The abrupt ending to the in-person school year in March 2020 created an unimaginable frenzy to bring virtual instruction to students. During the next two months, educators all around this country worked tirelessly to ensure students had access to technology and were provided hands-on resources, often distributed using drive-bys. Teachers scrambled to learn new technology platforms while students did the same. “The Pandemic forced schools into a crash course in online education. Problems piled up — I find it chaotic and stressful.” The Wall Street Journal
Faced with the reality that school, as we have known it in the past, may never exist, we must adapt, dealing with changing contexts, tremendous complexity, and great ambiguity. When we ask teachers to learn something new while they are being held accountable, they often feel anxious and frustrated. It becomes easy for them to join forces with those who feel incapable and wish for the source of change to go away. (Muhammad, 2009)
School leaders are immersed and focused on how to reopen in August. So many decisions must be made quickly with an inordinate number of variables to juggle. The value and need for continuing experiential learning experiences have escalated in importance as EdExploreSRQ is mentioned in all the variations of the Sarasota County Schools' August reopening plans. Local providers and school district staff are proactively working on how to support providers so they can modify their current EdExplorations to become virtual editions. Reopening drafts are still being proposed, edited, and massaged to achieve the best possible options for students. We can assume that a return to school this fall will be far from normal, however it shapes up.
Governor Cuomo of NY, in one of his daily briefings, encouraged his state to change the word “reopen” to “reimagine.” He also coined the phrase “Build Back Better.” Those inspirational phrases resonate as providers are encouraged to think about the possibilities and advantages of moving to virtual explorations. There is certainly no substitute for the on-site, live interactions, but exploring new opportunities for virtual explorations has been invigorating. Perhaps EdExploreSRQ may reach more students by offering virtual editions because time and distance will be less inhibiting factors. Virtual explorations can be very interactive, and supplies can be delivered or shared in advance. These explorations may be more affordable, again allowing greater participation. Teachers may be surprised to find the virtual editions of EdExploreSRQ are so engaging for students that they choose to continue using them long after Coronavirus. Sarasota County remains fully committed to providing technical, creative, and organizational support as providers reimagine explorations.
Community organizations have been quite busy brainstorming ideas such as online virtual conferences and performances, virtual museums and outdoor tours, visual artists using hands-on videos through Zoom, and having local artists/musicians read books to students and share demonstrations.
Will Richardson and Homa Tavangar, two well-respected educators, recently hosted a webinar for over 4,700 educators across the globe. They acknowledge that the world is shifting. Things feel different. We must learn our way through the moment because we are experiencing whirlwinds we never anticipated. As we prepare for the next year, maybe we should see changes in a new light? Perhaps we use this time to sift and separate out what is most important? How do we create cultures in a world where we can never eliminate risk? How can we honor the way children learn and what dispositions and skills they need for an uncertain future? EdExploreSRQ’s malleability likely becomes an asset, continuing to bring learning to life, while allowing students to stay safe while connecting them to the rich, science, and cultural jewels in our community.
Stay tuned…virtual editions will soon debut!