In my previous blog, I concluded by quoting Winston Churchill saying, “never let a good crisis go to waste”. This pandemic has devastated the lives of millions and dealt a blow to the world economy. It has also had a profound impact on schools and the education journey of our children.
In his book Stratosphere, Michael Fullan tells us that the time has arrived for schools to take the next step and move to a ‘future-relevant’ school model. We know as parents and teachers that the current way that we are doing school is not preparing our children for the kind of world they are living in and are going to have to find work in. Fullan says that there is now a perfect combination of technology, learning theory and change management. This combination will allow us to move forward if we are willing to change the way we teach. An important point that he makes about technology is that it must be “ubiquitous”, that is it must be everywhere and invisible. Think about the devices in your homes, especially phones and tablets. You probably do not even think about how advanced they are and how often you look at the screen or use it in your daily life. What Fullan is saying it should be expected for our children to do the same in their learning each day.
One of the most common experiences of teachers trying to use technology in their classes is that technology often gets in the way of learning. You take your class into the lab, and everyone is excited because you are going to use the computers to learn about volcanoes using a simulation. Within seconds you see a forest of hands. “Mam my computer won’t switch on”, “I’ve forgotten my password”, “My mouse/keyboard does not work”. If we tell the kids to bring their own devices then you get; “My WiFi is not connecting”, “Mam the simulation won’t work on my device”, “I cannot access the app store?” The lesson process is disrupted. By the time all the problems have been solved, the lesson is nearly over.
These kinds of experiences have led to teachers avoiding the use of technology or only using it in shallow gimmicky ways. Technology should rather than as a tool to make students sit up and become entranced and excited about their learning.
iPads overcame many of these problems, they switch on immediately and are not likely to have software or hardware failures. This still left the issue of teachers lacking confidence and experience in using technology in their classes made worse by their early experience of frustration. You also need a proper system for managing devices at school to avoid many of the problems of using them
The pandemic has changed this. The technology implementation that took me six years to achieve as a leader in my previous school was achieved in two weeks in my current one. Teachers and parents have had enough positive experiences that the resistance to using technology has reduced. Parents have also experienced their children benefiting from asynchronous learning (where students do the work in their own time rather than at a set time with their peers). Parents are more willing to consider online schooling as a real option for their kids.
So, where does this leave us? Evolve Online School plans to take advantage of all benefits of technology to redesign the way children learn. We do not have to inherit any weaknesses from the existing system. Still, we can start from the ground up and build a new system that includes the latest advances in technology. We can embrace all the research that has been done into how children learn and build their confidence and skills. We can move away from one size fits all solutions. Most importantly, we have no buildings so we can make the costs much more affordable so that more parents can provide a quality education for their kids.
There is now a perfect opportunity for Evolve Online to make sure that the crisis we are experiencing can lead to improvements in learning. We can increase the number of children who can be properly prepared for their futures. Learning without limits can be a real experience and not just a slogan.