As no one can fully predict what the future holds (who could have predicted a pandemic?), this post may pose more questions than answers. But considering the future and planning for its best impact has never been a bad thing.
We started the second part of the 2019-20 school year just as many other second semesters in years past. The holiday break was over, students were reminiscent of all of the memories made, gifts given (well, probably received), and they were reluctantly waking up to the start of a new semester. As the days progressed and we started to hear about this virus that was impacting the other side of the planet, we ignorantly yet blissfully moved through our lives and school days dreaming of Spring Break 2020.
As the first of March rolled around, we started learning more about COVID-19 and the impact it could have on our lives. We never imagined that in a few short weeks, parents and other family members would become homeschool teachers, and teachers would be quickly enrolled in a crash course of “Online Learning Ninja 101.” Education as we have known it for decades would be drastically different for weeks, months, and as we soon found out… the remainder of the school year.
As an eLearning Specialist, I’ve been the torch bearer for educational technology integration for the past 20+ years. Seeing first hand the powerful impact of technology in the classroom, I’ve worked with educators to help them differentiate the learning of students in their classrooms using online resources that promote the Four C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.
It started in the early days with email and progressed to WEB 2.0 tools where social media and two-way online communication were all the rage. There were critical thinking resources like Inspiration Software and creativity tools and websites were plentiful. And finally, there arrived the collaboration and communication giant: Google.
Educators are encountering a new world—one where the four walls of the classroom have been blasted to smithereens in a few short weeks. Will education go back to its “Old Normal,” or will education embrace the greatness that can come when non-traditional resources are utilized to meet the needs of all learners? Certainly learners have changed and progressed in their learning styles, yet we still educate students as if we are still living in the agrarian society of yesteryear that woke with the rooster and ended with a whistle and the sun setting.
That society has learned a new word… ZOOM! It used to be the title of a TV show in the 70’s. It used to be an onomatopoeia used by children as they flew a toy plane around the living room. And now? Now it is a verb used for connection. “Should we Zoom tonight and finalize plans for our party?” It is an adjective to describe a type of call you might make. “Can we get on a Zoom call this afternoon to discuss our business trip?” Yes, Zoom has transformed the way we communicate, connect, create, and think critically.
Here Come the Questions…
Now that most of the business and education worlds have been connecting solely via some kind of video conferencing tool for the past three months (Skype, Teams, Hangouts, Zoom), what will the classroom look like when school starts back in August? Will it return to the same four walls it left at the beginning of March 2020, or will it transform into something new based on the abilities discovered when those walls were broken down?
And if/when that transformation happens, what will the education professional look like? Will the same list of responsibilities be required of educators as in the past? Certainly facilitating a learning conversation among desks and chairs looks much different than doing the same via an asynchronous digital connection.
As an online educator myself, there is a completely different skill set needed to address the needs of students in a virtual environment versus a physical one. How will our educational workforce acquire the skills needed to successfully guide students through their learning years? How will we know if they are performing appropriately and meeting the needs of all of their learners effectively so that we can ultimately provide the professional development needed for improvement? These are just a few of the questions that need answers as we head back to school and think about what “Classroom 2.020” and beyond looks like.