Dr. Christopher Harrington and Elizabeth Leblanc from the Institute for Teaching and Leading, and Lightspeed Systems, discuss instruction and educational technology in hybrid or remote learning models as students return to in-person learning in the fall of 2021.
What you’ll learn:
Amy Bennett from Lightspeed Systems:
Hi, everybody. Thank you for being here. We still have some people joining us. So we will get started with a conversation in just a minute.
All right, let’s begin. Thank you all for being here. Well, you Ed tech and instruction post pandemic.
We have a trio of experts here, ready to have a lively conversation.
They’re going to be sharing their experiences and giving you practical advice, taking us through what they saw over the last year and a half, leading us into how everyone can approach Ed Tech integration and be smarter when students return to back to school next year.
Well, let me introduce our panelists.
We have Chris Harrington, he is the founder of the Institute for Teaching and Leading Chris, give it a wave.
And Elizabeth LeBlanc, she is the CEO for the Institute of Teaching and Leading, and Rob Chambers, the Vice President of Success at Lightspeed Systems.
And I am Amy Bennett, the chief of staff at Lightspeed, and your moderator for this conversation.
I invite you all to be part of the conference.
Ask questions as we go along.
Just use the question box in your GoToWebinar control panel. We’ll take them as we go through the discussion and at the end.
Let’s jump right in.
You know, when the pandemic hit educators were in a lot of ways just thrown into using EdTech, either more or in different ways, Chris, how would you characterize those initial months of the pandemic use that usage of Ed Tech? And that really emergency unplanned situation.
Yeah. Thanks, Amy, I think I think you phrased that properly. We really were thrown into things weren’t we? And, you know, I think where we found ourselves is, just, all of a sudden, our schools were closed, and we had to make do with what we had at our disposal, the technologies that were already existing within our schools and districts. So, in a lot of cases, it was a bunch of laptops, right? Maybe some Chromebooks, or for some other devices, and, you know, a lot of schools are, you know, this day and age there 1 to 1, one device for every student.
So, those particular schools and districts, you know, they were in a better place, but there were a lot of schools and a lot of students and staff that didn’t have a dedicated computer that was mobile, that they can take home.
So, that was, uh, that was a bit of a challenge.
Those schools and districts that had the technology devices already prior to the school closures, they often times had some digital content or other digital resources that they could just kind of slide right into using those resources for students during remote learning.
And then, of course, some of those schools that did not have that access, yeah they had to make do and a lot of times it was sending packets of schoolwork home, distributed through the bus or through pickups on school property. And, you know, so, you know, I think there were a lot of different apps that teachers were using as a supplement to their schoolwork or to their lessons and their activities for kids. You know. So, there was kind of a hodgepodge of different resources that were out there, and again it was everybody making do.
Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right there in terms of there was a spectrum and it depended what tools they had in place, How many devices they had in place. Rob you work with hundreds, thousands of districts, every month. Does that match what you are seeing?
Yeah, it does.
I mean, you had some schools that, you know, as Chris said, we’re further along. They were 1 to 1, they had some of those resources in place.
Had a smoother transition.
Others, know, I worked with schools that were, you know, pulling computers out of the surplus pile that were actually meant to be to be going away and we’re suddenly repurposing and trying to get those students. And so, you know, definitely the complete spectrum there.
I think one of the other things that we saw a lot of is, you know while even the schools that were 1 to 1 had technology in place.
It was, you know, it wasn’t the primary method of use, right? It was a supplement to the actual instruction and everything else. And that rapid switch to now, this is your private primary interface, to the world, and to your education, everything else.
Even for those schools that were prepared, it was still a lot of chaos, and a lot that had to be overcome, as, as that happened.
Yeah. That really changes things, in terms of, Elizabeth, I was going to hand it over to you. What that looks like in the classroom.
Chris and Rob talked about devices and the software.
It’s all for teaching and learning.
How did you see that look in the classroom for the teachers, right?
Right and, sorry, I got super excited, because, Rob, you gave me this great lead in to, kind of what you saw, right? Where, traditionally, the technology was kind of in the, you know, in the background, it was supporting the teaching and learning, and then all of a sudden, it became the only conduit for you to access both a relationship with the teacher to access your peers or to access your curriculum, right? So, super critical, And, as Chris said, you know, the schools and districts that were the most well prepared for this were the ones that were already either 1 to 1, or already had built some of that in.
So, you know, one of the things that we saw was that was this very quick transition to a can we turn this on, right? Can we even, like within a week, can we bring, can we transition our entire classroom into the cloud? And there was this really kind of scary couple of moments or days, I think, for everyone when we were like, is this actually going to work? And then learning that not only could we do that, we could actually do it really well.
And, there were some ways that it, you know, opened up some doors and avenues that we haven’t even considered before that could inform instruction later on.
This pandemic, kind of dragged on beyond those first emergency teaching and learning months that you were discussing.
You right. Suggest this evolution that we all saw in different ways. One of the things I experienced in working with schools for lightspeed and as a parent, was something that was used kind of in the periphery, to share some assignments.
Once it was in the forefront, everyone had to change how they used it, maybe more standardized, maybe in different ways.
You know, I see you nodding there, Elizabeth, talk about how some of those things evolved in the schools you were working with.
Right, Well, I mean, it’s very much like you said, it kind of became front and center rather than, you know, this thing that I kind of paid attention to.
As a parent, even, you know, I kind of knew my kid was using Google Classroom, but, also at school every day, it’ll be fine, right? And then, all of a sudden, I got really good at Google Classroom as a parent.
But there was this really interesting, I think a couple of things.
One, we had to get really selective about the technology that we were using, right? When you’re in the classroom, that’s kinda the sticky factor, right? You as the teacher, really, they’re facilitating that experience. When you’re in the cloud, you really have to be very careful about where and when you’re asking students to leave that learning experience, right?
Because sometimes they don’t get back in. So what we noticed in the schools and districts that we were working with, Chris and I worked with schools and districts again across the country so a pretty wide spectrum of readiness, different contexts that they were dealing with, different challenges that the pandemic brought to their communities.
They had to get really selective about where, when and how they were using technology to engage their students and their parents to avoid overwhelm, to kind of create a super highway, if you will.
So that was very clear, how you are expected to engage, when you are expected to engage was it, synchronous was an asynchronous, Then also what the expectation was of mastery over time.
So, all of those things kind of played into the technology choices that we saw people making.
Often, they would, you know, kinda feel like, OK, we’re going to use these three tools, rather than, know, these 15 teachers would kind of agree within a grade band, OK, we’ll use these three, and get really good at those first.
And so, that was an interesting streamlining of instruction that we saw in, kind of, coming together of teachers to really plan for an effective learning environment for students, even in the cloud.
A little bit of waves. Like, add a bunch of solutions, then standardize down to the ones that really matter. Standardize how you’re using them.
Well, and we got real time, Right? Like, when you have time. You have to really figure out how you’re going to use them.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And, you know, I think everyone was learning, as we, when getting feedback from parents. Getting feedback from teachers and students. Like, what is really helping here in what, as Chris said, is a make, do situation.
Hopefully, at this point, we’re all learning from the make do situation. I’m looking forward to a school year that is different.
And that takes some of those lessons learned, and applies them in new ways.
Chris as you’re talking to people, looking ahead to mostly all students being on campus in the fall, or the majority being on campus, in the fall, and in person, instruction in classrooms.
How can schools really make the most of those lessons for integrating technology?
I think one thing that I come back to is when Elizabeth said about, you know, get really good at a technology and build upon that.
And, I think what we’re going to see with schools as they, as they come as teachers, come back to the new school year. We learned a lot over the last school year is really an immersive experience and, you know, accelerating the development of our technology skills, you know, the intensive training that we all went through, the trial and error, and then even some formal professional development.
And I think what we’re going to see here with schools, as they are teachers as they approached the new school year, is, there are a lot of teachers who are going to take some of these lessons learned.
And they, they’ve realized that there are some things that are really good, that, have really worked well for me. And there were some victories, even despite all the challenges from the spring of 2020. And all the way through this last school year, and carrying those forward. And I know there are school leaders that are formally organizing their teachers around what did we learn from last year?
And how can we move that towards what our goal or instructional goals were?
Last, pre COVID.
So, if we’re working towards the personalization of learning, we’re really looking to integrate technology to increase student engagement.
What are some of the things that we’ve learned through these lessons?
And now, the new skills that we have with technology, how can we move that forward?
And having those direct conversations can help grow the entire district staff or a building staff, moving towards in the same direction, moving towards accomplishing those goals. And it’s in a structured way. And, you know, last year was, you know, for a lot of folks, who was survival. There’ll be a breath of fresh air for people to actually go into this with their eyes wide open, and some sort of a proactive and organized approach to doing so.
Well, and that’s perfect.
We’ve promised all of our attendees here some of those practical tips, Do you have an example of one of those things that that you’ve heard repeatedly worked that will carry through into next year?
Yeah, you know, sometimes some of the things not using technology for technology’s sake is is something there’s going to be a strong craving for reconnecting with kids in a face-to-face environment.
And some schools, you know, they were doing that in the second half of this year, but being very selective in how we use the technology are really needs to impact using technology for more formative assessments, to really gage where students are and what their readiness is.
And that’s going to be something that’s going to be really, really important this year, because when we hear the phrase learning loss and where are where our kids, how do we need to make up or accelerate some learning to get us where we expected to be this year?
And I think assessments are the key to that, and how you can use technology to do that. I think that’s going to be a specific area of focus for a lot of schools and districts. I think what we’re also seeing is a level of standardization.
You know, back in spring of 2020, we had, there were a lot of Ed tech companies that were offering a lot of free resources to schools.
And it actually got overwhelming, and school leaders were saying enough enough enough, because it was actually creating some chaos in some schools. Well, intended and I think very much appreciated by the educational community.
But we’re starting to see schools now take a look at, you know, we really need an LMS, because what we did last year wasn’t working for us, and so we need an LMS, or we need some digital content.
Or we need to standardize on some lesson recording software, because we saw that it was a great resource, and it can be used, when used properly, it can be very beneficial for kids. But let’s standardize on this.
So, we don’t have all these different, um, tools and resources that our technology department has to support. And all these different tools that teachers have to learn to use, let’s make it a little more streamlined.
Rob, I know that you’ve been talking to schools about just that, how to make some of those standardization decisions. Tell us, tell us the kinds of conversations you’re having.
I think it aligns directly with what Chris is saying because, and what we were talking about earlier.
I mean, as we move from, you know, technology was a supplement too.
No, well, you know, we are going to return to face-to-face education that everybody recognizes you. We can’t lose that what we had because things can change in a moment’s notice and we have to be prepared and all of that.
And so, they are looking at, you know, OK, what tools are out there?
What were we using that worked and, and being able to look back and recognize, OK, you know, what?
Hey, we did slip through with three different tools that overlap in this area, and two over here, and five over here. Whatever. and so how do we bring this candidate standardize together, but also then look at, OK? I’ve got five tools that all have overlapping functionality.
Which ones were having the impact?
Which, which ones have the user engagement?
Which ones have the adoption, and how do we monitor that, and replicate that, right? Because you, you do want to take those tools and maximize those efforts. Right?
Both from a support standpoint and a professional development standpoint, but also which ones work effectively in your environment.
Because, you know, just, you know, one tool that works well for one school district may not fit exactly in yours. And so, being able to take a look across your environment, What was in use?
What, you know, and, honestly, you know, as we found when we work with schools, we know the schools found what are, they know, what they deployed and even and the overlap in applications that they approved to be out there.
But now that they’re taking a step back and doing some analytics on that and viewing that data, you know, they’re finding, OK, here’s the new use for more that I didn’t, right?
And maybe even one of those is really great, or, you know, so, and all of that, you know, causes difficulty on your, on, your internal staff, your teaching staff, but also your, your community, you know.
I think back to the early days is as a parent in this and, you know, my daughter had four different applications. She was supposed to use to communicate with her teachers, you know, depending on which class it was. And, you know, that makes it difficult. And for students it’s difficult, the parents and all of that.
And so standardization is, and understanding what actually was in use and what did, what was effective, is a big part of how we’re helping schools prepare for the upcoming school year.
You know, Rob, which you say is really, really important, I , true, I mean, it bears repeating, for sure. I think it’s also important to recognize the fact that this is not going to happen overnight.
This is something that’s going to take time. I think it’s going to be a focus of conversation in schools in the upcoming year.
I sure hope it’s a focus of conversation, because this is what’s really going to set you up for future successes.
And we didn’t have a lot of time, last school year, to really process too deeply.
You know, all of this standardization, what we need to do, I mean, I know some schools that just rapidly implemented learning management systems, just because they felt that they needed it. But they didn’t do a great job at really going through the process of truly articulating what it is that they need from an instructional standpoint.
And I think that that is where the conversations will go. I think it’s going to be a partnership between curriculum leaders within a school district and technology leaders to really tease this whole thing out.
Yeah, definitely, I think that is one of the positives that I’ve seen come out of this, and that you really have, seeing those departments come together in ways that they, that they have, traditionally, not in education.
I think that’s great. Schools have found that when they do, you know, bring them together, they, they can be deliberate about it, but also move quickly, and things that, you know, traditionally took a long time now can be implemented in a much, much quicker fashion. And that’s, that’s very positive, that’s come out of this.
It is, and the idea that, you know, as a school leader, as well. I went to go create a master schedule for the coming year. And realized that we had gone through five different master schedules in the last 18 months, right? We designed school five different times, in five different ways, and we were not unique in that.
So, I think the idea that there’s time, like you said, well, we actually, you have the gift of time in a way that we have not for so long, to really think about, what do we want to keep from the lessons learned and what do we want to never do again? That we’re, you know, like, OK, Well, that did not work.
Let’s never go back to that again, right, but then there were some really great things that came out of this time, and so keeping those are being really thoughtful.
And this kind of connects, I think what you were saying, Chris and Rob, about being aware and reflective now that we have that gift, What are we asking the technology to do, and what are we asking the people to do, right, and are we leveraging the technology for what is really, really good at?
You know, helping us scale, really awesome instruction.
Then, are we also allowing, and putting the humans in the position to do the things that humans really shine and are great at? Right? Getting to know each other, having connection, making meaning of the instruction that’s being delivered digitally.
So I think it’s a really, I read an article yesterday by Tom or Ned and he was talking about how this may not be the year of huge transformation. This might be the year that we’re laying the groundwork for future transformation, and I think that’s really very accurate, and a really great way to kind of frame looking ahead.
One of the areas where I see all of those things coming together is this idea of collaboration and connection.
Chris, you earlier said something about, you know, reconnecting face to face.
It’s the number one thing, everyone is looking forward to the teachers, the students, the parents, all of us, as workers and employees, I’m sure, too.
But for the last 18 months, a lot of people have found new ways to make sure they’re communicating well with parents, and their students, and maybe in more uniform or holistic ways.
What does that blend of collaboration look like, when students are mostly back in class, but still going home every night and weekends?
What are you seeing as some positives in that learning?
Oh. Well. Just so many different pieces about being face-to-face, I think this is very exciting.
I mean when our students started coming back in, it was we could not have been more excited if Brad Pitt walked in the room right like really? You know, like just to see a fifth grader that you hadn’t seen in over a year and they’re huge.
So there is that very real human connection piece that obviously we want to keep front and center and that I think will be really critical. You know the great thing about technology was it allowed us to keep those connections throughout pandemic like those relationships are intact because we’ve had the technology to continue to stay connected. And so, when teachers and students so feel like they’re part of the learning community, there’s less kind of repair that has to be done as we’re coming back together, less culture building, right?
That has to be kind of redone or revisited.
As we’re figuring out what this new no transition looks like. And the collaborative piece, I think, is tremendous, because that was something that we saw schools and districts start to do really well. Not at the beginning. when we were just like, how do we simply connect, right, and communicate?
But later on, people started going great, How do so I’ve got my class connected now.
Right, which is awesome. That’s step one. Now, how do we start building back in that rich instruction, the creativity, the critical thinking, The time for students to collaborate, and to do that, of course, than the adults in the room or in the school building, have to get together to figure out, how do these systems actually work together to make a cohesive learning experience for students.
So, I do think that will be something that, a strength that we saw emerge.
And something that I think we will be seeing more of, even when face-to-face is an option, I think we’ll see more technology being leveraged to kind of make that rich learning experience available to all students. So, that would be the hope, right?
Yeah, I think really key to, that is a little bit of a differentiation, which every teacher is thinking about.
And knows about, but sometimes you’re very busy in a classroom and, you know, some students speak up more than others.
And some tend to be listening and processing, and when you are all online it democratizes that situation a little bit where, someone who has quiet in class is very vocal in a Zoom chat or in an LMS conversation or some different ways that, it’s some, some reminders of, to your, to your point, all the students and making sure that we’re connecting in different ways across the board.
It’s funny, you should bring that up. Because, Chris, we just had a meeting where that was, literally just an hour ago, it’s Amy was sitting in and that was very much the conversation on the table, is how do we leverage the technology to assess where students are as they’re coming in?
And then, how do we design instruction that everyone can access, that’s engaging enrich and also helps address those gaps that we know are coming in, learning loss, learning gaps, all of those things are not new, right.
They’re just, it’s a much more widespread issue now and it’s impacting different demographics of students than we’re used to seeing in years past, which makes sense.
So I don’t know if you wanted to jump in and share any more on that, Chris, But I know it’s something that many districts have come to us going like how do we crack this one. Right.
It’s exciting. The prospect of technology and how it can create that space for collaboration, is so wide open and can be so powerful. As an instructional practice, and a strategy in your classroom. Your virtual classroom, or even face-to-face, I mean that technology’s there. I think one of the things that weighs on my mind, I’ve been part of different research studies over the past year around student engagement, in remote learning environments, and, teacher frustration stresses, social emotional needs.
Things like that.
And one of the things that I’m hearing and seeing a lot of is that some people have a really bad taste in their mouth about technology. Because things just didn’t go the way they wanted them to, necessarily, because they weren’t prepared. That just wasn’t the culture or the practice within their school or district.
But, because this technology is there, and it can do amazing things, I think it’s wise for school leaders to actually sit back and think about, well, what is the way to actually get from where we are right now in our school system?
To, to realizing those benefits and the promises of this technology. And then build a pathway to get there, because it can be hard to do.
And it does take some, some professional learning, some training, some experience doing this. And, especially if you’re in a school culture, where you really struggled, because the technology skills weren’t there, where you didn’t have all the technology, there needs to be a deliberately designed pathway to get there. And I think that’s something that school leaders should take into account.
So, we’re all sick of our laptops, and looking at screens and doing all of our discussions on Zoom, but that doesn’t mean put it away in the closet.
It’s some, some middle ground, Rob, I know that you’ve been you’ve been watching this for years, the growing use of devices and technology, and all of that instills, well, what do you have to add to that?
I mean, it’s actually kinda hard to follow that, because they’ve covered, you know, most of the topics I would have said.
But, I think that is, you know, one of the key things is, as I’ve been talking to schools from, from the early days.
You know, when we were, actually, you know, a year ago, prepping for the, you know, the 2021 school year and, and all that is that this is in some fashion here to stay. You know, I think, yes. There’s a huge interest and a huge excitement, and, you know, I’m back in our office and very excited to be back around people and all of that.
And, you know, same in schools, but also this, you know, this isn’t going away for a variety of reasons.
I mean, there are other events in our future, whether it’s weather related, or illness related, or simply just, you know, families that have needs, that need to go virtual for a period of time.
I mean, you know, we have schools that I think, maybe resisted this in the past, and now we’ve had to do it right, so now you’ve put your community, your parents, in this situation, where we had to work this way for, you know, a year and a half.
And now, you know, and I talked with a lot of parents to talk a lot of schools and their parents that are saying, OK, that’s great.
That also fits better for this student of mine, or it fits better for this need that we have, you know, as a family or whatever.
So, I think, you know, this need to kind of flex in and out of the classroom, is not going away. And so, yes.
While, I think, yeah, we all have zoom fatigue, and all of that, but this, you can’t just put the computers back in the closet and wait for the next event.
We do have to be deliberate.
That is, you know, the good news is that the discussions I’m having with schools, it’s about, you know, what worked, what didn’t work, what could have been better, what was happening out there, that we didn’t know about, you know, bringing that all together, and being very deliberate in what those, those next steps are doing.
Well, and all of the things that you just said, tie to what everyone knows our ideals in terms of personalized learning and differentiated learning, and addressing more individualized needs.
So, we got a crash course in that, in some ways, but now I have the tools to do it in a more systematic or smart approach.
One of the things that is really important, and I want to make sure we have lots of time to talk about this, because we’ve hit on it in various responses here, is the social emotional learning. The mental well-being of students and staff, as we go back to school next year, and what that looks like, um, Chris, why don’t you start us off.
Let’s talk about, as students go back in person, and we build on the lessons we’ve learned with all of this remote learning.
What are some of the things schools are worried about in terms of mental health and social emotional well-being?
Yeah. That touches on one of the studies that I’m involved with right now. School leaders, one of the primary, it’s not the primary thing that school leaders are concerned about right now is mental health. It was a rising concern, an issue, even pre pandemic.
But now, with the trauma that, that’s gone on, it’s been associated with COVID-19 and in all the disruption of education and socialization, you name it, it’s risen to the top even higher, and, you know, it’s something we’re what we saw back in 2020, when schools closed.
There were a lot of schools, for all intents and purposes, really stopped instruction, and they focused primarily on, let’s make sure, the kids and families are, okay, Let’s get them connected, find out where they are.
Because when you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of learners, until you satisfy some of those most basic, safety and physiological needs, you’re not going to be learning through, you’re not going to be educating kids. So, that was a primary focus.
And, um, going Elizabeth.
And I helped a few schools, actually, with their back to school models in the fall of 2020, for the 2021 school year, and social emotional learning, and the focus on mental health, and staying connected with kids and families, was something that carried over. And I don’t think that’s going away. I really don’t.
And, you know, we’ve mentioned personalized learning a few times here in this conversation already.
One of them, one of the tenants of personalized learning is really getting to know kids and understanding what drives them what their passions are. In order to do that you really need to be connected to the kids.
And I think what we’re going to see as more and more schools keep the social emotional connection with kids at the forefront it’s going to open that door for more personalized learning as well. Coupled that with all this stuff we’ve been talking about with technology, I think we have a really good recipe here.
So it’s, it’s definitely gonna stay a priority. No doubt.
Yeah, I think, you know, increasing as a priority to, as people are worried about, I mean, the mental health crisis team doorway is worse in many ways.
So, students, going back in classrooms, Elizabeth, what is your advice to, to teachers, who are, in many cases, finally, after a year and a half, seeing some of these students in person?
Right. Well, I can tell you what we kind of found, when we got to test drive this a little bit with schools and districts that were opening up to welcome back to students who are available for in person learning. And it was actually a really nice way to do that, because in a lot of cases, they still had to offer a virtual option.
So you’re able to kind of, see what this might look like.
And I think some of the big things where, we realized that we need to go slow, like, it’s not realistic to expect students to no kind of emerge for pandemic and just be right back where they were either academically or socially or emotionally.
So it’s a go slow, and then also really prioritize rebuilding that relationship, and making sure that the center. And then also really explicitly teaching those SEL skills, you know, kind of revisiting them, like just things like navigating your emotions, naming your emotions, recognizing patterns, all of those kind of basic things.
Making sure that we’re actually going through, and modeling those for students, and expecting them to try to use them in their own context, are some of the things that we’ve worked with in schools and districts that we did that across.
Actually, you know, we’re talking about in person, but really, the ones that Chris and I have worked with, that are really prioritizing SEL work at the beginning of all of this.
They were doing that, whether the student was virtual, whether they were hybrid, or whether they were face-to-face. It was this consistent piece that goes across those modalities, right?
But it creates that consistent learning experience and consistent learning community because I think one of the other things we will see is students will be changing modality throughout the year, right?
There might be families who, you know, as Rob was saying for a lot of different reasons, you know some families the high school student was suddenly expected to be the breadwinner for the family. Their part-time job became critical to that family’s well-being, instead of just kind of a, you know, another cool thing to be doing.
It was huge and had to be prioritized. Great virtual learning allowed a lot of our students to do that.
You know, students that are caring for elders, students that are caring for younger students, anyway, Many different reasons and different contexts that families are coming in with.
Why technology mediated education and all of its forms can be really critical to helping them meet their goals.
But I think we have to be prepared to that their change, those needs will change, right?
As we start figuring out what actually the long term effects of the hand and that will be. We’ve gotten very used to the band-aid, but now the band-aid is kind of, we’re past the emergency state.
And now we’re starting to think a little more long term. So Rob, to your point, I think we will see a lot of students kind of coming in, like, maybe partway through the year from a virtual setting.
And we want to be able to think ahead to how to make that transition work well for them, right?
So they’re coming back into something that feels familiar, that makes sense.
Well, and it’s a really great point.
Nothing can fill the gap completely of that face-to-face interaction, and what you can learn about a student, and how you can really think about their unique needs and that unique connection.
But, one of the things, I think that could be seen as something we learned, and, in some ways, a positive of this whole situation, and the implementation of technology, is that there are some gaps that, that doesn’t identify.
Either when it comes to students’ mental health and Rob talked about, you know, how technology can can really be a partner to face to face, and addressing social, emotional well-being and students’ mental health.
Absolutely, I mean, we’ve done that for many years, you know, here at Lightspeed, and continues to be a significant focus of ours, and one that has increased as we’ve responded to customers’ needs throughout the last year and a half.
But, you know kids,
Technology is key to their communication these days.
I have kids myself, and I watch the way they communicate.
And, you know to them, they’ll say they talked to someone. And it was all, you know, instant message, or, you know, some kind of chat or anything and, you know, to me that, well, that’s not a conversation, you just chatted. Or whatever. But to them, that is so key, right?
And so, that’s where technology can come into play in this, and that, and having, you know, those resources.
And that’s where, you know, we, again, long have helped schools and helping protect and monitor and manage that, that technology use in students’ hands.
But it is really key. And especially as we look at the student, mental health student, and staff mental health coming back to this school year.
And, and having that ability to be a part of your solution is actually something I talk to schools about every day now, and how can they utilize the technology that they have in place, and in order to provide a bigger picture, right? I mean, the face to faces is wonderful. It’s great that we’ve got that again.
But layering these together to give you that complete picture because, you know, they’ll, they’ll say things in a, in a technology frame.
Whether it’s an instant message or a shared document, or, you know, any other place, they can actually find it to communicate that they don’t stick to the traditional methods.
And that’s great, but you need to have that picture, and you’ll be able to monitor it and manage that, and bring that in.
So when you are building that relationship with the student, and you are setting what that personal personalization looks like for that student.
You have that complete picture, you have the face-to-face interaction, but you also get that piece of what’s coming in the technology, and maybe the things they don’t say out loud.
Rob, I think that’s huge. And I’m sorry, I know I’m jumping in, but as you’re talking, I was just kind of thinking through all these different ways that I’ve seen this happening, and getting really excited. And just, I think it’s a huge piece that we there are parts that we don’t want to leave behind. Because they really serve students, and families really well.
And some of those were things like doing, like our families loved, that we did phone call outreach.
They were like,we want that every year, like, why, don’t know you call us at the start of every semester, all the time and ask us, you know, how we’re doing, and, do we have computers. You know, it was great.
And so that’s like one piece that we’ve heard from multiple districts, like, hey, it was great to get just a wellness check at the beginning of each learning period. Right? And to just have somebody from the school know more about our family. You know, I saw student teams where, like, within our learning group, students would be paired up with each other, and they were kind of like each other’s learning coach. And so they would text, like, you know, like, they would set goals, and then they would text each other. like, you know, have you reach your learning goal this week?
And putting that kind of power in students’ hands to check in with each other and be accountable for one another in a tech mediated way, that they’re comfortable with was super cool.
We also worked with the school had kind of a homework hotline and going where it was just a couple Google makes, you know, it wasn’t super, crazy high-tech. It was just a link that any student working from home at any time. Click on.
You didn’t have to raise your hand in class and say like, Hey, I don’t get it.
Or, know, be that that kid, all kids know that when a teacher says, Do you understand, everyone knows the answer is yes, totally got it. Move on. Right? Whether they do or not.
So this was a way that allowed them to get kind of like no anonymous help that they would not have asked for, necessarily in a face-to-face setting.
But the anonymity of the tech piece, let them kind of go and access what they needed.
So I think there are a lot of great things that we should really be thinking about before we move on too quickly.
You know, in our relief to be done with pandemic teaching and learning, we should definitely keep mining those things that did come up and that worked really well.
It’s really about the best of both worlds and in a lot of ways.
Right, Yeah, And both, not either or.
Go ahead, Chris.
Yeah, I’m thinking about, um, you know, what are some of the technologies and practices using technology that are going to carry over? The one school district, we worked with, teachers and administrators in the spring of 2020, were amazed at how their outreach to the schools and the use of their video conferencing system with families really gave insights into what was going on in a family.
And was able, you were able to connect to more readily, and get to know the kids more. Now they placed emphasis on this, and that was deliberate.
But I think about what we can do in online learning environments. We know the relationship piece is a big piece in teaching and learning. So when you’re separated geographically because you’re in an online course, or maybe you choose to be a virtual learner now moving forward.
Because teachers and administrators have rapidly develop their skills in utilizing video conferencing technology, it is so much easier now to connect with families who can’t come into the school for a conference. But now you can just work with them through video conference in the comfort of their own home, and you can still have some confidential conversations with them.
Um, I think I think it’s one more barrier that’s taken away in those kinds of conversations.
And it’s exciting to think about, and I know for a fact that that’s a piece that’s going to carry over. Schools invested a lot of money in buying webcams for their staff. So, I’m sure they’re going to get some use.
Yeah, I really love that idea of kind of the parent teacher conferences being able to continue virtually. Some of these homework helplines things that just make it more accessible to more families, more students, more types of learners.
It ties a little bit to some of the questions that come in here, and to how we started this conversation with schools kinda throwing technology at the problem. And then standardizing and determining what was working.
We’ve had a couple of questions about, like, what is the key to this technology stack?
What has one area to focus on, when it comes to what’s in a lot of ways, going to be a hybrid back to school, even though students are in person, there will be pieces of remote learning in place.
So, I’ll give you each and each a chance to address that question, which is, you know, what’s the most important piece for building out a hybrid tech stack?
Elizabeth, don’t worry, I’m not going to start with you. I can tell you’re thinking, I’m going to give it to Rob.
I wish I had an answer like, go get this, right, and that will solve the problem.
But I think the biggest thing is aligned with what we’ve talked about here, which is, is be deliberate, right?
Take the time, because we now have a little bit of time, to look at everything that was out there, what was in use, what worked, what didn’t.
You know, be, deliberate the plan is, is, you know, not that the computer’s going back in the closet. As we’ve talked about.
There will be some form of this going forward, but, really, maximize that. And you can right? And there’s no one magic tool that I think is going to work in every environment. Every school’s needs are a little bit different.
The community needs, the needs of their students, and you bring all that together, but I think you can, you can look at was in use over the last 18 months.
Like, you know, what, tools worked, what didn’t, what got the adoption, what got the engagement?
You know, what was what was simple for my, my parents and my community and my teachers and my students to use, you know, kind of bring all that together and make very deliberate choices.And the good news is I think that’s what I’m seeing that some spending a little time talking with schools, but that, that would be my biggest piece of advice.
Look at the data, listen to the users and the people, and it’s going to be different for each different school.
How about you, Chris, Do you have anything to add to that, or any other Tech Choice, advice?
Yeah, you know, I think actually having the hardware devices is foundational to doing anything from a technology standpoint. I don’t, I’m not going to pick that as my top choice just because I think a lot of schools have already addressed that to a certain extent. Although we still have some inequity issues in terms of Internet access and things like that, but that’s something that I think is in process.
Here’s what I’ve seen though over the last year and it’s something that was really amplified through the pandemic, is schools and districts were trying to include digital content in their instruction whether it’s a virtual environment or a face-to-face environment.
We see the value in having digital content structured in a way that kids can accelerate or slow down their learning as they need.
And it’s a way to give kids different, individualized pathways and personalized learning where schools really struggled. And this was the big stressor for teachers.
Back in 2020, was, when schools were closed, they had to create all this digital content. And that was a huge, huge, problem. And even when they had great resources, if they didn’t have a platform, like a Google Classroom, or a formal LMS, that was even more of a problem for them.
So, I think if schools continue on their journey to build out digital content that can be used in a virtual environment, or a face-to-face environment, regardless of where a child is learning, whatever format.
It’s a consistent curriculum. It can be rigorous. It can be up to the standards of the district.
And then, you know, it creates a lot of accessibility for all kids, all learners, and, um, and I think that’s an area of focus that is going to be a priority for schools, as I really think it should be.
Yeah, it’s a really great point, and kind of tremendous strides in the use of that that will benefit everyone moving forward. Elizabeth, what do you have to add to this advice?
Alright, to layer to this. So, actually, it is, kind of like, we planned it. I think Rob did a great foundation.
Chris, you came back in with kind of, OK, next step and LMS.
Mine was really, so, this actually comes from a phrase that somebody said a long time ago, that I kind of go back to. It was like, there’s not a silver bullet in education technology.
But, if there is, it would be teachers.
And just because teachers really stand in the gap between, you know, turning on the tech and the student experience, they’re really the bridge. They’re the ones that make that happen.
And they did an amazing job over the last year. Like, we could not have asked any more of our teachers and what they did.
And I think we also need to kind of double down on that.
Like really kind of wrap around a, they’re exhausted. Hopefully they all got a summer with it and they’re coming back.
They also learned a huge amount and so really giving them the time and support to think through what they learned, what, you know, help them reflect, help them plan, and really start to give them more of that training and support that we wish we had done earlier.
When we knew we threw them in, and we knew they weren’t ready for this, right?
This is our chance to kind of go back and both repair and support and empower our teachers to really kind of blow the roof up of what education can be like in our country. I think it’s a huge opportunity.
So, my advice, once you’ve done everything that Rob and Chris said, then kind of wrap around your people, and the humans, and your actual instructional staff.
And really work on supporting them and leveraging this technology to make really awesome learning experiences for kids.
It’s a really good point in there, too, Elizabeth. We talked about social, emotional well-being of students, and mental health.
And as we’re thinking out that we can’t forget about the staff and all of our teachers, all of our staff, they have all been through a really rough year and a half too, and done tremendous things.
So take care of them, watch out for that, and also listen to them, You know, we’re talking about what worked, what tech is the most important, and what should you keep?
And a piece of advice for everyone listening to take away is to ask your people that and listen to their answers, too.
As Rob was saying earlier, it’s not going to be the same for every school.
So look at the data for your school. Listen to the people in your school, all of those stakeholders.
Amy, add to that, and I know we’re getting close to time, but I would just also add families and parents in there, because we asked them to partner really heavily with us over the last 18 months.
And I think that they want that.
They got used to a certain level of transparency, knowing what their student was working on, knowing what the expectations were. And at least in the places that we’ve been kind of working and leaning in a bit, we’ve seen families really advocating for, like, hey, we want to stay involved. We want to still continue to have a voice. You know, and so that’s, you know, don’t forget the parent stakeholders or family stakeholders as well.
Really important to know some of the things Rob was saying earlier, too, about we’ve opened up this opportunity to learn a new ways to communicate in new ways. You can’t take that away.
So figuring out the right things to keep. I think that the other part of that is you can’t expect your teachers, your students, your staff here, everyone to do. Rico’s really involved care all of a sudden. But to do the best of, in person learning and the best of remote learning.
So it’s about figuring out the pieces to keep from both.
You know, you read all kinds of things about back to school and going back to normal and what that looks like.
I think it’s a different normal, it’s not what we experienced last year, or the year before, or five years ago.
There are things that will continue, and a recent study showed that 64% of districts are looking at back to school in person, but with a strong remote element.
Because they’re looking at all of these things we’ve talked about as well as what’s going on with new strains.
The virus end, you know, number one lesson, probably, is be ready for anything. That’s what we all learned a year and a half ago, right?
Like, be ready for anything.
Final pieces of advice, Uh, you know, we’re gonna continue this conversation, actually, in a couple of weeks.
So, for everyone listening, join us at the end of the month.
You’ll get an e-mail on this for really looking at 1 to 1.
What does, what does that look like, when we’re more in person than remote?
This same panel, as well as a couple of other representatives from school districts. We hope you’ll join us for that.
But, leading into that, what’s one piece of advice if someone was working while they were listening here, and now they’re really paying attention? One final takeaway, we’ll start with you this time, Chris.
One final takeaway, I think this is this is education is always going to be a people business.
And we need to focus on the people, focus on the relationships. It goes directly to Elizabeth’s point about the teachers and supporting the teachers.
The way the way to, in my opinion, innovating in the future, is to take the technology that you have or that you could have and leverage that in ways that works best for the people, for the benefit of people.
Meaning the kids directly, but it’s focusing on, on the relationships, and focusing on the people, and giving them the tools and processes to get it done.
Elizabeth, you want to add that?
Yeah. Well, it kind of goes hand in hand, which is, celebrate the successes and build on those, and those don’t have to be huge. The Learning Accelerator has a really great hop, skip and, leap framework that they use.
And, you know, just a step forward is still a step forward. It’s better today than it was yesterday.
So really find and celebrate those things. And then look to see how to build on those. It doesn’t have to be huge and overwhelming. You don’t have to transform the entire education system, you know, in the next two months.
Each step getting progressively better for kids, so that would be my advice.
Really great advice. Rob, how about you?
And mine, I think, ties in that, I think it was a great build up there, much like Elizabeth said on the previous one. You don’t lose the momentum that we gained from this. You know, I’ve been around education and education technology probably longer than I want to admit, on this webinar.
And there are things that we’ve long wanted, right?
And in this has driven us there, it has brought technology into to the forefront in education. It has things we’re just talking about. You know, what it is increased parental engagement in ways that I would have probably dreamt about when I was with my district many years ago. So let’s not lose that momentum.
Let’s keep this going and turn it into a positive and keep the things that we have been able to gain out of this, as gains going forward.
Great advice, everybody. Thank you, Rob and, Elizabeth, and Chris for sharing all of your insights.
Thank you to everyone who was joining in and listening and contributing questions in the question box. We’ll see you next time.