While public and private school communities wait and speculate and discuss and lament, at Drive, we are learning and designing. Here are two questions that are at the forefront of our work in preparation for the beginning of school.
1. How are our students doing - emotionally, physically, and socially?
I read an article last week pleading with schools to “loop” for the upcoming school year. This means keeping the same students with the same teachers. By doing this, the thought is that teachers and students will have already formed relationships and a sense of trust. Teachers will have an instant rapport which will allow them to better notice changes in student behavior, student needs, engage in conversation, and communicate with parents.
It is very doubtful that many schools are able or willing to heed this advice. Drive Virtual Academy already has a plan to deal with this issue. We are a very diverse, small team of teachers that collectively share the belief that there is nothing more important than the relationships we build with our students. When teaching, we have always prioritized authentic connection in everything we do. This will be of utmost importance moving forward. Social and emotional health is essential to learning and we are committed to both at Drive Virtual Academy.
This is a very difficult time in all of our lives and the level of difficulty for each family is unique, complex, and variable. The gravity of this truth needs to be met with compassion, patience, thought, and humility. The intention of our design must have a clear focus on relationships and partnerships, with students, with families, with our teachers, and with our communities. Though no one has all of the answers, we are surrounded by professionals and services that will guide us and support us. We need to be accessible to families and knowledgeable about who we can reach out to for help and training. We are working on that right now by reaching out to experts in mental health, compiling a list of services, and setting up professional development for our teachers.
2. What technology tools and resources best support our mission and curriculum?
Whether we like it or not, some aspect of school will be online for all students. It is long past time that administrators and teachers recognize this and adapt their mindset and teaching methods to create quality online learning experiences for students. Last spring was primarily about coping, but now we must all prepare to be professional online teachers. Tech companies have recognized this and have been busy adding, subtracting, and fine tuning their platforms.
At Drive, we have been immersed in demos and discussions about what will best serve the needs of teachers, students, and families this year. Being honest (and an education nerd), it is very cool! The possibilities that tech will afford us bust the doors wide open for lasting, deep, impactful learning. The platforms we are using are dynamic, but we have also chosen them for their ease and integration with each other, as well as their relevance in the worlds of work and higher learning.
Something that truly separates Drive from other schools is our vision for technology. Both online and brick and mortar schools view technology as little more than a delivery system for content. We see it as a conduit for communication and collaboration worldwide. It is a tool for unparalleled creation and a resource for infinite and instant knowledge. It can connect you to masters in any craft and access to cultural experiences once reserved for world travelers. Technology is social. It is engaging. It prompts deep discussion and debate. It allows teachers to challenge and aid each student based on individual needs. Technology makes feedback and assessment personal and meaningful. It gives every student a worldwide audience for their voice, art, or invention. Drive readily embraces these possibilities and we can’t wait to dive in. Until then, practice and preparation continues!