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The World Constantly Changed in the Last 150 Years: Will the Pandemic Now Push Education to Change?

What worked well for you, your students, their families and the community in the past year? What did not work well? What changes did you make? What will you keep from your past year of teaching? What will you change? What will you never do again?

In reflecting on the past year, I am reminded of how much the world has changed around me. Wearing a mask everywhere I go is habit and checking the news daily to see what is happening with the Covid-19 pandemic is natural. I do that on my new cell phone or my laptop computer, both of which I did not have 20 years ago. In the last 20 years, both the cell phone and my computers have changed dramatically in size, capabilities and potential. But when I consider education, I think about the visuals below and the factory-like model that we are still working against. If you have not seen the video entitled, "The People VS. The School System", it would be a good place to start reflecting on our school systems. What are children and families telling us they need, what does research say engages our students and does our educational model/system need to change to mirror our world's needs?

So where did the "Factory-like Model" come from?

The factory-like model came about early in the 20th Century to prepare students for the Industrial Economy. More than 150 years ago, Massachusetts provided their children with a free public education. Soon other states followed suit. A publicly-funded school system resulted, with approximately 30 similar-aged students in each classroom and one teacher. Schools were formed to prepare students for work in a factory. Students learned to be punctual, agreeable, and compliant. They were moved through the system grade by grade, taking a more impersonal, yet efficient and standardized industrialized approach to learning. This has been the same model ever since that time. It seemed to adequately prepare students for the needs of the Industrialized world.

Now we have moved to a Post-Industrialized world. By the 1980's, "A Nation at Risk" came out and there was a "Technology" boom. Many thought this would change the course of education. However, technology was added to the same school structure. The factory-like model still seemed efficient, scalable and could be replicated easily. The "Information Age" caused many changes in most industries, but not in education.

How did the Covid-19 Pandemic Change our Current Model? What are the Current Needs of a 21st Century Student Moving into a 21st Century World?

With the pandemic and the need to change modes of delivery from In-person to Distance and Hybrid, students, teachers and families were all thrown for a loop. Everyone stepped up to the plate and QUICKLY learned ways to incorporate new technology and engaging practices for students into the virtual classrooms, varied communication methods with students and families, while administration made sure needed technology and internet access was received by all students, food was dispersed to any student and family that needed it and equitable practices and social-emotional needs (SEL) of students, families and staff were at the forefront. We stepped out of the educational "normal" that we had been in for over 100 years and educating our students looked different.