collaboratively? We need to equally support our team. Initiate CPD sessions for our teachers, offer individualized e-courses & webinars that target teachers’ specific needs, develop ‘teachspertise’ and address the question of how we are talking about our technology identities. Even more, think of what resources, training, and personnel will support everyone’s social and emotional Covid-related needs? In a nutshell, ask our teachers, ‘how can I help you?’
Above all, we need to take a vow, all together: no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the medium of instruction, lockdown or not, let’s make learner-centered educational & business decisions based on the common good. Education is a common good that is based in inclusion and solidarity. Let’s support individual and collective flourishing.
Here’s to teachers in 2020 and 2021 who gave their heart and soul to shift from face-to-face learning to online within a day! Thank you, teachers.