Rising to the Challenge: Reimagining Learning

What’s the biggest challenge facing school technology directors currently? It is not a lack of devices or a deficient internet; they are working through those issues with a variety of creative solutions. The biggest challenge right now is the unknowns. Will students return to school full-time or will they learn from home full-time? Or will the solution going forward be a hybrid? Will there be split schedules? We dealt with many of these questions and more during our latest Facebook Live, which you can learn more about and watch here.

One of the biggest challenges we’ll have to deal with is the unknown. We’re planning for three scenarios – coming back, blended, and all at home. Our district is also considering making the students stay with the same teacher in the same classroom all day long. So now my high school social studies teacher has to teach trig?  – Rob Landers, Director of Technology, Washington School District of Washington, Missouri

As school leaders, teachers, and district tech directors attempt to plan for all possible scenarios, we believe the focus must shift to talking about the future of learning. The pandemic has forced changes that have been in the making for a decade, and now that we’re embracing these alternative ways of disseminating knowledge, going backward should not be the solution. It’s time to reimagine learning.

Redefining Learning: Learning Doesn’t Have to Happen in a Classroom

With all of next year up in the air for most school districts, our team is focused on the future of schools and redefining learning. Learning is not just something that happens in the classroom. 

At the very beginning [of the pandemic], teachers were tech heavy. They required students to be online all the time and tried to stick to school schedules. But kids should only be on devices for a certain amount of time, so we started monitoring what teachers were doing. What we discovered is that kids can learn even when not on the device – standards can be learned through many activities – scavenger hunts, cooking, doing laundry. We started to see a real balance between online learning and alternative learning, where kids were outside, taking pictures, being active, then coming back to write up projects. – Julie Leach, 21st Century Instructional Coach at Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Where Do We Go from Here?

Right now, we have a significant opportunity to revolutionize education – to move away from standardized testing and toward individualized learning. The education system has already been completely disrupted by the pandemic, so why return to a system that was already outdated and underperforming?

We’re not preparing students today to work with AI and robots or to work with code, which is what they’ll need. Redesign the curriculum – screw the standardized test. We are doing our students a complete disservice, and we’re not preparing them to be able to get a job in the workplace. – Dr. John Vandewalle, Lumen Touch CEO

Consider the long-term ramifications from which we could benefit by:

  • Eliminating grade levels – students could progress at their own speed, truly allowing for individualized education for every student
  • Keeping students with the same teacher for multiple years – literature from experts maintains that changing teachers every year is traumatizing and creates a learning gap
  • Placing more emphasis on learning and less on standardized testing – recognizing that standardized testing does not test students for functional education that they need to succeed in society; it may be time to remove standardized testing and focus instead on teaching practical, applicable topics

There have been very few silver linings over the last three months of living through this pandemic, but one very bright spot has been the way teachers, tech leaders, and the community have – many times on the fly – come up with ways to deliver real learning without the structure and schedule of a school setting. From the rural bar that opened during the day for students, simply so that they could use the internet to do their homework, to the teachers who have found extraordinary ways to reach and engage with their students, to create new ways to learn, and to work with available tools to make the best of the situation. As we move forward, we should be striving to provide teachers and students with the tools they need so that they are better prepared for the future.

It is time to redefine learning. We would love to hear your ideas. Get in touch.

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