Last year, I was asked by a teacher to deliver a series of lessons based on the concept of students making bold predictions and how artificial intelligence would change our lives in the future. Little did we know at the time that we would be looking square in the virtual face of these coming to light. One of the more interesting predictions was that students would learn mostly online and in virtual environments, and that teachers would be a thing of the past. At the time I thought that this could be a reality, but having survived the first 7 weeks of virtual learning and social distancing, I no longer hold faith in this prediction….
We need human interaction – even if these means staying 2 metres apart, and greeting each other with #elbump. I brought up this point in a recent zoom meeting I was invited to speak at. In the most recent survey that we did with our students, and through various different reflection activities our students have told us that they miss being with their friends in the classroom and seeing their teachers! It reminds that although technology can be used to accelerate and deepen learning, it is best when served* with lots of human contact. And no amount of Zoom calls, Teams meetings, or Google Meets can overcome being in an off-line classroom.
Whilst it is way too early to say what the new normals will be after the pandemic dust settles, COVID-19 has been overcome and we are back in the classroom. Although I certainly ain’t no fortune teller, I will make a few of my own bold predictions of what I think will happen in the immediate future.
Video Conferencing will be Commonplace
The first of these is students’ ability to use video conferencing apps. At our school we have a hybrid approach of Teams and Zoom, and our students, after an initial hesitation to use them (not wanting to be on camera for example), have really shone! From attending morning meetings, to taking turns in read-aloud, and working together in small collaborative groups – our students have been incredibly adaptable in making the most of their new virtual environments. They have been able to maintain the connections, lost in the classroom in the digital world that they find themselves thrown into.
Sure there are times when students go into private chat groups or start a meeting too early (Teams not Zoom), but this is to be expected initially. As long as we address these situations with our students, and use the lessons to better educate them as digital citizens (ISTE Standard 2), our students will become much more savvy on the best practices on how to communicate online. I have seen a few infographics (an awesome one made by my friend and colleague Boramy Sun) on how to come to a set of agreements on participating during these meetings. I think as we go on, it would be awesome if teachers, in collaboration with students, come up with a set of protocols for each classroom.
I strongly believe that video conferencing – blended learning will become as ubiquitous as having to wash your hands for 20 seconds, several times a day!
Blended learning, in its simplest form, is when a teacher is teaching their lesson but with the addition of the lesson being streamed, in Teams, Zoom or Meet. Students who are not in the classroom (currently because they are in quarantine/ in the future because they cannot make it to school for whatever reason) will still be able to participate online. The teacher could still interact with the online students through the app, whilst still engaging with the class. It may require some new equipment such as having a decent webcam, microphone and increased bandwidth – but surely it is worth it.
This idea could also be rolled out to various coffee mornings that schools hold for parents on different initiatives taking part at school. More often than not, it is difficult for parents to take time off work to come into school and attend this – they would need to request for time off, not to mention the incurred travel time to and from their place of work to school. But now they could simply join in from the comfort of their workplace, and truly be part of the conversation and community.
Virtual Art Exhibition
Our school normally holds an annual art exhibition for IB DP Art students to showcase their work. It involves the students setting up their own areas where they display their work and parents, students and all members of the community are invited to admire the work that the students have put into their DP projects.
Of course, due to our school closure this is not possible. But it would be possible for students to create their own virtual art exhibits:
- Each student will set up a webpage of their work.
- These webpages would be shared with the teacher who could then upload them onto a central digital map/website.
- When an online visitor goes to the digital map area they can choose which art exhibit to visit.
- The virtual art exhibition could be accessed at any time, but there could also be a planned exhibition time for Q&A (see point 5).
- Each piece of work would be accompanied by a QR code. When the QR code is scanned it loads a video of the student talking about the art work. To make this more immersive HP Reveal* (since writing this article HP Reveal has been discontinued) would be used when the QR code is scanned the video plays in its place; using augmented reality.
- Students could be available for Q&A in a video conference at a designated time.
Whether or not my predictions will come to light may as well lie in the hands of Zoltar from Big or in a magic 8 ball, but we are certainly more technologically confident than we ever have been before.