Disturbance. That’s the best way to describe the changes in education during the pandemic. As a result, preschool, K-12, and college and university learning has changed.
Learning hasn’t always changed for the better either. Consider start-stop schooling and under-preparedness for university life. Yet, like so many other disrupted industries, the education market is leveraging this recent difficult period as an opportunity for inspiration. Today, technological and scientific innovations are poised to undo recent disruptions to learning and chart an exciting path forward.
Below are some of the most important future inventions and practices that are redefining and revitalizing education.
1. An update to how to assess student understanding.
For generations, schools have relied on high-stakes tests to assess learners. Yet as Instructure research, the creators of Canvas, show that high-stakes testing can do more harm than good. This is especially true during times of anxiety, such as during Covid. According to Instructure, 77% of students and 63% of teachers know stress around high-stakes tests.
The answer is not to eliminate testing, of course. However, educators and administrators are increasingly open to alternatives to summative assessments. For example, some schools are moving towards more frequent testing rather than waiting long periods between tests. These interim and formative assessments are designed to quickly identify learning gaps. These gaps can then be filled quickly, ensuring students have the best chance of getting up to speed on the topics.
How popular are these new types of RTA vehicles? Instructure found that 94% of teachers rely on formative assessments. Eight-one percent appreciate temps. In other words, more testing seems to work for both educators and learners. This is a huge shift in perspective from the days when educational institutions viewed massive testing as the primary way to assess student excellence.
2. More commitment to teaching STEM subjects creatively.
One of the biggest challenges teachers have faced when moving to online learning has been figuring out how to teach STEM subjects. As a result, many students now report that they feel lost when it comes to fully grasping subjects such as math, engineering, and chemistry. EdWeek Reports that as many as a third of high school students are at least moderately worried about STEM courses.
The pandemic has certainly revealed how difficult it can be to teach STEM in virtual environments. Move classes to Zoom or another video conferencing portal has taken the practicality out of lessons. This created a barrier for the students. And students from low-income families have been disproportionately affected, with many deciding to forego taking critical STEM-focused AP tests.
Some educators don’t see this as an insurmountable problem but as a chance to refresh STEM learning. Take Purdue University, for example. Purdue leads a charge to update the STEM curriculum to be conducive to blended learning models. A few from Purdue novelties include creating virtual lab environments and small “portfolio” project assignments at your own pace. The results have shown promise at the school where teachers hope their concepts will be adopted by other schools.
3. New furnishing configurations for modern digital learners.
It’s no secret that the typical setup of individual desks in K-12 classrooms hasn’t improved much. This is changing across the country. In terms of changes in education, teachers are becoming more accustomed to helping younger and older students benefit from collaborative learning. Of course, it is possible to ask the students to bring their chairs closer together to have team discussions. However, more and more furniture manufacturers are offering state-of-the-art furnishing options to reduce friction points and improve brainstorming.
From multimedia tables connected to interactive touch boards, learners can intuitively learn in groups. At the same time, all types of learners are stimulated. The result is a more dynamic atmosphere that prepares students for the corporate world.
Desks, tables, and furniture with screens and internet connectivity also make remote students feel more part of the group. Many people are asking teachers to teach both in-person and virtual students simultaneously. The right equipment makes these lessons easier and reduces the risk that a remote learner will not feel connected to the classroom.
4. Scientifically developed baby food to promote early intelligence.
Most people tend to think that education begins during the preschool years or the early elementary years. Not everyone, however. Dr. Teresa Purzner, MD, Ph.D, neurosurgeon and developmental neurobiologist wants to help children get a head start before they enter Head Start. In this capacity, she became a co-founder of the science-based baby food brand Cerebelly.
The thought behind Brain is to enhance food naturally and organically with 16 essential nutrients for the brain. Each nutrient is present in all of the brand’s baby food offerings, which Purzner says will be significant for infants’ academic abilities later on.
If this food-body-brain connection sounds familiar, it is. Many ingredient and food brands talk about supporting cognitive function. Nevertheless, these brands focus on helping people with nearly developed or fully developed brains. The idea of feeding a brain only the purest, most nutrient-dense foods during its early stages of growth is something particularly intriguing.
5. Growth of robust learning management systems.
Learning management systems (LMS) existed before the pandemic. The pandemic, however, has highlighted some of their biggest problems. For example, some students and teachers found it more difficult to adapt to the LMS chosen by their school. Varying changes in education and adoption rates have made it harder for teachers to fully utilize the LMS.
Another problem with some LMS environments was that students and teachers received little training before deployment. As a result, all stakeholders spent valuable time trying to figure out how best to use the LMS.
LMS manufacturers have responded to these needs in a variety of ways. They have simplified their user interfaces, such as dashboard designs. They have also made it easier for teachers and students to upload a variety of digital media, from videos to presentations. It is worth mentioning that corporate learning environments also use some of the best LMS vehicles that schools prefer. Therefore, students transitioning into the workforce can have a deep understanding of the LMS used by their employers.
6. A broader desire to integrate real-world learning into mainstream subjects.
A Boston Globe article illustrated the disconnect between the way certain subjects are taught and their relevance in the real world. The article discussed an art teacher’s dismay at the shift to remote learning. She found that it was impossible to teach fine arts online. At the same time, it began to rethink its typical curriculum. Was this necessarily what his students needed? She concluded that was not the case, at least not entirely.
Her epiphany led her to reinvent her art class with a more hands-on digital twist. She began to change her teaching to include the use of high tech programs like Pixlr, Tinkercad and Canva. The programs gave her and her students the opportunity to explore art in a more everyday sense. The students used their architectural skills to design virtual buildings. Those who wanted to immerse themselves in art tried their hand at graphic design.
The goal was not to diminish the value or function of traditional art classes, but to bring learning into the 2020s. Additionally, students got a taste of technologies that might be relevant when future internships and jobs.
There is no doubt that the pandemic’s changes in education will continue to have lasting ripple effects. Fortunately, many of these ripples serve as inspiration for ingenious technical and scientific advances for students, teachers, and society.
Image credit: Pixabay; pexels; Thank you!