Embracing change in education can be challenging. It involves a process of learning how to understand it and creating appropriate social behaviours around it. With students now being Internet-savvy, sometimes finding shortcuts to completing homework comes just as easy as pre-class preparation. How do we deal with situations like this? We remind ourselves that it's part of the process of change, find opportunities for meaningful learning moments with our students, and support each other as a community of educators.
Why do we struggle to enjoy change? Psychology suggests it’s because change requires resisting well-established behavioural patterns that were designed to make life easier. This may seem counterintuitive, particularly when circumstances are beyond our control. However embracing change also opens the door to growth and new possibilities, especially for education. Educators who fully embrace change and quickly adapt to it are usually rewarded with the chance to witness its beauty first-hand.
One of the many changes that the global pandemic of 2020 brought to education was an immediate switch to online learning. It was hard at first, but many teachers made the effort to adjust digitally by recording lessons in videos, managing huge virtual classrooms of students by creating smaller breakout rooms, and just using whatever technology they had available to make sure learning continued despite school closures.
Take this school in rural Johor for example. When schools first closed, teachers at SJKT Ladang Elaeis, a remotely-located estate school, struggled to communicate with their students. The only form of communication they had with students was through text messaging parents. Unfortunately parents were too busy with work to relay them to their children on time. Teachers quickly worked together to find a solution. They eventually found a way to obtain free phones and mobile data for their students through the Learn From Home initiative. These communication tools also allowed teachers to call students to check in on them and support them in areas that they were struggling in.
Understanding that students’ attention span is shorter during virtual lessons, teachers kept things simple and interactive by utilising digital tools for learning. Over time, students picked up the habit of independently looking for digital solutions to help their own learning process and continued to do so even when schools reopened during the endemic phase. By embracing simple steps towards change, teachers at SJKT Ladang Elaeis got to witness a wonderful change in their students.
New discoveries bring exciting change, but it also takes time for people to learn how to practise wisdom. Our predecessors during early civilization were probably ecstatic when they first discovered the wonders of fire. Eventually, they would encounter the challenge of learning how to use it wisely as a society- perhaps by developing certain safe practices and a shared moral code for its use.
Likewise, some teachers from various schools have found that during this time, students have also learned to use technology in ways that are not so ideal, such as copying homework answers verbatim from the Internet, or from their friends through Whatsapp instead of working on it themselves.
In times like these, it's tempting to view change as something negative. We may start to consider that perhaps change isn’t good for us after all. It feels like it would be so much easier to go back to where we were before these new complexities existed.
We need to remember that throughout history, people have always needed to go through a process of learning how to exercise wisdom and integrity in using new tools. The same applies today. As educators, we can’t fault students for being Internet-savvy, but we can recognise this as an opportunity for valuable learning moments with our students. Preparing our students for a technology-driven world involves more than just teaching them how to operate the tools. It comes with the opportunity to gently but firmly address character and values with students too.
This is just a part of the process of change, not a roadblock, and the only way forward is through.
The advancement of technology has increased the amount of change that we now experience in our lifetime. It opens the door to new possibilities, ideas, and challenges, as we form new ways of living and relating to each other. So what can we do to prepare for and continue to embrace change in education? The best thing we can do is to move forward together. This means being intentional about connecting with other educators and finding new ways to adapt to change together.
It means making room for more open and honest conversations about what we’re each going through and then creating a new way to teach and lead change together.
As the global pandemic moves into an endemic state, classrooms can finally return to their physical form and people can live and learn together in-person once again. With this, we find ourselves at a tension of opposites. Do we go back to where we were before or learn from what we’ve been through, press forward, push boundaries, and reimagine what education can be?
This year, the Leaps of Knowledge conference returns to the physical stage on 8 October, with an exciting invitation to think ahead and out of the box as we build back better in a post-pandemic world, together. It presents us all with the opportunity to partner with purpose, make space for conversation and connection, and respond to the need of our time by returning to the HEART of education, scholé. An education that is not merely limited to productivity, but one that is free and at leisure to seek truth and enjoy the process. Just imagine the possibilities!