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Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

Today I keynoted the CUEBC (Computer Educators of British Columbia) Conference with my mouthful of a title, “Isn’t This Kind of What We Wanted – The Good, Not So Good and Hopefully Awesome of Technology in Schools in the Time of COVID.”

At the bottom of the post is the video of the talk. Rather than restating the entire talk, let me highlight some of the big ideas that I wanted to share.

In the spring we were scrambling; it was emergency learning. It was very revealing which schools and districts had invested in technology and had coherence in their work built over the last decade. We learned who was faking it in the new world and who was truly invested. Those who were thoughtfully invested and had strong infrastructure, common platforms and a baseline of use across schools and the district outpaced the others.

What is exciting about the fall is that everyone has upped their game. And I don’t think it really matters if you are a Microsoft, Google or Teams District – what matters is that you have selected a robust set of tools and are using them well. Also in the spring we saw a lot of just trying to get digital content out to students, now we are seeing far better use of technology in ways that does not just replicate traditional school experiences, but creates experiences that would actually not be possible without the technology.  In the spring we were being driven by technology and now we are being driven by learning and using technology.

It does feel like we have a tremendous opportunity.  Students, staff and parents want to use this time as an opportunity to create new structures for learning –  new ways to engage students in relevant and connected learning opportunities.  As I wrote in my last post, we want to do this without losing the collective good of education – we cannot just turn schools into credit factories.  And we need to be conscious of equity.  As exciting as these times are, we need everyone to benefit.  It was interesting in the spring in British Columbia, we found ways to get devices into the hands of almost all students who needed them, and get wi-fi into homes that didn’t have it.  We need to hold this to be a fundamental obligation that all students have access to the tools so that all students benefit from the power of digital learning.  And this is not an impossible goal – we need to keep focused on this.  As I argue in my presentation, if we can ensure all houses have garbage pick-up we surely can ensure all houses have wi-fi access.  

Borrowing ideas from the OECD and others, I think the next 12-24 months create numerous opportunities including:

  • harnessing innovation
  • re-imagining accountability
  • remembering the power of the physical world
  • supporting the most vulnerable
  • reinforcing capacity
  • building system self reliance
  • preparing digital resources

More than ever, leaders need to celebrate risk-taking.  There are fewer rules in the pandemic, and we don’t need just one model, we need multiple models as we move forward.  

I think this is a once in a career opportunity for us in education.  Of course we wouldn’t have planned for the opportunity to come in a pandemic that can be absolutely exhausting – but here we are – and we can’t let this chance go to waste.

If you have some time, please take a look at the video and join the conversation. Or view the slides HERE.  Discussion and debate is good – it will move us forward.  

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It has been a rough spring for students.  Our kids have been stuck in their houses, only able to see their friends from six feet away, and missed out on music, drama, sports and the many other parts that bring them joy.  So I realize this is probably not good timing on my part, but I have some more bad news.

Kids – there may be no more snow days.

I feel like I am sucking the joy from one of society’s great rituals.  The “snow day” has been part of life as long as any of us can remember.  Often allusive, at least where I grew up and live today, the snow day is  legendary.  As students we would carefully follow the 6:00 evening news forecasts and see the chance of snow in the long-range reports.  And then track that and talk to our friends, could it really be, might we really get a SNOW DAY.  And on those very rare occasions, we would wake up very early in the morning, rush to the window to see the streets covered in snow, and our parents come in and tell us they heard on the radio there is no school, it is a snow day.  And what a day.   It was this bonus unexpected holiday in the middle of a winter wonderland.  People would get older and say things like, “remember the snow day of ’85 – that was a great day.”

All good things must come to an end.

The premise behind the snow day is that learning and schooling happens in a building.  In a building where teachers and students gather about 190 times a year.  If the teachers and students can’t get together in the building, you can’t have learning and schooling.  Thus, the snow day.

But things have changed.  Of course, they have really been changing for a while.   Technology has broken this rule.  For close to two decades more and more students have been learning online and teachers have been instructing online.  And we have spoken about blended learning, where learning moved between home and school.  That said, we have never had a real urgency to fully embrace a new model.  The pandemic has changed this.  Now almost all students have been on remote learning for 9 weeks.  In some ways, it has been 9 weeks of snow days.  It has been challenging, stressful, exciting and uneven.  And it has started to make us question the future of schooling – next month, next year and forever going forward (this is a bigger topic that will need more space another time).

I am struck by the notion of schooling on a dial during a pandemic.  As conditions improve, you dial up to more in-person instruction, but when they worsen, you may dial down again.  And really this is the notion of the end of snow days.  As schools as places that are not fully in-person, you might dial-down on a snow day and move the class to the virtual classroom, and then dial back up when the snow clears.  In the pandemic school world, every class is both a physical space and a virtual space.  

There is much more thinking to do on this, but maybe one of the unintended results of the pandemic is that we no longer need to turn school off and on – we think of where it occurs on a dial.

And sorry kids, it might mean no more snow days.

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