Will students move out of lock-down to return to locked-down school culture?

This week, I was in a web conference listening to the speaker talk about the educational Covid-curve. I wondered just how much external non teachers could have possibly learning in six weeks to come up with that, but apparently it’s a thing. This then led to discussions about practice, or rather to apparent jump to hyperspace some teachers (who presumably did not use the Internet) – and the ‘new tools’ in play.

Obviously e-learning isn’t new or the preserve of an elite band of technocrats. I have zero interest in people who claim they have been too busy in the last decade to engage with it – even though they are on social media, use online banking etc.,

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I’m sure this has been a conversation many classroom teachers have had this week – the pro’s and con’s of hyper-leap to online. Sure we’ve all been using Google Classrooms, VCs and other bits of software more – and that is harder and more time consuming – but trying to work out if it’s better or worse denies the fact it has been different and necessary.

We cannot begin from the premise of some universal expertise on non-digital learning or e-learning. We can’t honestly say that every child was engaged in school, or that every child even wanted a conversation with their teacher or peers.

The one thing I’ve learned over decades of being in e-learning is that FEEDBACK and CONNECTEDNESS is the killer-app. If you set a single thing online as a task and didn’t give kids feedback to clarify and improve – just close the door behind you. You know if you did this well because you will have had an exponential increase in learning conversations with students though whatever application you are using.

Imagine keeping that going and having IRL conversations. What could be more important – and more disruptive to ‘school culture’. If you’ve experienced that, then you’re part of the cyber future, where all the rules of ‘school’ can be questioned.

The next question people seem to have is the degree to which anyone needs to practice anything order to become an expert  – ground well covered a decade ago by Gladwell and Godin.

The upshot seems to be that teachers are being encouraged to ‘practice’ this as though it’s a new hyper-life and bring bits of into the ‘normal’ classroom. If you’ve had some wins of late – it’s because you have created hyper-feedback loops and not sat about moaning about the lack of physical classroom interaction – which as optimal for everyone.

I’ve also noticed that those students attending school in the last two weeks were largely governed by bells and room allocations and not on what they needed to de-code and clarify from their teachers in order to improve their work at home.

To cement the divide between physical and hyper,  it has been decided that schools now  ‘ban’ on online teaching and only deal with IRL classroom.  This means that any learning kids have done (massive new cognitive load) to be more independent, develop digital workflows will come to an abrupt holt – and if kids are not at school, its game over.

Normal means modernist, industrial age normal and the political agenda of what school is reverts to it’s old shape – and issues. The first signal of this will be the banning of YouTube and a return to people moaning that ‘kids spend too much time online’ and ‘banning phones’. This brief moment where digital proved itself more than worthy, will once again be resigned to the same old debates.

As children move out of lock-down, they are going to be returned to lock-down.

I transitioned to a blended learning approach years ago and there is nothing wrong with mixing the old and the new. What is important for me is shift in the physical space. I’ve ditched the computer room and booked the soft-space with lounges, because I’m more interested in putting in the cyberculture of ‘home learning’ than returning to the computer room. I think changing physical space is as important to the return to schools as Zoom was to leaving it. While people are wondering if there will be any future changes; this seems the wrong question – there is no doubt there will be future cultures, once which emerge from catastrophic events.

I don’t for a moment think the ‘return’ to normal will be made more real by ignoring realty. This might be what the government wants, but it isn’t what students need. The crisis isn’t over – so why not try an meet them in the middle.

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