Oh, 2020. What can we say about you? Good riddance? Not sad to see you go? 2020 changed everything: our lives, our jobs, the way we connect with others, and how we educate students. Educational reform has been a topic of discussion for decades, but there’s nothing like a global pandemic to put it into fast forward. Those of us invested in making big changes to an ailing system have been waiting for an opportunity to push down the load-bearing walls, as Schwann and McGarvey describe in their excellent book on mass customized learning, Inevitable. Walls such as grade levels, traditional textbooks, grading systems, and 8-hour school days have locked us in as reformers. If we can celebrate something in 2020, it’s the fact that it helped topple those load-bearing walls and gave educators an opportunity to explore and fail forward into true educational reform.
There are so many trends to look for in 2021 and beyond, but the events of 2020 have impacted four areas in particularly unique ways.
1: Virtual Spaces
Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom anymore. Watch a teen for any length of time, and this becomes abundantly clear. I have a 17-year old who really hates school. Why? He doesn’t see the use in it. His passion is audio technology recording. He spends hours working on “beats” (I still don’t understand what that means). He has learned so many skills, though: musical patterns and themes, technology, collaboration with other musicians, etc. How did he learn those skills? YouTube, TikTok, and Google. He uses his own version of “just-in-time learning” (JITL).
As educators, we can capitalize on JITL by creating virtual spaces that allow for creativity, innovation, and experiential learning. As most of us are now immersed in either virtual or remote teaching, we are likely familiar with some form of learning management system (Google Classroom, Schoology, D2L, etc.). These are great for organizing content and providing information for students. But are they truly learning spaces where students feel like they can explore…and belong? Many teachers branch out from the structure of the typical LMS into a more informal virtual space, such as a Bitmoji classroom or makerspace. They create their own little classrooms online that provide a sense of belonging, connectedness, and relationship for their students. Some of my favorite examples include:
2: AI/Data-driven assessment
According to a 2018 report by the Consortium for School Netowrking (CoSN), artificial intelligence is a program or device that, “that performs human intelligence tasks leveraging complex data sets.” For some educators, the idea of AI brings up images of HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But in reality, we are using AI in our classrooms now. A few examples include:
- Mixed reality
- Augmented reality
- Customized/differentiated instruction/Intelligent Tutoring Sysems (ITT)
Artificial intelligence not only PROVIDES data for teachers to use in planning and differentiating instruction, it USES the data itself to provide individualized learning plans for students.
3: Open Educational Resources (OER)
Open Educational Resources (OER), are free, quality resources for K-12 teachers. Teachers can access them freely and can reuse, retain, revise, remix, and redistribute them. These materials can save teachers time, effort, and money so that they can stop re-inventing the wheel and dedicate more attention to connecting with students. A great reseource for learning more about OER is Creative Commons, which provides licenses and tools for people to share their work while maintaining copyrights to it. You can also locate resources on their site. Other great OER sources include:
4: Equitable Access
As virtual and hybrid education expands, the issues of equitable access will continue to grow. SETDA defines equitable access as, “access to devices to use digital content and connect to fellow students, educators and experts throughout the world. It also means sufficient high-speed broadband to the district, the school building, the classroom and the home.” In order for all students to succeed, they must all have the ability to access the materials they need. Safety, security, and privacy are related concerns that educators will continue to struggle with in 2021. Some resources dealing with equitable access include:
- Equity in Education
- What it Means to Have Equitable Access to Technology for Today’s Students and Educators
- Digital Equity: Ensuring Equitable Access to Course Material
These trends are just a sampling of what’s to come in 2021. Stay tuned for more information and details in my next post!
Corey Hall, Ph.D., MLIS is the curriculum specialist at STEM Education Works. She has 24 years experience in the K12 classroom as both a school librarian and teacher. She is also an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, where she teaches technology courses in the adult studies program. Contact Corey at email@example.com for information about speaking engagements or professional development opportunities.