With schools closing and students learning from home for much of term one and term two this year, technology infrastructure and business continuity plans across the education sector have been put to the test. While this year has been challenging for a range of education stakeholders from students and teachers, to parents and leadership teams, it’s also presented opportunities to adapt and even capitalise on growth opportunities.
In this article, we look at the different ways in which schools are adapting and what your school needs to remember to continue innovating and growing, despite the difficulties you may be encountering.
Online learning is only step one
Technology has played a continually bigger role in the classroom in recent years. With many students already familiar with technology, moving to online learning arguably hasn’t been a challenge from an ability perspective. Keeping students and teachers engaged is, however, the challenge. For some teachers, delivering classes online is unfamiliar. Not only is there a need to understand the technology, but teachers also need to adapt quickly, sometimes during class, to keep students engaged online.
With COVID-19 providing a turning point in online and remote learning, it highlights that new delivery models are no longer the domain of tech-savvy teachers. As a result, schools need the right technology and programs in place to ensure every teacher and student is comfortable with new learning settings.
Effective, human-centred leadership is critical
Striking a balance between IQ and EQ is important for leaders in a business-as-usual environment. The events of this year, however, have highlighted the importance of being an emotionally intelligent leader who can empathise with stakeholders, while maintaining the strategic capabilities for effective decision making. It’s not always easy to find this balance, but actively listening to various stakeholders to identify common issues and challenges is a critical first step when you’re leading in challenging times.
Growth opportunities from putting crisis response plans into action
Schools around the world were tested at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when their crisis response plans were no longer a drill. While schools have to prepare for a range of crisis scenarios, this year has highlighted all the different things schools need to remember when enacting their crisis response plans.
Effectively moving to online learning, distribution of technology, communication processes, managing students and parents, ensuring business continuity and campus closure were among the critical factors that schools needed to address. It can be easy to think about the chaos of enacting a crisis response plan, but these difficulties also indicate opportunities for growth and improvement.
Teachers need to remain flexible with their approach
Implementing change in any organisation is challenging and being able to adapt and remain flexible is critical to make change effective. For example, moving to an online learning environment may have been step one of the remote learning process, but further areas for change are often revealed after these initial steps. “We’ve cut our classes basically in half and created one-on-one check-ins between the teacher and the student,” explained Brad Cooke, a history teacher from the Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia in the US. Feedback like this is an important reminder for teachers to adapt and ensure students remain engaged, so they achieve the best possible outcomes from their learning.
Keeping students engaged highlights pedagogy shortfalls
For many schools and teachers, the days of lecture-style learning are long gone. The recent changes to learning environments have, however, revealed the need for improved pedagogy in some cases. Instead of showing the teachers of tomorrow how to teach, more effective pedagogy would provide an environment where teachers have the skills and abilities to adapt their teaching style based on the delivery format. This would equip new teachers with the ability to be more aware of student engagement levels and identify students who need further attention.
Strengthening communication with parents
Schools that have effectively engaged with parents and carers have seen the rewards of maintaining and strengthening these relationships. Even if your school’s engagement with parents was an area for improvement before the COVID-19 pandemic, new communication channels and processes you established this year are important tools that your school could use in the long term to keep parents engaged.
Bringing study abroad opportunities to the home
With international travel unlikely for the coming months, possibly years, study abroad programs will take on a whole new meaning. How do you offer students the opportunity to learn about and experience new cultures from their home? For some schools, it’s inspiring teachers to look at how they can offer global learning experiences in a virtual environment. Now is an opportune time to think about how your school can offer these experiences to your students, and the professional development opportunities this provides teachers as well.
Making sure every student has access to technology
The move to online learning has highlighted where some students may not have access to multiple devices at home. To that end, schools have either had to stick with paper-based learning materials or organise the rollout of devices to students. These rollouts are no easy feat and coupled with the challenges of the pandemic, highlight the importance of future-proofing the learning environment for all students through providing all the infrastructure they need to enrich their learning experience.
Keep moving forward
Balancing the many, and sometimes competing, needs of all the stakeholders at your school is one of the most challenging parts of leading in this sector. How do you ensure strong student outcomes, a great working environment for teachers and effective engagement with parents, while managing the strategic business side of the school’s operations? By seeing the challenges from the year to date as opportunities to adapt and future-proof your school, you’ll be placing your school in a strong position to grow from the current challenges.
Being adaptive and responding quickly is the key to thriving as outlined by digital futurist, Aaron Dignan in the video, The Responsive Organisation. What can you do today to make your school a prime example of innovating for the future?
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