There is no doubt about it...these are unprecedented times. I am based in Hong Kong where home-learning started in early February. To say that online learning came as a shock is an understatement. Suddenly, as a family, we had to get to grips with different educational platforms...Google Classroom, Google Meet, SeeSaw, Padlet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc., etc. Now, I am currently in the UK and have entered the twilight zone, reliving the impact of the COVID-19 tsunami that is coming this way, as schools and universities scramble to create the technological platforms in time for the possibility of school closure. In the meantime, my friends and family in Canada, have entered the world of online learning too. The reports coming from friends in North America are not too dissimilar to the ones months ago in Hong Kong. Tales of working parents, trying to juggle their children's online learning by navigating through different technology platforms, whilst meeting their own deadlines at work.
There is no question that the giant leap into technology has taken the education world by storm. For some teachers, it has been a continuation of their good practice; for others, it has been a very steep learning curve. Despite the strain on schools, students and families, there has also been a great wave of innovation. I have the privilege of working in all educational sectors - university, secondary, primary in both private and local schools so I have been able to see some great examples of online learning and some not so great examples too. However, one thing that has not changed...no matter what medium of instruction or level of interaction...is the need for inclusive education. It is careless of us to think that all students learning from home can access technology in the same way as their classmates. There are so many hurdles to overcome in the first place...do all students have computers, mobile phones, speedy Wifi, adults who can support them at home with the complexities of online learning?
Yet, online learning can also offer affordances for students, particularly those with learning differences. For individuals who find classroom learning overwhelming due to working memory overload, slow processing or the inability to cut out extraneous stimuli, perhaps working at their own pace, able to pause, go back, jump ahead, tag, review, comment, could be the answer to what might normally look like low performance in the classroom.
There is one certainty in all of this uncertainty...school leaders and educators around the world must take time, listen to their students, ask for feedback, observe online behaviours, evaluate performance for each individual, analyse the data and make informed choices and decisions on how to build from this experience. The Covid-19 tsunami has forced a seismic shift in education, one that has been growing slowly over time but has now been thrust into the forefront of education. Perhaps there are brave school leaders who will harness this good practice and adapt and modify their school programmes to suit the needs of their learning community. This is a global phenomenon, not one school's problem; so let's connect, collaborate and create a way forward to support all of our global learners and make the best of a very difficult situation. #learnfrombestpractice #weareallinthistogether #neurodiversity #inclusiveeducation