The COVID-19 outbreak is changing the way the world thinks about public health, governance, and economics. Soon, it’ll shape the way we think about education too. As an increasing number of schools move to distance and digital learning, the conversation around technology in education has shifted into hyperdrive. Flipped instruction and ZOOM lectures have gone from niche to normal in a matter of weeks and, unsurprisingly, educators around the world are adapting in stride.
Still, this shift is overwhelming. While school and district leadership hustle to roll out the infrastructure required to move online, teachers and instructional staff are working to conceptualize how education will continue in this new paradigm. What will learning look like? How will assessment change? What kind of activities can students do on their own? What kind of tools or resources are available?
There are already formal and informal networks sharing a multitude of digital resources, repositories, and strategies that can provide teachers with a minimum-viability-utility-belt of online instructional tools. This is a great start, but the sheer magnitude of resources can quickly become overwhelming. There’s a massive “buffet of ideas” at our fingertips with just a few clicks, but how do we deploy these tools and resources? Sequence them? Structure them? Provide feedback with them? Without a way to visualize our plans for online learning, planning quickly becomes a confusing, daunting process.
To answer these questions and help facilitate this shift, we’ve created a design canvas inspired template to help you curate tools, plan lessons, and track learning in a single document. Think of it like a “lunch tray” that will help you structure, sequence, and organize all the delicious elements of online instruction you’re preparing.
Its design is guided by one of our core pedagogical principles: Freedom within structure. We’ve always felt that flexibility is an important part of education, but as we shift to distance learning, being able to adapt to new, emergent issues and complications is vital. Without structure, we lack direction. Without freedom, we lack purpose. It’s our hope that this document will provide both direction and purpose for all those who use it.
This design principle extends to students as well. Without a teacher physically present to guide and facilitate learning, vague directions and fuzzy targets will leave students confused and frustrated. The last thing kids need right now is more ambiguity and anxiety. However, overly prescriptive instruction can quickly turn into busy work that lacks purpose and context. Now more than ever, students need to feel a sense of connection to their community and their content. It’s our hope this document will help lead to learning experiences that provide students enough structure to feel a sense of clear direction, and enough freedom that they believe their work is meaningful and relevant to their lives.
The goal of teaching for transfer is to help students apply and leverage their knowledge in ways that empower them to affect meaningful change in their school, community, and the world. This pandemic is a stark reminder of how desperately we need that kind of thinking moving forward. If we want innovation to be more than a shiny buzzword, we need curriculum that allows us to build student knowledge and apply it in new, creative ways. We need frames that provide structure and allow freedom. We need a mindset that understands expertise is domain specific and life is interdisciplinary. Integration is the key to innovation and is a core component of the resources we’re sharing today.
So whether this is your first foray into teaching for transfer or you’ve attended half a dozen sessions with Julie and her team, we hope this framework helps you with your transition to online learning.