These are strange times we are living in. The concept of what is "normal" is being tested daily. And as parents, educators, and school leaders, we can't help our minds fast-forwarding at times in asking the question "when will things go back to normal?" But the real question we should be asking is "when this is over, what do we want to be doing differently?"
Arguably, going back to the normal we knew and status quo pre-Covid-19 could be a huge missed opportunity. We have the opportunity to do things differently and we have learned so much during this time about ourselves as individuals, about our families, about the way we learn and about how we would like to transmit a love of learning as educators, that it would be inopportune to squander this.
The New Normal in Education and Learning
As we rethink what the “new normal” would look like, perhaps it’s also a great opportunity to reframe education and learning as a whole. At Learnlife, we are very conscious of the language and terminologies we use. We don’t just say “school” and “education” but we say “learning community” and “learning” because learning in life stems out from one's contribution and connection to a wider community and not only from formal institutions that are seemingly isolated bubbles.
In this new series called [RE]LEARN we are exploring what remote learning is and what we can learn from this time to create a "new normal",or as Will Richardson put it last week during our live [RE]LEARN event, an era of the "no normal", that can help the younger generation and indeed, all lifelong learners, to thrive and continue to grow in an ever-changing world.
Last week, Dr. Stephen Harris, Chief Learning Officer at Learnlife, spoke to three of the thought leaders and education innovators who are helping to create a new paradigm for learning. In the first of this interview series, Harris spoke to Prof. Yong Zhao, global leader in education innovation, who shared the need to move away from "deficit thinking" -- shaking the myth around the idea that remote learning is lesser than face to face -- and instead focus on and embrace the opportunities it presents. As Prof. Yong Zhao explained, we are living in a period of family-based remote learning where “nothing is taught but much is learned”.
Learning Through Exploration and Play
A return to creative chaos in the home is welcome at this time, and much needed in order to keep kids engaged. Allowing space and 'free' time in the day for creative freedom and exploration of what learners enjoy is necessary. As School Principal Sarah Martin explains, if schools simply move the in person schedule online, we are imposing an unrealistic burden on families and parents. "We need to view timeframes and schedules flexibly to avoid parents feeling stress of guilt. Parents should engage at the level they can. There is no right or wrong way. And any imposition of a fixed schedule on the student means it is also imposed on the parents and family."
Now is also a time for fun and playfulness. And while having a routine helps to structure the day, it's important to build in time for free play and silliness as a family. Bea Beste, author and creativity enthusiast, goes a step further, calling for parents to "unlearn being adults and relearn being children" to engage in creative play and juxtapose roles in the family dynamic. "Lose the hierarchy where old teach young and allow your child to ‘switch something in you as parents’. For example, they could choose your mode of operation for a while: changing your language, changing how you move. Playful responses come about when you smile and laugh together," says Beste.
You can see the full video interviews below, as well as a summary of the key takeaways.
Prof. Yong Zhao - Global thought leader & author on education
- Let’s not try to replicate “normal” online. This is not a normal time and can be unsettling for kids, but let’s also acknowledge that we need to shatter the myth that learning has to be about face to face.
- Get rid of deficit thinking - rather than seeing online as a “lesser” experience, what does it afford us and what opportunities does it present?
- Start an open dialogue about what school was about and separate out the aspects that are not essential to learning to understand what the future of “school” is and the role it can play
- Focus on entrepreneur-driven work where kids focus on co-creating projects and collaborating on “real-life projects” (e.g creating a product, documentary film, etc) and take a hard look at current assessment practices and national testing
- We’re living in a period of family-based remote learning where “nothing is taught but much is learned”. Embrace the focus on learning, not teaching.
Read full take-away summary
Sarah Martin - Foundation Principal, Stonefields School, Auckland, NZ
- Ensure flexibility in the schedules to assist families and allow room for creativity. Following the one third model helps to do this: one third collaboration, one third continued learning, one third other opportunities and student-led choices.
- Parents are the first teacher of their child. Support parents during this time to give them as many resources and if possible emotional support as possible to help them at this time
- Aim for the children to drive their own learning but with the right guidance, resources and age-appropriate formats (e.g. might need to consider physical resource packs for younger ages)
- Remember that in distance learning the audience is the child and her/her parents and family, so including tips for how parents can support with each activity is vital
Read full take-away summary
Bea Beste - Author, entrepreneur & creativity enthusiast
- This moment we are living is a huge opportunity for growth, learning, deep listening and self-reflection - take advantage of it
- Unlearn being an adult and “relearn being a child”
- Create room for creativity - switch roles and dynamics and let your child lead the activities or seek opportunities to co-learn
- What is currently happening is not homeschooling because homeschooling is a conscious decision by parents but some of the resources and communities can be useful in this situation
Read full take-away summary
If you are interested to find out more about what global educator leaders and innovators have to say about the current state of education, check out our [RE]LEARN playlist.