Starting May 4, we’ll enter the ‘next normal’ of re-opening the economy in many parts of the world, including Germany and it’s fair to say some are slowly gaining confidence while others are genuinely anxious. This is very much in line with the ground reality of invisibility and lack of access to concrete data and facts. Schools have a bigger challenge of providing quality education with a constant awareness of health and safety of learners and faculty being at the top of the list. Some parents still aren’t comfortable with sending their kids to school and their reaction is perfectly understandable. Educators have been asked to do the balancing act of providing equitable learning as some students will be calling in from their homes, while others will be in classrooms adjusting to the new distancing rules. A hybrid or blended model refers to a combination of online and face-to-face learning happening simultaneously in real-time. Alternatively, you’d space out the two by recording lessons and sharing them on a Learning Management System (LMS) if the learners are spread over multiple time zones. Here are some approaches that might be worth trying and I’ll discuss using a spaceship analogy:
- The Launch: A good ice breaker or discrepant event are phenomena which defy prior knowledge and understandings of learners and create a cognitive disequilibrium. One could do a live or an electrifying demonstration, or even show a video to highlight a concept the students learned earlier in the year followed by cold calling learners, online and offline, to answer a series of questions to explain the episode. Alternatively, they could be asked to tackle a digital misconception probe and explain the nuance behind the occurrence. A deep thinking event that encourages students to evaluate their prior knowledge is comparable to an optimal fuel ratio that provides the initial pedagogical thrust for a successful initiation.
- Cruising: To build on the momentum learners just gained, there is a need for gradual building up of challenge and room for substantial practice and application of concepts. The transition from explicit instruction of a concept or topic for 15-20 minutes to providing guidelines for the next set of tasks will be critical to maintaining learner engagement. Students should be encouraged to work in synergy with online learners. This is where technology could be a great equaliser. There is a multitude of possibilities to explore. Online learners could collaborate with their peers in class via Google Drive to solve problems or the instructor could scaffold small group discussions by syncing the whiteboard with conferencing software. Students learning from their homes should be given a slightly wider berth in terms of completing their curricular tasks. They should be encouraged to turn on their cameras to visually engage with their peers and the teacher.
- Separation: Learners should work on independent tasks to evaluate their knowledge and understandings. From tackling problem sets to answering conceptual questions, or rehearsing for verbal presentations, this stage should provide opportunities to demonstrate mastery.
- In Orbit: Once learners feel comfortable in their learning zone, they could reflect on the lesson by interviewing each other or the instructor all done from a safe distance. A quick survey or exit ticket done using an app should yield key insights into the efficiency of this new model of learning. To further enhance the integrity of tasks, online learners should be asked to share their screens as they recap their learning. Instructors should use this data to do a quick audit of their teaching strategies to make further adjustments to their hybrid approaches.
With the right blend of ideas, infrastructure, and implementation, we should promote meaningful interactions between learners based in class and those at home. The point is to continue working without losing oneself and at the same time use this opportunity to evolve both as a professional and human being. Who knows, we might make new discoveries along the way, hopefully leading to improved outcomes.