Today’s classrooms bear little resemblance to those from a generation ago. From the use of technology to our new remote learning capabilities, the way we deliver K-12 education has taken great leaps forward in a relatively short period. We are now in a place where hybrid learning – education that is simultaneously available in the classroom and remotely through a connected device – is no longer a pipe dream but the norm.
A sizeable chunk of this technology adoption was indeed motivated by last year’s pandemic-related shutdown. Still, history has shown us that progress spurred by times of crisis tends to remain after the crisis has subsided. Women in the workforce were not commonplace before WWII. Between 1940 and 1945, however, the number of working women rose by five million. By the end of 1945, women made up 36% of the total workforce.
Similarly, the rapid gains in integrating technology into the classroom over the past 19 months are almost certainly here to stay. They represent a better way of engaging students and preparing them for the world they will one day enter as adults. And while most people agree that in-person learning is preferred, nobody knows what the future holds. So, it is critically important to be able to quickly pivot to continue to deliver education without interruption, in a way that will create the most significant impact for student learning regardless of whether they are sitting right in front of the teacher, halfway around the world, or simply at home, a few blocks away.
This is not to suggest that there aren’t any challenges that we need to address as we solidify this transition to a hybrid classroom environment. Teacher proficiency in the technology and device availability are two remnants of the rapid adoption thrust upon educators last year and need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. Another lesson we learned over the past year and a half is the importance of students’ social and emotional learning aspects. When learning was exclusively in the classroom, a teacher could read students’ faces or body language for indications of comprehension or lack thereof. How do they gain such insights when students are remote, and their cameras are turned off for bandwidth reasons?
Despite these operational challenges, the case for the hybrid learning environment is almost unassailable. It wasn’t that long ago when integrating technology in classroom education was the 45-minute session the class would have in the computer lab. Today, it is part of the way education is delivered and cannot be removed from the process. In turn, the technology allows for all students to be successful in different ways. Maybe for one student, English is their second language, so having the ability to translate content right there in their native language is an accessibility feature that sets them up for success. Or perhaps another student is red-blue colour blind, and we can set up the text on a computer to allow them to read content that takes their condition into account.
Technology is being used to increase engagement and create a more inclusive experience that meets students where they are. One of the more compelling examples of integrating advanced technology in the classroom is the way in which interactive technology is changing the educator–student experience. Promethean’s ActivPanel is one such example. The front-of-the-classroom technology is a great tool to create an engaging learning environment because of the capability of using apps, websites, and the ever-so-easy and intuitive Promethean software known as ActivInspire. What I love about the software is that you can deliver new and extended learning opportunities. In addition, the software makes it easy to support individual, small group, or whole-class learning. The software offers a treasure trove of resources, easy-to-use interface and the ability to connect to student devices to create interactive activities and lessons to capture students' attention – helping them to learn, grow and succeed in their academic pursuits.
The hybrid learning environment is not just different from what we had before – it’s undeniably better. It’s a classroom experience where students can engage in collaborative discovery rather than individual notetaking. The effective use of classroom technology can help capture attention, spark ideas, inspire learning and enable students to develop solutions that reward both imagination and persistence.
This is the hybrid learning environment, and I’m happy to say I believe it’s here to stay. If you’d like to chat about how you can integrate technology into your environment, please reach out!