Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘high school’

In education we often live with one foot in the present and the other in the future.  And this has been more true during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are both making changes on the go as we match learning systems to different stages of the pandemic, while also looking for lessons learned during this time as we prepare for a post-pandemic education system.  There are many ideas to take from the last 12 months that will likely impact our systems for a generation, here are 7 that I  have seen:


A Nationalized Conversation –  Canada is one of the few countries without a major role for the Federal government in education.  That said, there has been more connections than ever across this country as provinces have taken similar health approaches in schools, and Canadian educators have looked to connect digitally.  With the Federal Government investing one billion dollars in national education it has helped emphasize the connections.  The networking seems destined to continue, and even though education falls to provincial governments and local jurisdiction, from Indigenous Education, to technology access to literacy there are many important national connection points that need to continue. 

Expectations Around Video and Social Media –  Advocacy for the use of video and social media in schools and districts is not new, but nothing like a pandemic to make it obvious that non-traditional tools are needed.  Now, not that they are the only tools, but whether is is sharing information nights with school communities, or holiday concerts or assemblies, video is just expected.   We see this trend with leadership as well.  I have argued for a while that leaders need to be in the digital game, and that is more true than ever.   I appreciate what my BC colleague Jordan Tinney has been able to do, making a massive district feel like a small community through the use of digital tools and regular engagement.  

High schools will forever be different – I often hear, “the quarter system is not new, this is not that innovative.”  And this is true (quarter system is students taking only 2 courses at a time) – examples of the system in BC date back decades.  The best of what I have seen with secondary schools is not the particular block structure but what has come about because of the scheduling.  What we have seen includes:  courses have become less about time in a seat,  real conversations about what is essential have been prioritized, greater flexible time for students to make choices over their learning, and a value placed on teacher student relationship in high school with fewer teacher contacts for each learner.  Now, many of these could have been done without the quarter system, but the combination of factors of fewer classes, safety rules that limit students in some classes, and a widespread curiosity for new models has led to some exciting work.

Health and Education are Permanent Partners –  Health and Education have always worked closely together.  But this year is completely different.  We are in daily contact – and not just at a superficial level, we have got to know each others’ work.  So, going forward these relationships built through COVID will carry over.  On everything from vaping to physical literacy to mental health to just broadly building a stronger community we will be more explicit partners. 

Digitization is Here  – We have been saying for more than a decade that we were moving digital on the education side with textbooks and other learning resources and on the administrative side with forms and processes.  And then, after saying it, we have often not fully invested in the tools, choosing to live with one foot in the past paper world and one foot dipping its toes in the digital world.   We have had no choice but to go digital in many places over the last 12 months, and again this does not show any signs of going back. There is finally far greater alignment between how we say we want education and what it looks like.

Equity, Equity, Equity  – The pandemic has on one hand brought the challenges of equity in many forms to the forefront and also showed things we have said were almost impossible, are possible.  You have seen me argue before in this blog, “if we can figure out how to have garbage picked up at every house we surely can figure out how to get these same houses wifi” and like with garbage pick-up it should just be expected.  On the concerning side, we saw vast differences in the access to tools like technology and also in the access to opportunities during the pandemic.  We also, though, figured out how to get digital devices into the hands of almost all students – something we deemed impossible until recently.  Post pandemic we need to keep this focus.  The pandemic has put a spotlight on where we need to do better – from equity of technology, to equity of experiences.

Learning is often an outdoor activity –  Again, we are finally doing what we have said for a long time is the right thing. Particularly in our younger grades our students are spending time outside connecting to nature and having authentic real world experiences.  Our medical officials have encouraged our students to spend more time outside.  Many educational experts have already been arguing the powerful pedagogy of this, for many years.  Now rather than just building playgrounds on school grounds, we are looking to create outdoor learning spaces.  From school gardens, to urban agriculture, the future of schooling needs to be more time outside.  And how exciting – that school could be both more digital and more connected to the earth.  While some would view these ideas is incompatible, but really can be complimentary.  

Our greatest challenge of the next 12-24 months is to ensure that pieces of all 7 of these ideas are not lost and are part of our system going forward. There will be a lot of noise to “go back to normal.” When we meet with system and school leaders – nobody wants that – we had a good system, that has been taxed by a pandemic but there is learning that can make us even a better system as we look to the fall of 2021 and beyond.  

It is a stressful and exhausting time to be an educator, but it is also an exciting time as we look for ways to have our lived experience match the system we have been envisioning for much of this century.  

Read Full Post »

There have always been various goals for education and a conversation about the very purpose of schooling is never simple. There has always been tension between the public and private good of education. We often hear arguments that education is about preparing students as citizens and also preparing students as the workforce of the future. While these two are often in conflict with each other they are both in the larger “public good” tent. In addition, there is the belief that education is more of a private goal – to help individuals compete with other individuals and improve their status. It is this third goal that I see, and worry, gets attention in our COVID high school experiences potentially at the expense of the other two.

Some try to turn education into a commodity.  Individuals collect credits for their own advancement.  It is this thinking that often leads to the growth in private schools or charter schools as the public good of education is set aside and education becomes about the individual.  For all its warts, public education has long been able to maintain a collective nature.  Whether one sees education through a  workforce preparation or citizen engagement lens they both lend themselves to a bettering of our world. The worry I have during COVID is that we could lose focus on these goals and education becomes far more individualistic – an every person for themselves feeling – that shifts us away from the public good to more of a private good for education.

The danger I see is that high schools become about the credential and not the experience.  And COVID can potentially accentuate this.  One effect of COVID on schooling is that school is being reorganized.  In British Columbia almost all high school students are completing two courses at a time, and then repeating this process four times over the year in a quarter-system.  Many more students than ever are also taking courses online through various providers around the province to supplement what they might be doing in their local school.  So, while this could be viewed as true personalization as students build their own programs it also leads one to think of schooling as just a collection of credits.  In this world, you collect courses and credits to earn credentials to compete with other students to earn spots in post-secondary.  And yes, there has always been a key element of the individual in the system, when we have to change how we teach and limit the extra curricular offerings it narrows the system. 

In the COVID world, there are limits on school sports, clubs and other events that promote collective power.  Yes, schools are doing Terry Fox Runs – but it is hard to argue that they have the same impact as in previous years. As we look ahead to Remembrance Day, that will again be a challenge.  And in the classroom, rather than robust group discussions and debates, we know more individual work is encouraged to limit contact between students.  It is the reality of the virus, but it promotes goals that are good for the individual, but not necessarily for the community.

I talked to one student who said, “This year is just about getting the credits done and moving on.”  Another high schooler described it to me as “like having an office job – I go in get it done and get out.”  Our collective challenge is to make it more than that for these student and all students.  And it is a challenge.  Not only are teachers instructing in new ways, using new tools in a new system we need to find new ways to ensure the community aspects of school are not lost.

And I also get the anxiety of students – they want to be sure they collect credits to graduate, maintain their options for post-secondary and just not generally face long-term education challenges because of COVID.  

But we don’t want this to be the new mindset – where schools become simply about credit and credential collection.   

It is so great to have our students back in schools.  We see many jurisdictions around the world who have not been able to do it.  It is crucial that we don’t get lulled into sacrificing the public good as we rethink teaching and learning in our system.  

Read Full Post »