Changing How We Teach In America, Starting Today

By Caleb Hicks, president, Lambda School.

Higher education is struggling to adapt to the current pandemic in unprecedented ways. Campuses across the country are shut down, students have evacuated their dorms, and instructors are scrambling to move their classrooms completely online.

It’s not just about homework and assignments — teachers are trying to engage students while re-imagining the entire classroom experiences in real-time. It begs the questions: What does the classroom of the future really look like? And how can parents, educators, and students best understand and prepare for this new reality?

It starts with the obvious: remove the barrier of physical location with remote learning options. Next is community. Foster student engagement and maintain support systems to ensure digital classrooms are still just as accessible as they are effective.

The classroom of the future will have to meet students where they are, building on basic remote operations with inventive, interactive curriculum and accessible financing options designed so that diverse communities can succeed in this new normal.

The classroom of the future is live, interactive, and entirely online. 

In 2016, nearly a third of all students took an online education course, and in the past two decades, the technology needed to offer full courses online has improved significantly.

Online learning offers flexibility and often complements in-person courses or lectures. For many students, however, remote learning is the only option. It opens up access to students who would otherwise be out of reach. In particular, students who are their family’s primary caretaker, those who live far from brick-and-mortar institutions, or those with disabilities are sometimes excluded or discouraged from enrolling in higher education without online options. Remote instruction, by design, brings more students into the fold.

Online instructors, though, have a challenge to meet: creating a learning experience that extends beyond a recorded lecture. To ensure student success long-term, student engagement and community building within a virtual classroom is critical. Impact can be easily lost behind a screen, but if you focus on live and collaborative instruction versus static recordings, students feel empowered and held accountable to play an active role in their experience.

Specifically, maintain smaller group settings, no matter how large the lectures are. Have students start and end days in breakout peer groups, where they can have deeper 1:1 discussions and opportunity for collaboration. One way we’ve utilized this at Lambda School is by using Zoom’s breakout function to seamlessly split students off into virtual small-groups during larger lectures. We also facilitate regional student meet-ups in person as well as peer-to-peer communication via Slack to maintain a sense of student body unity.

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Abre Appathon Workshop at Cincinnati’s Student-Run TechOlympics Showcases Students’ App Development Capabilities

By Emily Spinks, marketing manager, abre.io.

It was an early Sunday morning in late February at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, the venue for TechOlympics 2020, the nation’s largest student-run conference that promotes career pathways in information technology to Greater Cincinnati high schoolers. Some 16 students were lining up for a workshop hosted by Abre, an education management platform company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The workshop focused on giving student attendees an opportunity to build education software applications using the platform and leveraging the Abre Appathon framework. Abre has previously held Appathons for local student and educator groups, and this was the second time we hosted one for Cincinnati’s premier tech event for students.

The app development session was an opportunity for students to define problems within their school and develop their own Abre apps as solutions. This session walked students through what Abre is, how Abre works, and how to design and wireframe an app using free online tools.

Rolling in prior to start time, enthusiastic students introduced themselves to Abre team members and made LinkedIn connections. Another student excitedly shared that he’d already attended an Abre Appathon at his school and was even sporting an Abre t-shirt.

Soon after 9 a.m., we were ready to get started. The students sat in small groups of 2-3, which was perfect for the group work they would be doing later in the workshop. Chris Rose, Abre co-founder and VP of Product, Zach Vander Veen, Abre co-founder and VP of Instruction, and I introduced ourselves and shared our current roles and past experiences working in schools. The students shared their names and where they went to high school. Then, Chris and Zach took the lead to dive into the workshop.

Zach opened with a question: “What kind of learning tools do you use at school, to complete and turn in assignments and see where your teachers post your grades?”

Students called out a handful of education technology tools. “There are literally thousands of technology tools that exist,” Zach continued. He discussed how the more software schools use, the more complex managing the software can become, with multiple passwords to recall and poor integrations between the different software. It can sometimes result in a digital overload for users.

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Virtual Learning In The New Educational Age

Responses from Wayne Bovier, founder and CEO, Higher Digital.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

(Higher Digital) Most institutions have treated and viewed online courses and programs as a nice-to-have. The long-term impact for every school should make it clear that distance/online learning is a must have especially for the enduring viability and health of the institution. Education and training needs are increasing within every industry, but accessibility and affordability for most institutions has been a lower priority outside of their current business model. Institutions need to incorporate their IT strategy into their short and long-term strategy of the institution —and I think that more will be open to such changes after the challenges of responding to COVID-19.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

Yes, institutions must make sure that they can keep operations going while supporting and continuing to teach their students regardless of location, and many more will take this seriously now. In a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 will continue to impact in-person classes and schooling while there is still a search for a vaccine, so it’s critical to continue to invest in improving their online operations, support, and outcomes that also improve their accessibility and affordability.

Non-verbal communications are 95% of communications; in addition, learning and engaging with classmates in-person remain valuable.  What will happen is that more students overall will have access to courses and programs. To make this a possibility, institutions should consider broadening their offerings to make distance learning as meaningful and engaging as they possibly can. This in turn will also help institutions to expand their recruiting and enrollment pool.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

“The gap between in-person and distance learning will continue to shrink as technology innovation becomes more immersive. The demand from students, both traditional and non-traditional, and employers continues to increase, but as an industry, higher education has been slow to embrace and expand digital investment that delivers on a strategic mission. In other words, higher education has been too focused on tactical and operational technology investments – important investments but ones that have proven to fall short in the wake of COVID-19. While most schools currently provide a hybrid teaching experience of online and in-person learning, technology must play a larger role moving forward.”

Tools4ever Announces Partnership with Education Technology Leader, Instructure

See the source imageTools4ever, a leading provider of identity and access management solutions in education, is proud to announce a partnership with Instructure, an education technology provider.

Tools4ever has offered customers an integration between its cloud-based single sign-on (SSO) solution, HelloID, and Instructure’s web-based learning management platform, Canvas.

Tools4ever and Instructure are now officially formalizing the partnership.

Both Canvas and HelloID are deployed in the cloud, offering joint customers a streamlined user experience with instant and secure access.

By using HelloID’s SSO dashboard, students can easily access all of their resources, including Canvas, within one centralized location. HelloID was created to simplify any district’s access and approval processes and offers a large selection of features, including “service automation” (self-service), single sign-on, access management, account provisioning, and other solutions.

“We are excited to officially announce our new partnership with Instructure,” said Tom Mowatt, managing director of Tools4ever. “For a while now, we have integrated our solutions identity management solutions with their learning management system, Canvas, and we are pleased to formalize this collaboration.”

Instructure provides a learning management platform, Canvas, that makes teaching and learning easier. Canvas helps teachers personalize learning for students in an effective and scalable way.

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 On Education

Responses from Sabari Raja, co-founder and CEO, Nepris.  

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

Many school districts were unprepared for long-term remote instruction, and unexpected school closures have shed some light on the need for a robust virtual learning strategy that takes effectiveness and ease of use into account without sacrificing safety. Most districts have struggled with integrating live instruction and have so far only offered asynchronous modes of learning, which creates a huge gap and leaves many kids behind.

Technology solution providers now have an opportunity to step up and help bridge this gap. It’s clear that virtual learning will be the “new normal” moving forward. Technology becomes a must-have in supporting these new models of teaching and learning.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

This experience should permanently shift the educational roadmap, with the continuation of remote learning in some capacity. Physical classrooms are not going to go away anytime soon, but small group instruction and blended models with some in-person classes, combined with remote instruction, could become the new reality. Maybe high school will start looking more like a college campus where students are not stuck to a classroom all day and all week long. They have more flexibility in what classes they take and when they take them.

The biggest issue with adapting to remote learning is classroom management, safety, and security. There is a fear of virtual classrooms due to this lack of control; however, most of these fears can be addressed with adequate teacher training. This summer is going to be a crucial time for districts to choose the right tools, train their teachers, and be prepared to continue distance learning in some capacity going forward. Adequate Teacher PD is going to be a determining factor in the success of adapting to distance learning.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The future could be a hybrid of in-person instruction and technology-driven remote learning. We have an opportunity to use technology not just for teacher-led instruction but also to bring industry connections and real-world learning to students that traditionally had very limited access to people and places outside of their communities. Technology can also provide self-paced learning opportunities for students who don’t do very well in traditional classroom environments.

Virtual learning has been proven to offer the flexibility and adaptability for students who are balancing many things outside of school, whether it is socio-economic factors, the requirements of competitive sports, or different learning styles. These models and tools have been in practice before COVID-19 within a few groups, but now the vast majority have had to embrace these solutions very quickly.

At Nepris, our goal has been to use our expertise in virtual platforms to adapt quickly to provide distance learning tools for virtual classroom, real-world learning, and to support virtual summer events, such as internships and job shadows, while keeping in mind that successful teacher training is vital.

How Has Education and Virtual Learning Changed Because of the Pandemic?

Responses from Nader Qaimari, chief learning officer, ISACA.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

It’s important to distinguish between true distance or virtual learning and crisis virtual learning. Right now, yes, many organizations and schools have moved to doing everything virtually, yet we are not really where we need to be to say we’re truly virtual.

We are doing what we can, but not necessarily doing it correctly. I imagine that shortly after this crisis subsides, we will see a quick pendulum swing back to much more face-to-face interaction (as we all crave it) but then people will move to having serious discussions around what this means long-term. With my kids, for example, I am extremely interested in how we will measure the efficacy of distance learning. It’s not as easy to measure as parents who are working from home right now can’t monitor their children’s progress all day, like teachers can in a closed environment. More tools to facilitate that will be necessary, and more importantly, the adoption of those tools.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

At a minimum, virtual learning will no longer be viewed as some elusive, experimental aspiration, but a true possibility – with limits. We are now a few weeks into a stay-at-home order for 80% of the population and I am pretty confident that if you ask most parents, they want their kids to go back to a physical classroom setting. The physical social interaction is key and the appreciation for teachers is at an all-time high. When you move to other areas of learning, however, like corporate learning, it seems that distance learning is a true possibility. It’s more convenient, more cost-effective and more efficient. As the organizations that deliver that content improve, and the technology improves, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to say that more corporate learning will continue to move to an online-only format.

I really think that it will not happen in our lifetime. There will be options to do that as an alternative, but I don’t think that will be the norm in the next few decades. Education does not move that fast, even after a crisis.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The goal is to recognize each for the value it brings. The technology should facilitate instruction and make it more efficient. The teacher/instructor should personalize it and make it stick. I have never subscribed to the belief that teachers would get replaced with technology. That is thinking about it incorrectly. Technology can help teachers become better, though. By removing the manual work and freeing up time, teachers can do what they do best – connect with students, engage them, and make sure they understand. That is why the classroom will be around for a long time. We crave that social interaction.

The Move To Remote Teaching: A Flash Point Moment In History

Lightning, Thunder, Lightning Storm

By Alex Urrea, CEO, Eduscape.

“If nothing else, the rapid migration to remote teaching and the challenges therein, is proving that teachers enhance technology, not the other way around.” Erica Hartman, director of technology.

At the time of this article’s release there are 36 states that have closed their schools, impacting approximately 32 million K-12 students. The majority of these schools are shifting to online teaching using Learning Management Systems.

What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

learning management system is an online platform that enables blended (face-to-face and online) or fully virtual learning. A LMS is designed to streamline course management, such as distribution of content, assessment, grading and feedback loops, so teachers can spend more time enhancing learning experiences and differentiating to their students’ needs. LMSs can play a critical role in teacher-to-parent and teacher-to-teacher communication. They can also be used to deliver professional development to teachers, connect faculty into collaborative groups, and to offer ongoing instructional support for students.

Studies show that approximately 75% of K-12 schools subscribe to a LMS on some level, with costs ranging from $5 to $10 per student. Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams provide LMS-like platforms at no cost, but with less imbedded features. LMSs were originally designed for the higher education market and are the backbone of colleges and universities, especially institutions such as the University of Phoenix with an enrollment exceeding 95,000 students.

The majority of the dozens of LMS companies began solely as higher education service providers and started offering their platforms to K-12 only around 10-12 years ago. The challenge has been that despite the emerging features in LMSs today, most educators have used them as glorified bulletin boards; posting paper-based assignments in PDFs, applying simple assessments such as multiple-choice and true/false quizzes, and to upload YouTube videos for students to view. This is primarily due to a lack of effective and ongoing professional development that supports the shift to, at a minimum, a blended learning model.

Last week, a district superintendent reached out to me seeking advice on how to quickly migrate his students to a remote learning model since he expected the imminent closure of the schools for weeks. Despite having subscribed to a LMS 3.5 years ago at a cost of over $100,000 to date, he was shocked to discover that over 370 of his 1,200+ teachers had never even used their initial login codes and temporary passwords. Hence, migrating to a remote learning model became a more daunting task, especially with an urgent turnaround time.

Don’t Compromise Quality

Successful use cases of LMS integration in schools exist and they show that when implemented properly, student engagement increases, access to ancillary learning is facilitated and communication between teacher and student is greatly enhanced. One of the most important benefits for a teacher is that differentiated learning practices can be readily applied by assigning remedial resources to struggling students, while providing more challenging assignments for higher performing ones.

The key is not to compromise fundamental teaching strategies because we are shifting to an online delivery model. “Just because of we’re going virtual, we can’t throw away what we know of sound instructional design. We must keep the good things in mind; receive feedback, apply formative assessment strategies and establish feedback loops. I advised my teachers to stick with what they know and we’ll help you with the delivery methods.” said Dr. Matthew Murphy, superintendent of Ramsey Public Schools.

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Providing Education In Troubling Times

Response Dr. Leah Hanes, CEO, Two Bit Circus Foundation

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

Education just may get a much-needed revolution. Parents have been forced to know more about their child’s education than ever before. Students who are self-motivated and interested in learning, or just plain curious, will be fine. Those parents need only put the challenge in front of that child and the child will engage. A good approach for the parents of this child is to open the field of options — expose, prompt, respond, encourage and most importantly, get out of the way and let the child lead. 

For parents whose children don’t like school, don’t think they need it, find none of it interesting, this is where the deepest challenge exists. All of which may be the result of a faulty education system souring children. Take a look at the 20-30 somethings with kids in high school, middle school, and for that matter, elementary school, who are suffering from stress-related issues and are often described as rebellious, lazy, or checked-out. This group will likely see the greatest challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19. But then, this group was going to have the roughest time anyway. These are the parents who will be met with real challenges.

The parents who have success connecting or re-connecting with their child during this ‘stay at home’ order will have a different view of the future of the classroom. These parents will be navigating and creating an educational program that works for both the parent and the child. If the parents evaluate their level of engagement and acknowledge that they stepped up when needed, they will look at distance learning with less trepidation. If the child is given an environment in which to flourish, it is often this kind of comfort that nurtures curiosity. 

There will be a percentage of parents who may decide that the flexibility of distance learning is perfect for their family lifestyle. Others will miss the structure. If the student in the home is motivated to remain in a distance learning situation, they will be motivated to keep up with the work. The kids who are socially motivated will want to be with friends on campus. The less social group often find their communities online and distance learning is another version of that online world. 

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

I do think that many schools will be moving beyond the physical classroom. This is an opportunity for parents to help the child take agency over their education. They can agree on deliverables and the child can set the times they will work on those deliverables. They need to learn concepts and applications, what order that happens is only important with the basics. We need the child to know an alphabet, numbers, and we need them to be curious. Much of this will come naturally given the right environment.

Imagine distance learning from the perspective of a person who is medically not able to take part in the broader community. In the distance learning ecosystem, this person is on par with their classmates. No one needs to know any physical or medical challenges. Rural students could have access to education that was unavailable a generation ago. Distance learning blurs demographics. Offering education at the pace of the student without the stigma of a slower learner or (sometimes even more damaging) a gifted child.

Home school numbers have been growing without this pandemic. I do believe there will be challenges to school-as-usual once parents have a close eye on the education being offered to their children at their current institute. There was a joke floating around the Internet the first week of the stay-at-home initiative that said: “Millions of parents are about to learn that the teacher was not the problem.” This can be a painful lesson for a parent, and a deeper dive into the learning behaviors of their kids and how to improve these can help strengthen the overall education system, whether it be from a physical classroom or a digital environment 

I don’t see this as panic-stricken hype. I think it is a worthy question to consider. Should it go the way of the dinosaur? Do we really need kids educated by age? What if we had a range of topics that students were involved in and they worked with older and younger students to learn those skills, similar to the real world where we are charged with tasks that require us to work with people not only of different age brackets but different socio-economic realities, ethnicities, and so much more. What if the in-person-classroom goes away and kids gather in digital–classroom sessions with attendance dependent on interests that start with introductory information and travel up the chain to expert level. 

What is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

Imagine the best teachers on each subject teaching millions of kids. There are teachers out there who will emerge as a result of this. Education for children that is compelling may come out of this quarantine. Education that is available to the child when the child’s interest is piqued may also be a positive outcome. We need educational options that inspire the student to keep coming back for more. An education system that has kids seeing themselves as inventors, as individuals with valuable ideas. A system that encourages learning by doing rather than by merely listening. All of this is productive.

We could come out of these next few months with parents who have a profound new appreciation for good teachers. We hope to come out of this experience with an entire society that has a new appreciation for the profession of teaching. Online curriculum with digital, in-person, or at least one-on-one meetings with an educational mentor/teacher/parent who can help the child meet the deliverables and work with the student to make and exceed their goals would offer a positive outcome for distance learning and students. 

School Technology In the Age of Uncertainty

Response from Louisa Childs, head of school, Dwight Global.

We’ve used an array of technologies over the years to meet our students’ needs, regularly incorporating feedback from students, parents, and educators along the way. We’re confident that online education can not only help students thrive, especially during challenging times, but can also be even more effective in certain circumstances.

The support and flexibility of parents and families is crucial to an online school’s success. That means, teachers should strive to make sure parents feel included just as much as students, and that their ideas on how to incorporate more real-world learning into their child’s education are encouraged.

The platforms we use at Dwight enable students to experience classes in the same way brick-and-mortar students do. For example, in language classes, we use Miro, a robust virtual white board tool, to create appealing visual materials for students. Our math teachers use another tool, Aww, which is also a whiteboard, to solve equations ‘on the board’ just as a teacher would in a physical classroom.

Just like brick-and-mortar schools, online schools can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. To be successful, teachers must use different technologies for different age groups and skill sets.

Ultimately, even though education is facing a massive shift right now, our students’ core educational needs are the same: students need consistency and access to materials and technologies that engage them and help them empathize with each other. They need to know their voice matters.

McGraw-Hill Makes Digital Test Prep Resources Available For Free In Response To COVID-19 Crisis

McGraw-Hill, a leading learning science company, today announced free digital access to its 5 Steps to a 5 Advanced Placement test preparation guides for educators, students and parents navigating the challenge of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online Cross-Platform Prep Courses will be available for 90 days for students who log in to get access prior to June 30, 2020.

“During this unprecedented time of disruption, we want to do everything we can to support educators, students and parents during the shift to online learning,” said Scott Grillo, President of McGraw-Hill Professional. “By offering free access to our innovative 5 Steps to a 5 Cross-Platform Prep Course across multiple AP subjects, we hope it will be a valuable resource to supplement virtual classroom instruction for AP courses.”

For more information, including access codes and instructions on redeeming the codes, please visit: https://learn.mheducation.com/ap-teacher-resources.html.

The Cross-Platform Prep Course provides students with study and practice content that is fully customizable. Students can create a personalized study plan based on their test dates and set daily goals to stay on track, while integrated lessons, practice questions, exams, flashcards and games provide important review of key topics and practice to build test-taking confidence. Since the 2020 AP exams are being shortened and focus is shifting toward free-response and document-based questions, students and teachers can navigate the content to find resources that are most relevant to this year’s exams.

The prep resources are available across 14 AP subjects: Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, Human Geography, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Physics 1, Psychology, Statistics, U.S. Government & Politics, U.S. History, and World History: Modern.

Providing free digital access to 5 Steps to a 5 resources is one of a number of ways McGraw-Hill has responded to help educators, students and parents with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on getting support from McGraw-Hill, visit: https://www.mheducation.com/ideas/announcements/mcgraw-hill-supporting-schools-and-learners-covid19.html