At HundrED we focus on finding innovative solutions to complex problems and there has been no problem more complex than the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the COVID-19 on global education has been - as no news outlet has failed to mention - nothing short of unprecedented.
Since last April over 1.5 billion of the world’s students have been affected by school closures. Students, parents, and educators have been forced to navigate new technologies and practices for remote learning, some with only days to prepare.
According to Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy at the OECD, only about 50% of teachers worldwide feel comfortable or have experience in digital teaching and learning. However, despite this many educators have been able to quickly pivot, creating or embracing innovative solutions to address the complex challenges spurred by the pandemic. In fact, because of the pandemic, a lot of people and systems once resistant to change have been forced to adopt a new growth mindset.
Back in April, we asked our Community to share homeschooling and online resources that support student learning and wellbeing. We were overwhelmed by the response. In the span of 10 days, we documented, packaged, and released a collection of 30 simple, yet effective solutions that help parents, teachers and children navigate through the plethora of challenges facing education during the pandemic in our Spotlight on Quality Education for all during COVID-19.
In the time since, our Community has continued to impress, creating, and sharing innovative practices and solutions. One solution out of Australia we are certain will prove valuable long after the pandemic has passed. Although there is a lot of uncertainty as we prepare for the return to school in the fall, one thing we can be sure of is that it will not be a return to normal. In order to help our community prepare for the coming school year, we will be hosting an interactive workshop on Thursday, August 20th, at 11:00 UTC. You can find a link to register at the end of this article.
Derek Bartels and Kimberley Powell both work in offices of Lutheran Education in Australia. Derek is the Director of Innovation and Technology at the Queensland district of schools, while Kim works as an Education Officer for the district of schools in three states: New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
They are also both active members of the HundrED Community. Kim is a new member, who no doubt joined after being encouraged by Derek's involvement. Derek has been a HundrED Ambassador since 2018. This dynamic duo is quickly making waves in the education community in Australia. Derek has recently been selected as the HundrED Country Lead for Australia, while Kim was just listed as one of the top 75 Educational Leaders in Australia. The pair approached the HundrED team last month to discuss their new design thinking project designed to help capture some of the innovative solutions coming out of the pandemic.
Collectively, Derek and Kim look after about 50 schools across the eastern seaboard of Australia. Derek explained that during the early stages of COVID, particularly when remote learning was happening, they received a lot of feedback from principals and staff members that their quick pivot during COVID could potentially provide long-term opportunities.
Kim said that in addition, a lot of school leaders reported feeling worried that once they returned to school staff members who had been willing to embrace change during lockdown would just go back to the way things were before once they returned to the classroom. She elaborated that they were receiving requests from schools to come up with something to help people, “really appreciate the great stuff and find ways to embed it moving forward.”
Derek and Kim connected with Ariel Raz, a friend from d.School Stanford, and some other associates to gather ideas in order to develop a workshop to help capture some of these reflections and turn them into action. They have named the workshop Reflect 2 Pivot (R2P).
The whole workshop typically takes around two hours. They have facilitated it both online and face to face, however, it was originally designed to be run online during COVID restrictions. Derek says that the online format gives both facilitators and participants flexibility and comfort, as it can be done from anywhere and the online tools they use allow for greater anonymity. The session begins with an exercise in empathy. Kim explains,
“We have a discussion acknowledging the lack of agency that was involved in this whole situation and that everyone got thrown in the deep end together. We also acknowledge that out of that challenge there's been some really great learnings and some interesting discoveries about what does work that maybe we didn't expect to.”
The idea is to create a safe space where school leaders and staff can have an open discussion and try to problem-solve together. They have received really good feedback from both school leaders and teachers. The reflections from teachers have been particularly positive, they have enjoyed problem-solving together and report feeling included and heard and owning the direction forward.
Kim and Derek are careful in how they frame the workshop. It is not about actually coming up with ready to test prototypes but about identifying the appetite for certain projects. After the workshop, all of the information gathered is shared with the schools so they can make decisions about what they want to start straight away and what they want to develop as a group.
The team's ultimate goal for the project is that it can move beyond the COVID context into all kinds of strategy and preferred future thinking, reflecting on what has been happening in a school and help leaders and teachers set directions. They have had some schools that have used the workshop for COVID but asked if they could use it again six months down the line when they begin their next phase of strategic planning.
According to Derek, the most rewarding part of the entire experience has been hearing from those who originally didn’t consider themselves as change agents that they now feel that they have a voice for change and feel that they have had some impact on the strategic direction of the school.
The workshop has been so successful with staff that there have been requests for them to tweak it so that it can be run with students. When we heard about it at HundrED we immediately thought it would be valuable to our community of education stakeholders.
That is why we have decided to host a workshop for our community leaning into the new school year. The workshop will be on Thursday, August 20th at 11:00 UTC and will be an interactive session meant to give you a small taste of the full workshop.
You can find a link to register here - but act fast as space is limited!