Learning Post COVID-19

By: Guest Blog Contribution from Kennesaw State University

Up until the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020, the efficient standardization model (sometimes referred to as the factory model) of teaching and learning was preferred because the system of teaching and learning was predictable.  It seemed to be the path of least resistance.  But our current reality is anything but predictable.  In the span of mere days, the education systems in place worldwide were forced to iterate.  The status quo systems of grades, silos, and oversight are disappearing,  and efficiency models are shifting to models of adaptability and resilience. 

While we as a society attempt to “flatten the curve” of a global pandemic, we are witnessing the sharpest spike in the innovation curve of education that has happened in over a century.  Necessity is surely the mother of all invention, and out of abundant need, leaders and educators are beginning to walk down the path of personalized learning, stepping carefully on bricks that have been laid slowly over time. The availability of instructional technology tools, platforms, and software have enabled rapid pedagogical shifts due to school closures and have exponentially increased the rate of systemic advancement in modern teaching and learning. 

Educators have become responsible overnight for designing and delivering instruction that is completely foreign to them.  Some morph of blended, virtual, online, and personalized learning is what we are collectively referring to as Remote Learning.  Teacher professional learning whether it be formal or informal is coming under review.  Now more than ever, it is essential to capture the voice, experience, opinions and desires of the educators on the frontlines.  Perhaps this disruption will allow true personalized learning to take root, where goals and outcomes of schooling reflect the diversity of the learners themselves.  Surely, the educators responsible for leading this instructional revolution need revolutionary experiences and models from which to learn.   

In the best case scenario, school and district leaders put as much energy and effort into supporting teachers to develop new pedagogical skills as possible.  Using an abbreviated calendar (most schools are planning to end the year for students in early-mid May) to ensure teachers have a built-in ‘May-mester’ of learning is powerful.  My team at Kennesaw State University iTeach is planning and preparing to help in just that way.  A combination of always-free support and resources, a ‘coaching lite’ model of professional learning, and an experiential online professional learning program to grow educator competencies in remote learning situations are all ideas we have in the hopper.  If you have questions, concerns, or ideas you want to share,  you can chat live with a coach on our website: iteach.kennesaw.edu and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay connected with us!

 In her editorial appearing in the Atlanta-Journal Consitution, Dr. Diana Bishop, a Cobb County Educator describes our current reality and suggests that everyone prepare now for online learning in the fall.  If buildings do end up opening in some version of face-to-face school, Bishop suggests the following ideas to mitigate the overcrowding and “population density” that make schools ground zero for the spread of viruses: 

–Stagger start-times or school days by grade level to reduce overall school density.
–Reduce class size to reduce classroom density.
–Move all high school classes to online only. Use the now-vacant schools to house elementary or middle school classes.
–Livestream performances, athletic competitions, and awards ceremonies.
–Allow for outside picnic areas at lunch
–Offer online classes as an option for motivated students and teachers. Give priority for teaching online courses to teachers who are defined as “high risk” (over 60 and/or with underlying health issues.)

Consider your own family situation, teaching reality, fears and hopes.  What would you add to this list? 

When we collectively surface from this period of global disruption, reflection and research will allow us to tease out enduring benefits that will remain baked into our educational reality.  We are, in fact, not starting from scratch. We really want to get back to normal, but normal is being redefined every day in ways that impact how we learn, earn, and connect.. As Steve Clark, spokesman for Oregon State University told CNN, “We can hope for a full return in fall 2020, but hope is not a strategy”.