Over the past few weeks, Zachdev has provided assistance to international educators to leverage online opportunities and transform their classrooms, this pandemic has certainly provided an opportunity for many classrooms to revamp and regenerate. Just because most of us had no option but to take learning to an online or blended format doesn’t mean this is the perfect environment for it.
Teachers are moving online without feeling the confidence, preparedness, and support to effectively teach in this completely different way. Students are not able to move freely around their classrooms or work in close contact with their peers because of social distancing. Many classrooms are existing in a concurrent model, where students who are home are watching a live stream of the classroom activities happening in school. And we’re all doing this under a cloud of anxiety, exhaustion and even fear that comes with living and working through a pandemic.
This is not what online and blended learning should look like. However, it might provide just the circumstances that help us make real, lasting change in the future.
In a pre-COVID-19 world, it was not an easy task for any educator to completely shift what instruction looked like in their classroom. That’s not because we don’t want to do what’s right for kids or that we refuse to change. It’s not because we don’t want to engage in creative work. And it’s certainly not because we think education can’t get better than it is right now. Change is scary. It’s especially scary when we consider that our failures can equate to student failures. That’s a lot of pressure on teachers to not mess this up. When you are seeing even a moderate level of success in your classroom, it can be a hard sell to try something completely new that you don’t know will work.
Creativity is what happens when a mind encounters an obstacle. It’s the human process of finding a way through, over, around, or beneath. No obstacle, no creativity.
Teaching during a global pandemic certainly created several obstacles for educators. But within those constraints, we had no option but to innovate. This is the bright spot, the silver lining. It offers hope for what education can and will look like when we are running at full capacity again.
The creative solutions and new learning that is happening continue to be a gift for all of us. We are learning new skills, finding creative ways to reach all students, and leveraging online learning in ways that allow us to meet the individual needs of our scholars. This skillset forever changes what is possible for us moving forward.
If we know how to create anytime, anywhere learning opportunities for students, we essentially have the skills to clone ourselves in our future classrooms. We can personalize instruction in small groups while keeping learning going during independent work. We can allow students the flexibility to learn at their own pace when instruction is no longer bound to a strict teacher-paced timeline. We can create learning that works for all students, not just some.
This year in particular, schools are starting to teach in a hybrid model, teachers are never going back to teaching grammar live. As using online learning for this concept gives them more time to focus on speaking and listening skills directly with students. Despite the constraints of this particular school year, students are learning better than they ever have. The conditions imposed this year allowed creativity to flourish in a way that will forever change what learning looks like in his classroom.
This new approach to education, one that combines in-person and virtual instruction is the new way of learning. And many educators have experimented with this kind of teaching. We have witnessed recently on how a group of students started applying reading skills they had by completing assignments in Google Classroom and adaptive software that allowed them to advance at their own pace.
There are challenges with every different model, of course, including the fact that students don’t always complete the instructional material at home before coming to class. But there is some research supporting its impact on learning outcomes when executed well. Given our current plan to see students face-to-face two days a week, the flipped model would help us cover more content during virtual lessons, making the most of our time apart.
When fall arrives, school will not look like it did before, not even on physical campuses. There will be masks, temperature checks and a ban on games like tag. It’s understandable to long for what used to be. But as we plan for what lies ahead, we can make this moment an opportunity to transform our schools in positive ways, and that includes making them more flexible for educators and students. This is our chance to model for students problem-solving and iteration—skills required in a world that can shift without notice.