As the world grapples with COVID-19 and questions loom about reopening the economy and public society, innovation around education and online learning has already started to take form in our islands and nationwide. Driven by the rapid movement to social distancing and the closure of most schools this past spring, online learning has become a part of our common vernacular.
These changes to our everyday lives forced schools to move online, adopt distance learning strategies and adapt to digital content and video conferencing. Traditional classroom and curriculum delivery models themselves are breaking down in this new era as schools continue to incorporate online, hybrid, and distance learning models this summer and into the upcoming school year.
Innovative teachers here in Hawaii and globally have already seized this new paradigm to transition more student instruction to pedagogies such as problem- and project-based learning, delivered via a blended approach as a highly effective alternative to traditional curriculum models. Textbooks and test scores are already falling by the wayside and are being replaced with hands-on, experiential learning.
At the same time, status-quo educational models, like the ACT, SAT and AP tests, are being called into question globally. The perceived necessity of such standardized tests is being weighed against the burden on students and the obsolete and irrelevant statistics they provide. Instead, personalized portfolios demonstrating real student work and outcomes have started to outweigh standardized test scores in the competitive college admissions process.
For example, a student’s State Science Fair project on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, or another’s on the viability of cancer cells or the cause of coral bleaching, can likely better display a student’s commitment to learning and producing outcomes, more than any grade or test score. Developing lessons that identify and address current issues — and teaching students to design processes for finding responses and solutions, communicating and presenting research, methods, and results — also better exposes and prepares students for real-world work experiences.
These project-based learning opportunities, where students learn by doing and creating, has proven to be the most effective pedagogy for the modern world. Preparing students to engage in critical thinking, problem-solving and getting things done, emulates core values that are applicable in any profession.
While students across the state are scheduled to return to classrooms next month, the future of traditional classroom learning still remains uncertain — no one knows exactly how this pandemic will impact schools and society and for how long. Either way, online and blended learning will inevitably play a larger role in teaching the next generation of keiki in Hawaii, and globally going forward.
Combining these innovative approaches — incorporating lessons that focus on real-world experiences that can be conducted offline and outside the classroom — improves experiences and opportunities for teachers and students in a distance-learning world as well as in a traditional classroom setting and in between.
As the adage goes, “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Now is the time to innovate and to critically examine and reengineer our education systems to adapt to the modern world’s challenges — and to provide learning that will prepare students for the jobs of the future.
George Donev is co-founder and CEO of Student Corner, an online educational platform.