March 14, 2020
I’m supposed to be getting a ton of stuff done right now, like grad school work, lesson plans, and the usual weekend chores around the house, but I just can’t. Like many humans in the world, I’m having a hard time concentrating on the tasks at hand. I have to express this right here before I can move on…
Is This Really Happening?
It’s amazing to experience the unprecedented ripple effects of one COVID-19.
If you’ve ever doubted the interdependence of humanity, and just how much we need each other, this is another wake-up call–a real slap in the face. As our priorities sprint their way up the sinking iceberg to stay afloat, so many other seemingly important structures, schedules, events, and details submerge just beneath the surface, ebbing and flowing with just enough anxiety to quake a tsunami at any moment.
It’s in this context where I find myself exhausted, at a loss for words, but to recount these few anecdotes to make meaning of the world around me. I hope they resonate with you, and, if you felt like leaving a comment, it would help. We’re all in this together.
Virtual Learning–Or Not?
I love technology, especially when it’s integrated and implemented appropriately in our learners’ lives and spaces. As a self-proclaimed Edtech Enthusiast and a vendor-proclaimed Ambassador of a few technologies, I should be sprinting to leverage all the platforms and resources to promote virutal learning when kids can’t be at school. Indeed, a few years ago, I would have had posted 30 assignments in Google Classroom and Flipgrid, by now. Currently, I do applaud the efforts I’m seeing on social media to help and support learning beyond our school campuses.
Personally, I’m not there… yet. Something just doesn’t feel right. I can’t put my finger on it, exactly, but it kind of feels like exploitation in a way. I’d feel like I’m pushing a product or bragging on my services and myself, taking advantage of vulnerable people, and pedaling profits and promotions for vendors who may not always have the customers’ best interests in mind–especially in uncertain, trying times. More importantly, what about all the other needs of the Whole Child–the ones that matter waaay more than any instruction, content, or virtual learning experience could ever provide.
Yes, there’s a time and place for virtual learning–and for the right reasons. I’m just not feeling it right now. Maybe in a few days?
Anyone else feeling this?
A Different Kind of Learning Experience
I’m not sure sure how the experts are defining blended learning nowadays, but I love the hybrid model. I love when face-to-face, human interactions are meaningfully integrated with other resources–including hands-on, online, virtual, electronic, distance, remote, digital… or maybe I have that backwards?
As I type at this very moment, whole states, districts, and school staffs are rushing to throw together virtual learning experiences for full implementation in a matter of hours. I’m wondering about that. Here are a few of my concerns.
Are we expecting that…
- Every child’s non-instructional, basic needs are being met at home?
- Community efforts will be made to meet basic needs before instruction?
- Every child has wifi and a device at home?
- Teachers will offer non-digital learning opportunities, too?
- We’ll use technologies we’ve already used in class, together?
- We won’t “grade” virtual work–just provide meaningful feedback?
- We’ll continue to differentiate appropriately?
- Assignments will be relevant, meaningful, rigorous, and personalized?
- Teachers will work from home, without access to school-based resources?
- Teachers will know how to screencast, navigate, and assemble media?
- All assignments are required or optional?
- Students who don’t complete virtual work will be penalized?
- No one will get sick, identify as at-risk, or self-quarantine?
- Parents will be home to monitor, support, and help as needed?
The Human Element
No learning experience is as meaningful, powerful, and effective as the face-to-face connection. That’s why I believe that the students, teachers, physical spaces, and professional learning experiences like conferences will never be replaced.
But how does that translate to the virtual learning model? Aren’t there intangibles about the face-to-face connection that simply can’t be replaced by online learning? Aren’t there non-instructional needs met at school that can’t be recorded in a video online? Will our expectations adapt appropriately to this seemingly subtle nuance, given the COVID-19 context? Will we come together in a deeper understanding of exactly what we’re defining and expecting in our virtual learning?
This week, I was reminded how human we are. I found it interesting that:
- Everything from sporting events like March Madness to high school sports was cancelled without first being postponed. That’s a huge difference in mindset, and it underscores extreme, looming fears of liabilities and details unknown.
- Many adults exhibit high levels of anxiety when their future is uncertain. At times, it’s palpable, like you could cut it with a knife. From refreshing browsers every five minutes to communicating one more time: “No, I haven’t heard any updates yet,” it was a lot to experience. Super hard to be good at teaching and learning if you can’t compose your thoughts. And, if it’s like that for adults, how much more for kids? And how much more for communities whose needs are much different than mine? What about students who have major distracting thoughts like that every day?
- When reassuring a colleague again yesterday, I said: “At some point, you have to transform conflict into opportunity. You have to change your mindset. You have to shift from absorbing every negative thing you see and hear to seeing and creating opportunities for good. ‘I may get more time with family, friends, and loved ones. That’s an opportunity.'” That’s easier said-than-done.
Stay safe, my friends.
This week, I was reminded how much we all need:
❤️ One Another
➡️ Critical Thinking
What would you add?
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 14, 2020
I'm still thinking on this, Kevin. For now, I'm going to pause, reflect, and soul-search the right approach. I'm gathering the facts first, and, as my own circumstances unfold, I may get back with a plan. I'm interested to see how you move forward, too. Please circle back! 6/4
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 14, 2020
I'm seeing all these posts about virtual learning, yet part of me thinks that the only homework we should be assigning is to spend quality time with family, friends, and loved ones.
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 12, 2020