There is that old saying that says “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”
As schools around us begin to close one by one the reality has hit and within weeks, if not days, ALL schools could be forced to close. I know many school leadership teams have been entrenched in crisis planning this past month and it’s a hard slog when you’re behind the eight ball, understaffed and underprepared.
For those who have implemented online or blended delivery modes already using robust Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) and portals, they are quietly confident. They have been retraining their staff in new delivery modes for years and now they get to reap the reward of their investment in online learning.
For the rest it’s time to start making lemonade, as this is your opportunity:
- To leapfrog (surpass or overtake another to move into a leading or dominant position). You have the choice of some incredibly versatile and mature LMS platforms out there so don’t wait any longer.
- To change mindsets. You don’t have the luxury of a slow change management process, preparing the educators and students, however this means the educators have no choice but to embrace it alongside the students and join them on what might be the learning adventure of a lifetime. It’s an exciting time of momentous growth, an evolution in teaching practice and a flipped mindset for many. It will mean many educators are learning alongside their students for the first time, they will be nervous as they will not have the control they crave and they will have to finally move on from being “the sage on the stage’.
- To test your IT teams. Is their focus on the end game of teaching and learning or just on technology? Are they able to support the community in setting up, and providing training and support, in online conferencing tools? Is the infrastructure and the policies in place to allow and support students learning from home? If school devices don’t have webcams, do you at least have a mobile app or responsive interface that will allow teachers and students to interact via any mobile device?
- To lift digital skill levels. All the tools teachers will be forced to embrace new tools to boost learner engagement, some of which they may have never used before e.g. blogging, chats, web conferencing, online whiteboarding, videos, audio feedback, widgets, surveys, quizzes etc Many will need to be told that an LMS is not the place for uploading daily PDFs and PowerPoint packs and many will need someone to help them build their LMS classroom/content pages so that they are appealing, well designed and engaging. Remember there’s no need to reinvent the wheel either, as there’s plenty of content out there and perhaps it’s time for you to consider microcredentials or linking to external content via MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses).
- To test your business continuity plan.
- To get feedback. When it’s all over be open to feedback and be open to reflecting on what went right and what went horribly wrong.
- To apply to school leadership and boards to get more $$$ to invest so that you can remain future focussed and future ready and never find yourselves in this position again.
My tip is that the biggest area for growth in K-12 education right now is for teachers with instructional design skills. At my previous school, we first employed an Instructional Designer in 2013, we then moved to training our educators (as opt-in professional development) and before I left in January we had trained around thirty of them. It’s definitely time that our teacher training courses take on this burden from schools, as from this point onwards these skills will no longer be “nice to haves” but absolutely required.
It is disruptive times like these that force change and innovation. All parts of the community will be more open to change during a crisis. Embrace this opportunity, change is often hard and the community is often resistive, but just like we keep telling students, the future is all about being adaptable and agile.