Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster- Elon Musk
As I write this post, New Zealand has been in lockdown for almost a week. We experienced a few days of online learning before the earlier-than-normal Easter holidays began. In that time I have witnessed a flurry of companies offering advice, resources and professional learning opportunities for this new normal. Call it what you will, home schooling, online teaching and learning, lockdown learning, it all amounts to the same thing. Teachers connecting with their students (and families) online. I believe we need to rethink entirely the way we have been working, because the world as we know it has been changed forever.
How do we inspire learning, creativity and productivity in our students while in lockdown? And when lockdown finally ends, what will the new normal look like?
The Teacher, Student, Family Triangle
We have for years spoken about the importance of the link between school and home. But now this connection is quite simply a lifeline.Tweet
Of course we have many students who are self motivated and driven to succeed, even when the goalposts have been removed. But for those students that normally rely on being pushed by the teacher, it is now more important to have supportive and involved parents and whanau. Parents that have a clear understanding of what a typical school day would look like, so that this can be fairly closely replicated at home. Routine, boundaries, expectations. These do not, as we well know, miraculously form themselves. It takes planning and hard work to set them up. And then it takes determination and drive to adhere to them.
This global crisis called Covid_19 has been equated to a war against an invisible enemy. I believe we need to plan and prepare as our forefathers must have done back when the world was at war.Tweet
- For most of us, lockdown has slowed us down, which is not entirely a bad thing. It has forced us back to basics as we contemplate a world which is vastly different to what we have grown accustomed to. Can we sustain this slower pace? Only if we have productive plans in place.
- For a lot of families, they will support their children to learn as best as they possibly can. The helicopter parents will intensify and their radar will be smoking hot. For others, they will remain largely distant from the learning process. Those students will need closer monitoring. The ideal would be when parents understand that children need freedom to learn, create and discover. Online learning is one way to do this, but certainly not the only way.
- Once the official school lessons have been tackled, I predict that families will turn to the old skills that have fallen by the wayside. Baking (if you can get any flour) sewing and knitting will resurface. As will gardening, DIY and home projects. Even the patience required for building jigsaw puzzles, creating art and boardgames should make a resurgence.
- On my local runs and walks, I have noticed far more families, confined in their bubbles, out walking and cycling. I have noticed a marked shift from solo runners, to family units out exercising together. And I have noticed that physical distancing is politely but strictly adhered to. But of course I can only speak for my local area, because travelling is prohibited.
- In addition, as we have read, pollution is down and it is almost as if the planet is being given the much-needed opportunity to reboot itself. As a family of three drivers, we have not used our cars in the entire lockdown period. Again, we are in the fortunate position to have everything we need within walking distance, which can’t be said for all. But this chance to take stock of life has been a real positive.
Students learning during lockdown
This brings me to what really prompted me to write this post. Last Friday was the due date for my year 10 students to hand in their Design Brief. Having a global epidemic and the world in crisis gave students the perfect excuse for not doing their work. Instead they got on and did their work. In fact I was amazed at some of the results. So here is a glimpse into what they have been working on, some completed with me in class, and the rest in lockdown.
- I think the style of teaching where students are actively encouraged to work independently, accessing the resources when they need them, is a huge advantage. When we get back to school, this should be encouraged, enforced, regulated. It is in the best interests of the students.
- It helped that we had two weeks of preparation for lockdown, even though the preparation was all highly speculative and hypothetical. We had discussions and made plans anyway. Students and parents need to know what the expectations are. Having experienced this first lockdown, we will be better prepared for the next one.
- Video creation is now more important than ever. Teachers and parents could learn a thing or two from students with this skill.
- Video conference calls, while they can feel a bit awkward to start off with, are a fast track to touch base and get some instructions out to the class. Or to the team, department, board.
- It is important to have some protocols surrounding these calls. For example, a mute student mic helps until some order to the call is established. Typing their questions in a chat box is great to get the conversation started. It helps ease the initial awkwardness too.
- I have heard that some schools have insisted on school uniforms for these video calls. While I get their reasoning, I really cannot understand this type of deficit thinking. Give students more credit than that, is my view. Our school, by way of example, “conducted 2796 Meets in the last 10 days with an average length of 15 minutes.” Not once did I hear a complaint about the students’ attire being inappropriate in any way.
- I would strongly advise against getting students to simply fill in worksheets or do online exercises. Now is the time to get creative. Learn new skills, as with the Everyone can Create series. The beauty of these workbooks is that they take technology outside. For example going on Photo Walks and Freezing the Perfect Action Shot. For more ideas, have a look at the newly curated apps on the App Store
- It is also the time to resurface old skills, like knitting, sewing and crafts. YouTube is probably the perfect place to start.
Having a plan, being prepared, is the way to cope with the new normal. Because the world as we knew it is gone.Tweet