In three short weeks my colleagues and I will be back in the hallways, classrooms, and dining hall of our school. This is a time of year when I typically purge old kitchen items, donate old clothing to Goodwill, and send my kids off to their respective dorm rooms, or college apartments. It is a time of anticipation, excitement, and new beginnings. It has always been one of my favorite times of the year. This year is different in so many ways. In the midst of a global pandemic, (can’t believe I just wrote that), I am finding ways to envision what school will look like and feel like.
Trust is the word that continues to come to mind when I anticipate this upcoming year. I am having to trust not only myself to make wise choices, but I am having to trust in other people’s judgement and actions. It is a vulnerable position and one that I have no control over. I can only control my actions and how I proceed with caution and mindfulness, and the rest will be the test of placing trust in others. Trust that students will wear a mask, trust that procedures will ensure safe traffic patterns, and trust that we can still have a positive learning experience even with tightened protocols.
As someone who has done tech integration for years, I have also built a lot of trust in a handful of tools that I know will make this year possible. And while it appears that I will be teaching in a face to face model, I will be relying on a virtual classroom experience in order to reduce transmission and close proximity to students; a painful decision, but one that must happen.
While I could not show up to school without trusting people, I could also not be an effective educator without my trusted technology tool box. This is my list of must haves for a successful blended learning experience for content delivery and student engagement. Some are specific to my Design Thinking projects as denoted by *, but the others are universal.
I’ve worked diligently over the years to support teachers in their efforts to grow and transform how they deliver content to students. The old “sage on the stage” motto has moved to a “guide on the side” model. Pushing educators to embrace opportunities that allow for student choice, student creation, and flipped models of learning have been some of my primary goals. I worry that by placing students in socially distanced rows, and streaming real time lectures to remote students we will inherently return teaching models to years long past. But maybe not. Maybe this is a forced opportunity for us to grow and tap into the technology that has been available to us for years. Maybe we can utilize online platforms and create blended learning environments that still support a “guide on the side” model. Maybe we can provide spaces for student creation, publication, and positive feedback loops. This is my hope. I am trusting that this will happen.