Education: Factory Reset
If you've ever had a phone or tablet that became so crowded with apps, data, and bloatware that it basically ceased to function, you might have turned to a factory reset as a last resort. Smartphones are equipped with the capability of erasing everything, all apps and customizations, and letting you start over from scratch. This is sometimes a good option if you want to pump new life into a phone without buying a new one.
Assuming you've linked your phone to your Google or iTunes account, the first thing you do when your phone resets is to get back into your app store and download your essential apps. What you typically notice during this process, however, is how many unessential apps you had. There are a lot of programs that, upon a second look, aren't really that necessary. Typically this process provides the user with a cleaner, more efficient phone that operates at a much higher efficiency.
Whether we wanted it to or not, I believe that COVID-19 has performed a factory reset on education in America.
For years, many of my tech-friendly educator friends have been utilizing digital platforms for learning. They've flipped their classrooms, integrated web 2.0 tools, and brought education out of the 1950s assembly line model that it was built on. Using Google Classroom or Canvas, or even Zoom or Skype, is not new. Some teachers have been doing that for well over a decade.
The rest of us wouldn't listen, however.
We kept doing things the way they had always been done because, well, that's the way things always had been done. We assigned chapters to read, practice problems from a book, and review questions to answer or blackline masters to complete.
Yet as we are brought into the digital reality of the 21st century, kicking and screaming, many of us are finding out that this technology thing isn't that bad. You can actually get a lot done with virtual platforms. While it's different, it can also be much more efficient.
But when you eventually return to your brick-and-mortar classrooms, whenever that may be, what will you bring back with you from this digital educational experience? Will you go back to your educational app store and simply "Select All" when downloading your previous teaching practices? Or will you be more selective, realizing that there are some things that you used to do that you don't really need to anymore?
If there's one thing that I hope never to see in classrooms again, its worksheets. Worksheets are time-fillers, packets of busywork designed to keep students quiet. If teachers want to assess learning or provide opportunities to practice, there are much more engaging and efficient ways to do so. To read some of my ideas on the matter, see here.
Virtual learning environments can deliver lecture, practice problems, and basic interactions. Instead of lecturing for 25 minutes and having students takes notes, record your lecture and post it to a digital classroom. Students can then watch and review it at their leisure. Instead of taking class time for a test, post it in a digital classroom. It'll be much more efficient and will be graded instantly.
The one thing that virtual learning environments have difficulty providing is human interaction. Deep, personal connection and high-quality interactions is difficult to achieve through a webcam. When you return to your classroom, why not put more emphasis on peer collaboration? Instead of filling class time with low-level tasks, flip that. Have the students watch a short lecture and answer basic questions at home in preparation for the class. Then their class time can be used to work on difficult, mind-stretching projects or tasks that require teacher support and teamwork.
These are just some of my thoughts on the unexpected factory reset of education performed by COVID-19. What are you going to bring back to your brick-and-mortar classroom when you return?
What are you going to leave behind?