From the Head of Studies and Innovation
“From crisis comes opportunity”
What a couple of weeks it has been! In the blink of an eye our educational space has been turned on its head. We now step into the unfamiliar world of ‘online-remote’ learning. While daunting for everyone; staff, students and families, it does offer a new frontier for learning if we are prepared to be open to it.
I read an article recently that said the use of online learning platforms will give greater facilitation to the development of essential ‘soft skills’. As I have said in previous articles, I dislike the use of the word ‘soft’ as I think it devalues a set of skills that are essential for our students to develop. These skills must be developed intentionally; they don’t simply develop through ‘osmosis’. This is why, within our Ignatian environment, we call them ‘human’ skills. Without them, we can’t expect our students to acquire the cognitive and human competencies that will equip them to make a difference in this world. For too long though, debate in education has created a false dichotomy between the development of ‘knowledge’ and the development of ‘skills’. They aren’t in competition with one another. Rather they must work together as ‘learning’ is complex. It involves not only thinking, but feeling, sensing and experiencing.
Our online learning world will naturally place a greater emphasis and importance on these human skills. Our students will have to become more independent learners, just like our teachers will have to learn to become ‘coaches’ and ‘facilitators’. Specifically, our students will have to become good self-managers, ensuring they manage their time at home, balancing school demands with periods of rest, activity and recreation. They will no longer have their teachers hovering over them, instructing them what to do next. This affords a great opportunity to become more self-aware and to develop the routines and structures that will ensure success for them. Their social awareness will need to become heightened as well. We have all been guilty of misreading the intention of a written communication via a social media post or email. It is therefore important that our students communicate with their peers and teachers in a manner that fits the learning context they find themselves in. While many of our online platforms offer ‘social media-like’ post and forum applications, our students will need to be sensitive to the language they use, avoiding language that is too ‘casual’ and ambiguous, which may be easily misread or misinterpreted, potentially resulting in insensitivity. Understanding the perspectives of others, be it political, economic, social or cultural, will be important, with a need to demonstrate empathy, gratitude, and sensitivity, essential in the development of their social awareness.
Ultimately, these human skills, will be more evident and explicit in our online learning environment. What a great opportunity this provides our students to develop these skills; skills that will make them more uniquely human; skills that will be essential to their future success; and skills that will connect them to others. Connection, in our current world climate, is more important than ever.
From crisis comes opportunity…let’s embrace the opportunity.
Mr Kain Noack
Head of Studies and Innovation