7 Questions to Ask in Our Transition Plans

Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher is a former middle grades teacher who is now a full-time author and educational consultant specializing in the intersection between instructional technology and curriculum design. He actively blogs for the Curriculum 21 website and ASCD’s Edge Social Network. Find his books published by ASCD. Find Mike on Twitter @fisher1000.

First published on Digigogy and reprinted with permission.

It’s been a little over a month for many school communities and we’re still facing weeks, if not months, of continued remote learning. But we also have our sights set on what’s next as we prepare for what is after right now.

We’re grappling with some old questions that now have a renewed focus:

  1. How do we invite students into the plan? Listening to and acting on student voices has never been more important. They should be invited partners in the coming work. If students are to be self-directed and have more autonomy in the classroom then they have to have a stake in planning, outcomes, and deliverables. Contemporary learning isn’t contemporary unless all voices are included, student voices in particular – they are the ones doing the work. It makes sense to establish the worth of their ideas early in the planning stages, as they have been the recipients of the many different modes of instructional and learning practices over the last few weeks. They have good ideas about what works for them. More here: See what students are already saying about remote learning.
  2. How can we invite and maintain the highest levels of equity? Now that we have blatantly uncovered the haves and have nots in terms of access and support, there is a renewed responsibility for supporting all learners in every way we can. Now more than ever, we have to be advocates for every single student. This is not just a school effort. This is a community responsibility, working in coordination with schools, local government, parents, and students. We can shape school into something wonderful, something we’ve never been able to do before now with everyone at the table in whatever ways it takes to get them there. More here: Why Covid-19 is our equity check.
  3. How do we focus more on quality and authenticity in autonomous and multi-synchronous environments? Schools should think about how they can leverage performances and demonstrations of learning for the sake of knowing students have learned what is intended for them to learn. Do our grading and assessment systems embody quality or quantity? If students are at the planning table, what possibilities exist in the creation of deliverables? Would a shift toward discovery and exploration with a clear focus on inquiry help the community of learners grow their thinking and performance capabilities? It’s a challenge for sure, but a worthy challenge to embark on with students. Students (and their teachers!) can do challenging things. That’s been proven as of late. Let’s keep the momentum going! More here: Modernize your instructional practices in 11 ways.
  4. How do we support parents and families in all the ways we need to for access, continued engagement, and as essential elements of our systems and programs? If parents are going to be in a renewed partnership with schools, it would be helpful to continue to invite, appreciate, and design learning experiences with parents as contributors. The responsibility for instruction and learning has swiftly shifted. It would be amazing to keep this community of learners in place as we move forward to whatever happens after our current situation is over. Parents as partners has the potential to revolutionize education. It always has. Now that the spotlight is on how much we critically need parents, perhaps we can be more mindful about including them from now on! More here: 7 tips for parents supporting remote learning.
  5. What is the real worth of traditional modes? If schools are truly in charge of their schedules, times for learning, intervention practices, curriculum development, etc., then there should be planning that involves remixing our traditions. We’ve never known what we could do until we had to do it. And now that we’ve done it, we’ve shifted our capabilities and heightened our opportunities and potential for real impact. We must leverage these new capabilities and make room for new thinking and new possibilities. More here: From traditional high school learning to co-created learning experiences.
  6. How do we rethink spaces and places for learning? What if we set up online and interactive spaces at the beginning of the school year in the same way we collect phone numbers and other needed/essential information? Some thought should be given to identify early who doesn’t have access and actively work to get students into equitable spaces. Districts may need to consider deployment plans for wifi access with hotspots and with devices. Schools should establish synchronous and asynchronous places to learn and reimagine physical spaces for the benefit of the learner. Schools should spend time at the beginning of the year onboarding students into multi-synchronous environments with expectations that learning can happen anywhere, anytime, with a renewed focus on learner needs (SEL), self-direction, communities for learning, and joy.
  7. What else might we need to think about? Upending traditional structures will also matter if we start back to school under continued rules for social distancing and sanitization. Districts may need to consider options for roving start times and student rotations throughout the day. This will necessitate conversations about priorities in instruction and assessment and create opportunities for bold and robust teaching and learning.

We have a renewed sense of community and contribution from an array of stakeholders. This is a good time to put in the work of observing and analyzing what’s happening now to help inform what happens next.

What questions are on your mind or that you are wrestling with as you plan ahead? Share your questions and comments below as we start to unravel our next steps.

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