Insights and thoughts on the new academic year..


2020-21 Annus horribilis or mirabilis?

Insights and thoughts on the new academic year...

The new academic year is about to start and millions of educators around the globe wonder whether this is going to be a horrible (horribilis) or a miraculous (mirabilis) year for education. Noone can guarantee even the basics: whether lessons will be  online, hybrid or face to face. Yet, as educators, we need to ensure that learning takes places despite hindrances and unfavourable conditions. Can we turn these challenges to opportunities for our learners though, by making the most of what we learned from last years emergency teaching, and the current conditions and trends? 

"The changes which occurred in the educational process during the lockdown, no matter how unwillingly applied in lessons, may give a boost to education to move into the 21st century in terms of approach, methodology and tools."

First, let’s summarize some valuable insights we gained last year and we can apply this year:

·         Pedagogy precedes technology

Students were quick to praise the teachers whose online lessons had clear learning goals and scaffolded learning with the aid of technology. They were equally quick to dismiss teachers whose lessons used technology without a clear aim.

·         Plan sensibly and give feedback

On the first days of the lockdown, there was excessive homework and relatively little feedback. Now, we know that the amount of homework needs to be sensible and constructive feedback can help learners and motivate them.

·         Trust and support learners

During the lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised by  the progress and high levels of engagement of learners who previously were too timid or unwilling to participate in class activities. From the feedback that I later received from parents and learners, it turns out that students appreciate being trusted and given support by their teacher, especially under challenging circumstances.

·         Explore and exploit

 Teachers realized that they can adopt technology and master new techniques by introducing them  gradually into the class.They also discovered that taking a step at a time may be more successful than trying to immerse themselves into a new approach overnight.

·         Seek and provide peer support

Switching to new  practices like online teaching can be overwhelming. However, wherever educators shared ideas, experience and knowledge, the burden was lighter and support groups were d formed ad hoc that absorbed most of the pressure and anxiety. This can set an example for how future changes can be introduced successfully.

·         Maintain communication with all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers)

Direct communication helped to deal with problems on the spot. It also offered the opportunity to make learning goals more clear to parents and learners. In addition, it fought the stereotype that educators are aloof creatures living in their own ivory tower.


Here are some thoughts on how we can make the most of the existing opportunities.

·         Learners are familiar with technology

Our students are more than capable of coping with learning technology tools. What we need to clearly signpost is the rules of the game and define the lines that should not be crossed.

·         Parents have finally realized

The vast majority of the parents have realized that technology can be educational and can contribute to learning. This year they are highly unlikely to resist the use of educational technology. On the contrary, most of them expect to see a seamless integration of technology into the curriculum to the benefit of the learners. 

·         Customization to meet school and learner needs

Established IT companies as well as start-ups worked hard to customize products and services and meet the needs of education under lockdown conditions, based on the feedback they received from the educational community. Now, more than ever before, there is a wide range of affordable tools and apps to accommodate any need or learning goal!

·         Schools are more open to innovation and change

The recent crisis has made school leaders more aware of the need to embrace 21st century pedagogy and support it with tools and teacher training. Thus, they are more likely to listen carefully to fresh ideas and problem solving suggestions recommended by frontline teachers. 


Some final thoughts

Undoubtedly, this year is not going to be a rose garden with uncertainty hovering over the heads of educators and making planning a daunting task. Last year,those who hesitated or were not flexible enough to adapt their teaching practice and use new tools to reach their students were left aside and their image was tarnished.  On the contrary, the educators who dared managed to help their learners.Thanks to them the prestige of the educators in the community was reinstated and teachers are now seen as the ones who strive to facilitate learning.

 The changes which occurred in the educational process during the lockdown, no matter how unwillingly applied in lessons, may give a boost to education to move into the 21st century in terms of approach, methodology and tools. To a certain extent, we are the ones who will define this year as horribilis or mirabilis.  Let’s make the most of the positive aspects of the current trends, to the benefit of our learners!

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