Imagine a business that is almost exclusively face-to-face. Now imagine asking those thousands of people to transition to a remote service in 24 hours. Welcome to 2020.
Administrators across the country — and across the world — faced this challenge in March 2020. How do we conduct remote learning in over 130,000 schools in the U.S.?
With varying degrees of success, teachers, schools and districts met the challenge daily. This required administrators to acquire and/or refine a number of new skills in a short time.
We asked hundreds of administrators in our ESGI-ThinkFives Survey, and here are the Top 5 Skills learned by administrators in ‘20-’21 that they believe will continue to benefit them as they look to a new school year and a sense of normalcy.
Increased Focus on SEL
Social and emotional learning has increasingly been a focus for school administrators over the last five years. Remote learning made administrators even more acutely aware of these needs. From young students to high school age and beyond, administrators asked teachers to assess social and emotional challenges and to provide lessons to support all students.
Administrators say that this increased focus should continue long after remote learning is done.
Improved Tech Skills
Not surprisingly, three of the top five answers involved technology. In general, administrators felt their technology skills improved significantly in 2021. This ranged from increased use of basic tools like Google or Microsoft to more advanced apps used for video conferencing and parent-school communications.
While not a welcomed way that required this learning, administrators are appreciative of these refined skills, and many believe they will be much more effective administrators in the future because of their technological savvy.
Implemented Virtual Learning
Prior to 2020, if you asked administrators if it would be possible for their teaching staff to teach virtually, the answer was a definitive no. Virtual learning has been successful on the college level for over a decade, but the challenges of technology, equipment, access, equity and skill made it impossible for most K-12 schools.
Faced with this challenge, administrators found virtual learning possible at all grade levels, and many teachers did an excellent job. Even in Kindergarten classes, teachers were able to use apps like Zoom and ESGI to talk with students and engage parents more than ever.
Administrators hope that virtual apps can be integrated into a normal school year and used for extended absences in certain high school classes.
Mastered Google Classroom and Zoom
While administrators cited technology skill improvement in general, Google Classroom and Zoom were specifically noted as the most beneficial apps learned in 2020.
Few administrators or teachers had ever used Zoom, especially not for teaching purposes. Yet, by the start of the 2020-21 school year, most teachers gained proficiency with Zoom and were busy every day using Google Classrooms or similar programs.
Knowing how to use these solutions will only improve the learning experience in the future, many administrators believe. These applications open up walled classrooms to a global community, and teachers have only just begun to understand how they can use apps for connecting with experts and other innovations for learning.
The number one lesson learned in ‘20-’21 that will benefit administrators well into the future is improved communication skills. Administrators mentioned Zoom conferences with teachers, parents and community members as one example. Other administrators talked about the use of Class Dojo to work directly with parents, while others talked about increased text messages and posting school activities on Facebook and Twitter.
Fifty years ago, communication with parents meant pinning a note to a student’s shirt. With these new skills, administrators believe there are so many new ways to communicate with parents, other schools and other districts (and the community at large), and they are excited about the opportunities.
Here are just a few of the many examples leaders shared about ideas they will continue to implement in the future.
- “Be more flexible and open to challenges and unexpected expectations.”
- “Communicate with parents more through Class Dojo.”
- “Communicate through a school-wide app.”
- “Find new ways to engage both students and staff in fun activities.”
- “Use flipped classrooms. Breakout rooms for collaboration. Virtual meetings are effective tools including those who are unable to attend in person, parents and staff.”
- “Continue to offer parents the option of virtual meetings for IEPs, 504s, even larger information nights, to be more convenient for people.”
- “Incorporated SEL strategies into everyday encounters.”
- “Use Google or Zoom to meet with parents when they are not available for in-person meetings.”
- “Use online surveys to increase parent and staff opportunities to provide input.”
- “Continue communication and parent contacts through Remind and text messaging have been the greatest strength from the pandemic that I will continue.”
Source: ESGI-ThinkFives Survey
Do you have other skills learned you think will help beyond this year? Comment below.