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Editorial: What sort of experience?

Darren Sudlow —

As a parent and educator it has been very interesting to watch schools respond to our current lock down situation.

For many it has been to just get through. So the design of learning online, the activity that students are engaging in, and its format have sometimes been quick and functional. I get that. As a parent I have appreciated those schools who have allowed room for families to get use to their new normal, set up their systems and routines and ensure well-being is the initial focus. Those schools who immediately replicated their classes through video conference have missed the point.

However, we need to consider the medium and long-term here. I hope that no matter how long schools are closed, that it enables us an opportunity to consider a brave new world where learning is ubiquitous, fluid and connected. Because, done well, that what’s online learning brings. It breaks down walls and boundaries. 

In the current scenario the home school partnership is far stronger and far more weighted towards the parents. What are the implications looking long term? What is the role of formal schooling? As a parent, what I need is the social / community connections, and the learning guidance. Does that have to come in the form of schools as the formal institutions that currently exist? I am not sure it does.

That relates to structures, but what about the experience we want students to have online? What are its greatest benefits. Yes, it provides flexibility, but flexibility to do what? Complete a worksheet online? Work through a Math platform? It can give students greater agency over their learning, but not if the teacher maps out every little detail of what they are to do. And in this situation, what is it we are missing the most? Us. People. The human factor.

So as this draws on (and it looks as though it may), my challenge to schools and teachers is how can you evolve online practice so it emphasises those key factors - Agency, flexibility and connection? How can design leverage the flexibility of the environment? How can we bring the student into the design mix? Give them greater agency and support them in that? And what can we do to ensure we develop opportunities for rich connection between students?

As I previously mentioned, I do understand why some of the current activity is simple, practical, and to the point. However, a few weeks down the track…

And once we have had time to take breath and reflect, what are the implications for the future of education? Nothing? I hope not.