March 29, 2021
Blogger’s Note: Friends! This Phi Delta Kappan Journal article: “Ed tech’s failure during the pandemic, and what comes after” by Justin Reich really pushed my thinking. I’m choosing a few excerpts upon which to expound. Will you join me? This is part I. I’d love your thoughts, comments, and feedback. End Blogger’s Note.
“Evangelists for education technology tend to describe their inventions as akin to Swiss army knives, capable of serving numerous functions and solving a myriad of problems. But, in truth, they more closely resemble a scattered pile of mismatched tools. Many are useful for specific tasks, but the whole collection adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Experienced instructional designers can create powerful experiences using these tools, but remote classrooms relying primarily on a learning management system and video conferencing cannot support the range of interactions that are possible in a classroom with a human teacher who has access to chairs, desks, paper, blackboards, and a cart of laptops” (Reich, 2021).
Nothing will ever replace the face-to-face learning experience. If I stopped right here, it’d be enough to sum it up.
After all, everyone knows that. Everyone knows that in-person learning is priceless. Everyone knows that computers, laptops, phones, Internet connectivity, or a few tech tools will never equate to the in-person, human learning experience. Technology neither substitutes for nor replaces humans. And everyone knows that… right?
Yet, this one part really got me. This one part affects the whole:
“Many [edtech tools] are useful for specific tasks, but the whole collection adds up to less than the sum of its parts.“
This has me thinking:
That Was Then: The Pandemic Pivot
The pandemic forced schools to pivot from buildings to screens. After all, if we had the means, access, and potential, then it’s game-on for schooling, right?
All around the world, throughout the USA, and all across my state, whole schools districts scrambled to convert the 3D, face-to-face, classroom learning experience into the 2D, screen-to-screen, remote learning experience. Yet, as educators worldwide would wrestle to realize, you can’t seamlessly convert 3D to 2D. The components aren’t congruent or interchangeable, let alone as similar as they seemingly once were. You can’t make a science out of an art. When you transition from 3D to 2D, you’re leaving out one whole D: depth. And I would argue that the most vital, important dimension of all is depth… of human hearts, minds, and connections.
Deep down, I believe that educators knew this. Yet, in the pivotal pandemic moments, we did the best we could with what we had. And what we had was [what we might later embrace as] opportunity.
School buildings were closed. Teaching and learning were open.
Speaking as an educator about my own district, I still marvel at the miraculous work done by our technology leaders, departmental and support personnel, and classroom teachers and educators throughout the process. I’m grateful to work in my district and to be surrounded by brilliant minds like these.
This Is Now: The Pedagogical Pivot
Do you remember those first fight-or-flight moments in the pandemic pivot? I remember experiencing firsthand how educators were being encouraged to just “reach out to your people” and “make phone calls and contact your kids” and “focus on building relationships and making connections first” and “spend time with your family.”
Content wasn’t front-and-center in the initial stages of shelter-in-place. Yet, we would later have to un-shelter content to take it to other places. And oh, the places we would go. Our practices were in for a pedagogical pivot. Ultimately, technology resurfaced as a tool to engage, enhance, and extend learning processes, while the very infrastructure of our pedagogical pathways was–and might still be–under construction.
One year later, I’m still reflecting on the opportunities that lie ahead. What will we do with our pandemic, pedagogical, pivotal experiences? How might we better:
- Blend learning opportunities
- Mesh synchronous and asynchronous
- Whisk connection with content
- Stir standards with curiosity
- Marry meaning with mandates
- Fuse appropriate tools with tasks
- Merge targets with desired outcomes
- Conjoin theory with practice
- Coalesce minds with hearts
- Harmonize learners with learning
- Interflow experiences with everyday life
Why This Matters
I’m not saying that the pandemic is over. I’m not saying that we can ever clearly measure teaching and learning performances before, during, and after a pandemic. And I’m definitely not saying that it’s somehow possible or entirely appropriate that we hereby attempt to redefine, reimagine, or reinvent education. Yet, the opportunity remains…
I’m not saying that education will be forever changed.
I’m wondering if you will be forever changed.
I'm ________ than I was last year.— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 26, 2021