Schools and the Space-Time Continuum
By LeiLani Cauthen
It’s almost Fall, and the clock is ticking. Talk of time and space are swirling all around us, and confusion is rampant.
As you know, some states aren’t really open yet and others are closing down. And in the education biz, it feels like the wild West out there. There are discussions happening everywhere about how to really pull this hybrid learning model off. Some districts are just now getting around to surveying their parents. Will it work for your parents if we’re open only two days a week for elementary and two days for middle school? How are we going to do this? It really is a tough time to make all these decisions.
There are so many important conversations out there, like contact tracing. It’s a scary term, but when it comes to health, it gets a little less scary and it’s very important. Some districts are turning to micro-schooling. They are leasing some local retail spaces to put separate, smaller entities in place, so the kids are more separated. Maybe this group goes over here, and this group goes over there. So suddenly the network complications take on whole new meaning because you’re not just using your own buildings.
You might be using multiple buildings that you hadn’t used before as part of your extended campus. How are you going to disinfect areas? How about separation and mask wearing? Different states have different rules; Kids under 12 in certain states don’t have to wear masks, but all the teachers do. Or maybe classrooms can only house up to 15 kids. And there’s more.
Buses and social distancing adds a huge fly in the transportation ointment. And how do you keep the kindergarteners apart? They like to run up on each other and hug and a super hard. We had one superintendent just tell us when they put their kindergarteners on zoom meetings together for the first time, they all just got on screen and cried. They were so happy to see each other.
Scheduling options are all over the board nationwide as well, having to do the four-day week thing or going to A/B schedules, either by grade categories across a week or separate weeks. Some places are using a two-day model. The impact of partial week scheduling on parents is not known yet. And there are a lot of places, even through the quarantine, that still had to have a place for the first responders to send their kids because they were going to work. So, some of that’s already been happening. Then, the question of day-spacing, of elementary kids going back first, then middle and then high schoolers, who will spend much less time on campus.
And then there is the idea of home rooms or houses, like In the Harry Potter world, cohorting or breaking grades into subunits of grades or subunits of multiple grades, minimizing contact with the other cohorts, having people come into those particular cohorts only through one particular door and exiting only through another door, assigned by doorway. Lindsey Smith, on one of our webinars, shared their planning all the way down to minutes by subject in remote learning. It was very sophisticated work. Kimberly Robinson from Prince George’s County also shared their alternate schedules happening across the district based on school. It’s pretty wild stuff. The complexity and repercussions on curriculum and technology are huge.
We played our Personalized Learning Twister game at our national gathering in Dallas this past year. It is a snapshot of what the future looks like for real hybridization and Uberization of learning all the way down to the personalized level, and the change in structure, the space, the time is huge. At the time, we first presented this, we had no idea that changes would be coming so fast and furiously.
When you look at your schedule options, you think about one really important thing, which is a school needs to have appeal. You need to have people want to be there. When you think about options and working parents, that time issue is the fact that when both parents work, they need someplace to put their child. They may not have a relative in the same city or anyone they trust. So that’s going to be huge.
And these are simply the human challenges. The complexity on the tech side has been multiplied exponentially. Scheduling the access for so many combinations and permutations will be a logistical miracle. And we still have the challenges of connecting every family with sufficient bandwidth and a sufficient number of devices.
In fact, with all these changes, there is only one thing I feel certain about. We can do this. During my seven years conducting on-site regional and national events, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of superintendents, state directors, curriculum directors, technology directors, principals and teacher-leaders. On the industry side, the Learning Counsel has gotten to know many of the top companies in EdTech. To a person, the people I meet at these events are intelligent, capable and unbelievably passionate and dedicated. The challenges we face are tremendous, and we may not get everything right on the first try. But I have every confidence that are children are in good hands, and we will come out the other side of this pandemic even stronger than when we entered.
About the author
LeiLani Cauthen is the CEO and Publisher of The Learning Counsel. She is well versed in the digital content universe, software development, the adoption process, school coverage models, and helping define this century’s real change to teaching and learning. She is an author and media personality with twenty years of research, news media publishing and market leadership in the high tech, education and government industries.