Hybrid learning continues to be on the minds of schools and districts. Either they are beginning to get ready to shift from remote learning, or challenges have arisen after meticulously planning for a smooth rollout. In either case, I commend them for seeking out assistance for staff to ease concerns and ensure sound pedagogical practices are in place. These models were never meant for K-12 education, and there is no definitive playbook available as things seem to be in a constant state of flux during the pandemic. Educators have admirably risen to the occasion, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve continuous support, practical strategies, and timely resources. Investments now will serve to provide needed assistance while paving the way for sustainable changes to pedagogy in the future.
To this end, I hit the ground running to begin the new year by traveling to Oklahoma to work with Sapulpa Public Schools. Like virtually every district and school, educators were experiencing some challenges with hybrid learning. During my first session of the day, I worked with administrators to best support their teachers. As I was on-sight with them in a socially distanced cafeteria, I facilitated a more traditional workshop. I combined practical strategies aligned to the current situation combined with multiple opportunities to discuss essential questions and then share responses using digital tools. However, something was off as I felt that I really wasn’t showing them the reality of what their teachers were expected to do in their classroom with remote and face-to-face students simultaneously. Thankfully this changed for my next session.
I knew that I was going to have the opportunity to work with all district teachers on hybrid learning and encouraged them to attend the session as well. In my mind, this was the perfect opportunity to model pedagogically-sound hybrid learning in a way that was manageable yet effective. The scenario turned out to be perfect as I had approximately 200 teachers join remotely on Zoom and had another 50 or so socially distanced in the auditorium. I was pumped to do my best to replicate what teachers experience currently in their classrooms with hybrid learning in order to address challenges and lessen anxiety. I cannot overstate the importance of modeling strategies for teachers and administrators under the same conditions that they deal with daily.
Using a toolbox of ideas and strategies developed during the pandemic in my work with schools, I facilitated the workshop using effective instructional strategies, essential questions, breakout rooms, and digital tools in ways that I outlined in my last post. I stressed how I wasn’t doing anything radically different from what successful teachers did prior to the pandemic throughout each activity. For example, I chunked the content shared and infused numerous interactive tasks for discourse and collaboration. As they worked in groups, I moved about the room and monitored progress physically while also checking in on the remote learners. After a set amount of time, all of the attendees shared their responses and reflections using various digital tools. After focusing on practical pedagogy, we ended with some ideas on transitioning to more personalized approaches through blended learning.
The feedback afterward presented validation for how I structured the workshop. First and foremost, I wanted everyone to understand that the key to any hybrid learning model is creating an equitable learning experience. Whether an attendee was with me remotely or face-to-face, they all were engaged and empowered through the same activities. I can state how critical this is for our learners. We need to make them feel a part of the lesson. The second takeaway was not to overthink things but to keep it simple, as outlined in this post.
All in all, we get what we model. Educators desperately want and need support with hybrid learning. The best way to get results is to model both expectations and strategies while also creating norms to ease anxiety levels. If you need additional support here in the United States, look no further than available Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II and IV funds. The criteria stipulate the use of technology to improve learning outcomes. Feel free to reach out at any time (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss the work I have been doing with schools and what I can do for you. Keep up the excellent work, everyone!