<span class='p-name'>Control Your Controllables: Preparing for the Post-COVID Classroom</span>

Control Your Controllables: Preparing for the Post-COVID Classroom

This morning I’m giving a keynote virtually to the Virginia College Literacy Educators. In this address, I’d like to focus on our current state of affairs as we deal with current educational and social contexts.

The slides for this event are available here.

We Privilege Care

As we confront unprecedented challenges, I want to take time to hold space for my colleagues and friends. In this, I am inspired by this open letter from the Learning Design & Technology team at the University of Colorado Denver.

Let us begin with what makes us human as we think about creating engaging, ethical, and equitable learning that transforms education

We’ll begin the session with a #vibecheck. Brené Brown runs emotionally intelligent Zoom meetings with a two word check in from all participants. I start all classes with a #vibecheck…where we unmute and all provide two words that express our current emotional, physical, psychological state.

The Current Context

Last spring, the usual cadence of the academic year was disrupted as things went sideways.

What happened at that point was not virtual learning. It was emergency remote teaching. Together with a group of friends, I helped set up the Higher Ed Learning Collective. This became a space where over 30,000 educators globally focused on handling the situation. For the most part, most of the participants of the group were dealing with trauma.

The thinking was that, because so many faculty weren’t prepared for distance education, they needed a place to go to get advice and help from each other – a place where they could collaborate, solve problems, share ideas and just connect.

As we moved from the summer to the fall, we still remain in this period of stasis. Many schools from Pre-K up through higher ed are struggling with how to adapt. But, the truth is that we knew these times would come. We knew that the world was becoming increasingly digital, yet we did little to adjust our pedagogies.

Now that the summer has turned to fall, we are no longer in emergency remote teaching. This is our new normal. How will we adjust, address the situation, and determine a better future?

Educational systems haven’t yet fully engaged with the process of supporting online and distance learning in a way that supports the social, intellectual, and relational opportunities of school at scale.

While emergency remote teaching continues, and we consider the social and pedagogical uses of technology post-coronavirus, we need to identify ways to plan for how schools will need to be prepared for online delivery in a post-pandemic society. We need to consider how we could & should educate across these modes, practices, tools, & spaces. 

A Continuum of Practices

As we deal with the current situation, we not only need to consider F2F, online, and hyflex education, we need to think about what pedagogy could and/or should look like in a post-pandemic system.

In times like this, my Wife has a simple statement she learned from years in marketing and retail. Control your controllables. What is in our power to change…and what is not. Only focus on the variables we can change.

As we focus on these elements…What are we willing to give up as we create, and transition to a new system? What are we definitely not willing to modify/change? How will we get there?

To provide a possible starting point, I point to the new NCTE Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age. More specifically, I’ll focus on the following section:

Consume, curate, and create actively across contexts

As empowered learners engage in literacy practices, they need opportunities to move from consumers to producers of content. More specifically, learners need to move from content consumers to content curators to content creators. These stages do not have to operate in a sequence, nor should they be mutually exclusive as learners fully utilize the reader/writer nature of digital texts.

Where Do We Begin?

To begin, we need to recognize that we are not alone. We are stronger together. We are all struggling with the same burden.

To get started, we need to be clear-eyed about the current state of the digital space. Each week I write a love letter to the Internet. You can subscribe here. Spoiler alert!!! It’s not all good. 🙂

We need to recognize that digital literacy is a condition…not a threshold. It changes the way we teach. It’s a relationship and represents the way we orient ourselves with the world. Digital literacy doesn’t include a sequential set of skills. There’s a lot more “messing around” involved, and it’s subjective and highly contextual. Digital literacy in a K-12 setting varies greatly from that in a collegiate setting.

Lastly, digital literacy is all about power. Just like all forms of literacy, there is enormous power in the ability to read, write, and participate. This is a fundamental human right that we need to seize and protect. The corporations, developers, and organizations that create digital social spaces and tools do not care if we are empowered in, or by these tools, practices, and spaces.

I’ll close with the closing remarks from our colleagues at CU Denver.

This is our pedagogy. This is our stance as your educators, as your advisors, and as your advocates. This is our commitment to you today, for as long as we experience the inevitable effects of this pandemic, and for the future.

Joni Dunlap, Brad Hinson, Remi Kalir, Sean Michael Morris, Rebecca Schell, Laura Summers, Brent Wilson

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