Most educators, students and parents don’t need to be reminded that , education at all levels across Australia was severely disrupted throughout most of the country at various points. High schools, primary schools, universities, TAFEs and day-care centres in Australia were once again forced to adapt to new ways of operating or close down as COVID cases grew in NSW and Victoria.
With another year of remote learning under our belts and plenty of uncertainty on the horizon, there are many questions about the future of education – what it will look like, how it will be delivered and how best to support students, parents and teachers.
While it’s fair to say that few people think that complete remote learning is ideal for anything other than a last resort, it does point to some likely trends we can expect to see in education in the year ahead.
Most kids spent the last couple of years learning remotely. But it’s fair to say that the quality of that learning varied greatly from school to school.
While some kids had access to laptops, Teams and other online learning tools, some were left with nothing more than printed PDFs and vague instructions to complete certain tasks by strict deadlines with little to no oversight available.
So, while online learning was pointed to as the way forward for many, it wasn’t the educational panacea that would solve all the problems of teaching people when they couldn’t be face to face. There were widespread growing pains with the quick leap to online learning, with everything from poor device resourcing to creaking telco infrastructure causing issues for students and teachers alike.
This isn’t to say that online learning doesn’t have a place in education through 2022 – it will. The key for institutions will be in using it to advantage, as an additional learning technology that complements on-campus instruction, as opposed to relying on it for anything and everything.
Gamification is hardly a new concept. It can be found in many industries, from television (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) to apps (DuoLingo and MyFirtnessPal) and everything in between.
But while it’s not a “new” thing, it is something that is seeing increased adoption within education as educators look for ways to engage with students in ways that appeal to them, and that makes learning fun, while also helping to break down some of the barriers that students find when it comes to learning.
Think back to your own school years. It’s likely you learned (or didn’t?) your times tables by rote, in a situation where you just said them over and over again until they were forever lodged in your memory. Boring, right?
By introducing gamification – or even leaning on games like Minecraft and Fortnite - you can potentially remove the boredom of repetitive task by wrapping learning within colourful graphics, interactive elements and most importantly, fun. Interactivity is the key here. After a year of staring at a screen, being able to touch, control and steer something (anything!) is better than staring at a Zoom screen and trying to stay awake.
Students at all levels have had a pretty rough go of it over the last few years. From Year 12 students who couldn’t sit exams in person, to university students who couldn’t attend graduations and primary school students who missed months of vital socialisation and education growth, everyone had a tough go of it.
As we move into 2022, there needs to be a particular focus on attempting to understand students’ needs and offering them support and access to services that can help them bounce back from the last couple of years.
Because of social isolation, the possibility of some students being left behind during lockdown months, and the rush to catch up on missed education time are all critical concerns that need to be addressed.
In addressing this, institutions and educators with parental assistance will be on the frontline of bringing kids back to schools – physically, emotionally, and mentally. While it likely won’t be easy, the hard work of preparing students will require ensuring that they have access to counselling, additional educational resources and more, so they can re-integrate into on-campus learning environments more permanently in 2022.
With most of the country opened up and school holidays approaching at full speed, there’s a chance for students to take it easy at the tail end of a long and difficult year.
Because while we may have felt that it was hard to teach and work, or even buried your head in your hands when one of your darling children started yelling at another student over Teams while you were having an important business meeting, you should do your best to remember that if you found it hard, they probably found it much harder.
That change in mindset will be key as we enter 2022, because it’s not us that needs the help - it’s the students. It goes without saying that we want them to succeed, and by looking back at what worked and what didn’t, learning from the past and supporting them as best we can, they can go on to continue to do amazing things.