There is No Going Back to Normal


“There is no going back to normal.”

Typing the title of this blog, “There is no going back to normal,” actually hurts a bit.  At this point, nearly 6 months into the pandemic, I think we all are longing for “normal” to come back.  We miss the ease with which we used to run errands, go to movies, and restaurants. We miss being able to walk whatever direction we wanted in the store aisles.  We miss large gatherings and being within 6 feet of each other.  And, we miss our students and being able to teach in the way we are accustomed to.

Yet, here we are; facing the immense challenge of educating our students while remaining safe and we crave the “normal” way we used to do this.  What if, though, we are able to look at this as an opportunity to improve our instructional practices and move us forward into an even better educational system than what our “normal” had been?

In this video by Simon Sinek, he speaks of how change and innovation often come due to the pressure of unforeseen events.  Give yourself the gift of the 5 ½ minutes you will need to watch the video.

As Simon Sinek talks about the “infinite mindset” we can use that mindset to recognize that we need to adapt and change with the current times.  If we don’t, we become obsolete. When we think about the American education system, we have, on the whole, not changed that much in the past 100 years. While we obviously have made some changes, we still often still rely on traditional teaching practices such as direct instruction, specific classtimes, fact and vocabulary driven curriculum, and recall assessments.

We now have the motivation and necessity to change the way we teach from a traditional model to a more modern approach. We can, and should, use this pandemic to change our educational practices for the better.   So, what can we do?

  • We can increase student engagement through our use of relevant phenomena that allow for inquiry-based investigations. (Mystery Science is provided by Central Rivers AEA, OpenSciEd is a free resource for 6th-8th, iHub biology is free resource for HS, and NextGenStorylines is available for all levels.)
  • We can engage students in science discussion/discourse both synchronously and asynchronously through Zoom breakout rooms, Zoom tools, SeeSaw, Google meet, Google classroom, Canvas, Google docs, and others.
  • We can utilize online labs and simulations to allow students to investigate and explore.
  • We can create interactive lessons and activities through the free use of Nearpod, Peardeck or H5P.
  • We can utilize open resource or AEA supplied resources to better understand remote learning.  OpenSciEd has several webinars to assist in this.  While these resources focus on OpenSciEd, iHub biology, and NextGenStorylines, they can be applied to all remote learning.  Mystery Science also provides guidance on teaching remotely. Central Rivers AEA also has recordings from our spring and summer webinars to assist with remote learning.
  • We can move beyond asking for low DOK recall of facts and information and move into authentic experiences that create future ready students, 3D performance tasks, and/or project based learning through community partnerships or the Iowa clearinghouse.

So, maybe we don’t want to go “back” to normal at all.  Maybe we should instead think about going “forward” into something even better.  We know this isn’t easy and want you to know we are here to support you!  Please reach out to your Central Rivers science consultants Mandie Sanderman (asanderman@centralriversaea.org) and Chelsie Byram (cbyram@centralriversaea.org) and let us support you as you move forward this year!

 

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Head shotReach out to the author of this blog:

Mandie Sanderman
Consultant for Science and TAG
asanderman@centralriversaea.org