It’s a strange thing to say, but I’m thankful for the pandemic in one way. I’m definitely not thankful in a myriad of other ways – but I’ll not go there. Let’s be positive about what we have gained.
Educators world-wide have had to up-skill in the use of online learning platforms at lightning speed, in fact you could say it happened almost overnight. When our society first went into lockdown in March 2020 no one knew what to expect, after all none of us had ever lived through a pandemic of this kind before.
In spite of the anxiety surrounding us, educators knew they had to step up and be ready to teach in a way most had never taught before. There was a period of frenetic activity, organising ourselves for what was to be our ‘new normal’, whether that meant learning to use Zoom, or Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, or Seesaw, we all had to get to grips with the only way we could now reach our students quickly and effectively.
After the basics of using the online platforms had been embedded into their practice, educators then sought new ways of adding to their online teaching. Various apps were used to enhance the learning experience, from Mentimeter to Kahoot to Whiteboard, to name but a few. Educators actively shared their experience with each other like never before. If you wanted to figure out the best way to do something, you simply put out your question into the online world, whether that was on Twitter or Whatsapp or staff email, and you got your answer. The sense of being part of a vibrant professional learning community, albeit a virtual one, was truly wonderful.
However, it wasn’t just the educators who learned to be creative online during this time, students too could avail of this opportunity to present their learning in new ways. Seeing as there were no copies to be handed in, students were given the choice as to how they submitted their work. In my own context as an English teacher I received videos of news reports, PowerPoints, digital posters, and of course, photographs of their written work. My students’ creativity in how they presented their learning showed me what learning really should be about.
Having the digital tools to be creative – and the skills to use them – has meant that the students of today (and their teachers too) will have skills that their previous counterparts would never have imagined. And surely we can agree that’s a positive.