Two years into the pandemic, schools continue to grapple with a broad array of concerns, from loss of instructional time to evolving pedagogical practices. Many believe that technology is the key to addressing any perceived learning loss, as well as redefining teaching and learning. Karen Adams, the Head of America’s Professional Development at Promethean, recently offered her perspective on where we are and where we’re going.
EdSurge: The pandemic has interrupted learning in so many different ways. What impact are you seeing in schools?
Adams: In my work with teachers, administrators and district leaders, there has been a collective ‘What do we do?’ moment. We have to address the loss of stability for students and teachers. However, it’s important to also recognize that the pandemic has afforded teachers the opportunity to teach differently.
Yes, there are gaps. But technology continues to help us address many of these gaps. We are seeing students catching up but also learning differently. And teachers are learning different ways of teaching. I think learning is becoming more equitable and accessible. There is a learning revolution taking place.
There’s been some controversy regarding the term “learning loss” recently. Care to weigh in?
I believe it does more harm than good. There is no denying that students experienced academic setbacks. But “learning loss” doesn’t acknowledge how the pandemic strengthened students’ skill sets in technology, adaptation and flexibility. Students are getting back to where they need to be and have also learned things that they previously hadn’t. For me, it’s about teaching and learning differently. The pandemic forced a change in teaching that is for the better in the long run.
There is a shift happening. I think we’re moving away from an emphasis on summative assessments, for example, and embracing increased implementation of formative assessments. We now have so many great edtech tools to assess in real time. We are transitioning to more project-based learning environments where students can explore, problem solve and report their work back to others. How we measure learning is going to continue to evolve. Technology is key here—both for how we teach, as well as how we assess.
It’s 2022, and I think our students need to see our classrooms mirror the technology that they are seeing in the world. We need to use technology to meet students where they are and how they want to learn. It’s going to make us define things like remediation and intervention very differently. Regardless of where anyone is in their respective learning journey, we have to offer choices to students. This includes what they learn and how they present their learning. Maximizing our technology will be the key to all aspects of learning.
Can you touch on the importance of fundamental skill building in the classroom?
It’s impractical to think that we can teach everything—whether from the current curriculum or what’s been missed. I think it’s more about teaching the skills that everyone needs, not only to learn more but learn better. Take collaboration, for example. When we teach students how to collaborate effectively, they are gaining lifelong career skills, and they are helping one another fill in the gaps. Maybe it shouldn’t be about covering a certain quantity of curriculum but rather what students are creating. Shouldn’t we be focusing on what our students can do?
If we teach the core skills and do that well, students can continue to learn in new, adaptive ways. Think again about those skills that students have learned throughout the pandemic. Those continue to be valuable as we go forward post-pandemic. If students have the skills and are engaged, we can close gaps and go further than before. When we focus on skill development, we are really readying them for today’s learning and tomorrow’s as well.
What role does social-emotional learning (SEL) play in the learning journey—for students as well as teachers?
Both teachers and students are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress. We really do need to focus on taking care of them. For teachers, it’s about supporting them through training. When the pandemic began, some teachers say they were just sent home with a laptop and no direction. That is unacceptable. We have to do better.
Many in the edtech community have really stepped up and pivoted to supporting teachers in new and creative ways. Supporting our teachers better leads to supporting our students better. If our teachers are well trained—and teaching differently—then our students are happier, more successful. A good teacher in the classroom correlates directly to our students’ emotional well-being.
It’s really about creating learning environments where students feel safe and are excited to learn. For schools that are embracing technology, becoming more project-based and implementing more collaboration, we are seeing both happier teachers and students. When we all know what we are doing, are supported and have the necessary tools to be successful, we are on the right track.