The Times: They are A-ChangED (thanks Bob)

A Sink or Swim Moment

I have Bob Dylan playing in my head. His 1963 anthem references the huge social-political upheaval surrounding the Civil Rights Movement of the time. His plea for change is urgent. A sink or swim moment.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ 
or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Bob Dylan

 

 

Thanks to Covid-19, the world is in another sink or swim moment.
As far as the world of education is concerned, in January 2020 we could still have been singing “the times they are a-changing.”
However right now, May 2020, there is no doubt that the times, they are a-changed.

Catalyst for Change

Although Covid-19 has been tragic and devastating, it has also been a dramatic catalyst for the reordering, re-imagining, restructuring, and re-calibrating of all aspects of all our lives. Because I am an educator, I am mostly interested in the consequences of the lockdown and the effect that three months of either no school or some form of remote learning has had in my world of education.

As we look forward to the new school year in just three months or so, our administrators are planning for an uncertain future.  How many students will return to class? Should classes look the same? How many students should we have in a classroom?  Can we manage safe clean environments in our makerspaces?  What about our libraries?  What precautions do we take to ensure the health and safety of our students? Should we remain traditional classroom-based? Offer blended-learning? Online learning? Virtual Learning? Hybrid learning? Hyflex learning? Synchronous or Asynchronous learning?

Learning Environments are A-ChangEd

I think we all agree that for the next year or two at least, the student learning environment will be a crucial game-changing conversation. Although this conversation about effective learning environments is not new, it is now at the forefront of many educators and administrators as they contemplate the future of education in a post Covid-19 world.

The International Society for Technology in Education has been instrumental in leading, developing, and supporting technology integration and innovation in education since its inception in 1979. The ISTE standards provide a strong pedagogical framework for educators to build rich, transformative learning experiences which allow students to thrive in a digital world.

ISTE Standard 6: Educator as Facilitator

All the ISTE standards can be found on their site, iste.org, however for this assignment I have been investigating standard 6 which states that the facilitator will “model creative expression, empower students to take ownership of their learning and create opportunities for students to innovate and solve problems.” The standard highlights the student as a stakeholder in their own education. The phrase I am most interested in is empower students to take ownership of their learning, especially as it pertains to standard 6b which states that “educators manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.” The implication is that educators and students should be communicating and working in blended learning environments.

Educators:
6b: Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.

In order for teachers to fulfill this standard they will need training and support to provide a wide variety of non-virtual and virtual learning experiences.

So my question is twofold:
What Learning Environments will teachers need to be prepared for?
What training and support mechanisms will teachers need in order to maximize their ability to nurture and support student learning given the variety of teaching environments?

Learning Environments Defined

What are these learning environments that are referenced? Are they at school or online?

Traditional Classroom – Synchronous
This is probably what we all remember from our own time in school. Desks in rows, or maybe a circle, a teacher up front delivering carefully created content following a standardized curriculum to an entire class at once. The traditional classroom often uses some aspect of technology to enhance or replace teacher content or student product. 

Hybrid/Blended Learning – Synchronous/Asynchronous
A combination of traditional face to face interaction and online learning. A flipped classroom is a good example of a hybrid or blended learning experience. The introduction of concepts occurs at home, outside of school time, by students engaging with digital content usually created by teachers. Students then come to school to continue investigating and practicing that concept with the guidance of a teacher.

HyFlex – Synchronous/Asynchronous
The HyFlex model is a combination of in-class and remote learning. Students have access to hard copy and online tools. It is modular, digitized, and individualized, practiced mainly in universities and colleges. In my opinion, schools will begin experimenting with aspects of HyFlex as we move into a post Covid world because the HyFlex model is all about the student.

Students have the flexibility to make their choice of in-class or remote. They can choose by subject, by module, time period (weekly, monthly.) A comprehensive discussion of the HyFlex model in schools, including advantages and disadvantages, can be found in the Higher Ed blog post titled Fall Scenario #13: A HyFlex Model. The Educause Learning Iniative also has a good explanation of HyFlex learning which offers a scenario for what it could look like in the classroom. The 7 Things you should know about the Hyflex Course Model is an informative downloadable .pdf file created in 2010 with a focus on tertiary education, however the information it shares is pertinent to schools today.

If you are interested in understanding more about Blended learning, I recommend reading through Blended Learning Universe, BLU. A number of schools already practicing a form of Hyflex/Blended Learning are highlighted in a June 2019 blogpost titled IS THE ENRICHED VIRTUAL BLENDED-LEARNING MODEL THE FUTURE OF HIGH SCHOOL? They also advice and tips for designing a blended Learning experience.

As a teacher reading this blog, you more than likely were taught, trained and now teach in a blended learning environment. What support do you feel you need as you venture into a new school year with either a directive from your administration, or your own impulse, to give your students the autonomy to take ownership of not only of what they learn, but where, when and how they learn.

Supporting Teachers for Various Learning Scenarios

By August, all teachers will have had some form of remote learning experience. The school closures and lockdown happened very quickly. Some schools were agile and able to smoothly transition to remote learning, while others took a while to collect and distribute resources. Many teachers experimented with digital tools ‘on the fly’. Administrators will be assessing resources such as technology infrastructure and securing privacy of students and teachers, availability and use of digital devices, quality and efficacy of educational apps, and other issues regarding remote learning. They should also be offering and implement pedagogically sound professional development for teachers. Teachers’ learning styles and schedules are as varied as those of their students, so a variety of professional development should be available for faculty.

What Support is Available?

The better question is which support strategy best supports which teacher? And the answer is: The teacher knows best. Allow teachers to have agency in deciding how best to spend their professional development time. Of course, there are graduate degree programs, continuing degree programs, certification courses (some of which I have highlighted below.)

Formal Support

Certification and Recognition Programs

The Microsoft Educator Center is a place for teachers to explore self-paced courses and learning paths related to Microsoft products such as the Office 365 suite which includes OneNote, Teams, and Sway. Teachers can earn badges or become MIE Experts who “relish the role of change agent, and work to achieve excellence in education using Microsoft technologies coupled with their innovative teaching practices.”

Google for Education also has certifications and Professional Development programs. Educator Level 1 and 2 Certifications are prerequisites to Google’s Certified Innovator and Trainer programs, which encourages teachers to lead, and collaborate with other educators.

The Apple Teacher Learning Center, according to their website, is a “free professional learning program designed to support and celebrate educators using Apple products for teaching and learning. As an educator you can build skills on iPad and Mac that directly apply to activities with your students, earn recognition for the new things you learn, and be rewarded for the great work you do every day.”

ISTE Certification. According to the ISTE website, “ISTE is focused on pedagogy, not tools. It’s not about edtech per se, it’s about what you do with the tech to transform learning and improve student outcomes… ISTE Certification helps PK-12 educators rethink and redesign learning activities with technology to engage students in real-world, authentic, active learning.”

Common Sense Educator Recognition encourages teachers and librarians to get trained in Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Teachers and Librarians will “help lead responsible and effective tech use in your school communities and build your practice along the way.” The curriculum focuses on six topics: Media Balance & Well-Being, Privacy & Security, Digital Footprint & Identity, Relationships & Communication, Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech, and News & Media Literacy.

Edurolearning.com is a small business which offers a variety of certification and recognition opportunities. According to their website they are “passionate about redefining professional learning by honoring the craft of educators. Their model is flexible and they give teachers “agency, choice, and an authentic opportunity to collaborate with fellow practitioners around the world.” Their curriculum includes topics such as Advanced Coding in the Classroom, Gamify your Classroom, Design Thinking in the Classroom, and Pedagogical Approaches for the Tech-rich Classroom.

This summer, our teachers will be taking advantage of the free course offered by Global Online Learning. GOA is a non-profit organisation who, according to their website, “collaborate with forward-thinking schools and learning organizations on change initiatives, high-quality professional development online and in person, and customized online learning programs.” The free course is being offered as a result of the Covid crisis and is called Designing for Online Learning.

Informal Support

I’ve called the following ideas ‘informal support’ because I’m not sure what the correct term maybe. By informal support, I’m suggesting the support is free or inexpensive, not required by administration, targeted, useful, low-risk, collaborative, peer-to-peer, and flexible. This support would include following educators on social media such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. It could also include teacher-led small interest groups or an ‘open doors’ policy in the hallway, or checking-in with a teacher/mentor.

What Support Do You Need?

Have you thought about what support you may be needing? In an Open Education Resource that I have not yet had time to fully explore, the author, Tony Bates asks: If you could design or change your organization’s strategy for teaching and learning, what would you include? Chapter 12 of his book, Teaching in a Digital Age, directly relates to how teachers can be supported in as they provide blended or hiflex learning experiences for their students.

Now that you have completed about 3 months of remote learning, you may have a better idea of the areas you need to target in order to successfully give your students the skills they need to become empowered learners and innovative problem solvers. I hope some of my ideas have sparked some curiosity, but I know that there are many more ideas out there. If you could create your own Professional development for the coming year, what would it look like? I’d love you to share your thoughts.

References

Bates, T. (2019, October 10). Chapter 13: Supporting teachers and instructors in a digital age. Retrieved from https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/teachinginadigitalagev2/part/chapter-12-supporting-teachers-and-instructors-in-a-digital-age/Best_Schools. (2018, January 31).

Synchronous Learning vs. Asynchronous Learning in Online Education. Retrieved from https://thebestschools.org/magazine/synchronous-vs-asynchronous-education

Common Sense Recognition. (2018, March 8). Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/recognition

Design. (2019, August 7). Retrieved from https://www.blendedlearning.org/design

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90WD_ats6eE

Education – K-12 – Apple Teacher. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/education/k12/apple-teacher

Eduro Learning. (2020, May 14). Retrieved from https://edurolearning.com

ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Microsoft. (n.d.). Free Integrated Technology in the Classroom Training: Microsoft Education. Retrieved from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/educators/training-and-community

Teacher Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://edu.google.com/teacher-center/?modal_active=none

White, J. (2019, July 25). Is the Enriched Virtual blended-learning model the future of high school? Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://www.blendedlearning.org/is-the-enriched-virtual-blended-learning-model-the-future-of-high-school

Who We Are: Empowering Students & Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://globalonlineacademy.org/who-we-are

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