The Best is Yet to Come
“Still, it's a real good bet, the best is yet to come
You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine”
I was tempted to quote Dickens for this one; that trite and quite overused line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But as I see what lies before us, I just don’t believe that quote is appropriate.
We might be tempted to declare this, “The worst of times,” based on the challenges we see, particularly the staff and teacher shortage that seems to have descended upon us like a plague. But rather than succumbing to gloom, I have a better idea.
The Growth of K-12
Let’s call it growing pains.
Afterall, we have just come through two and a half years of a pandemic – a pandemic in which the heroes outnumbered the villains 2.5 million to one.
Through all the fear and hardship, sickness and death, unbelievably long hours and quick thinking, we made it through – led by the professionalism and intelligence of teachers and administrators who did more than simply step up. Almost to a person, they stood up and said, “Not on my watch. Education will not fail, and our children will get through this.”
Over the past two and a half years, we all took a giant step forward. And education hit its stride; as an industry we grew at least a foot, maybe more. And through all the professionalism and intelligence and tales of heroes and remarkable growth, we came upon some very painful challenges. But that’s what happens when you hit that big growth spurt. You have growing pains.
One of those growing pains is a shortage of staff and teachers. To be sure, it’s a big pain. But fortunately, technology has an answer that can help. The Learning Counsel has a program called Hybrid Logistics, which in short creates logistics to make teacher time much more efficient, much the way Uber or Amazon uses logistics. It is some remarkable tech, and if you want to check it out, follow this link.
According to Chris McMurray
According to Chris McMurray, Chief Academic Officer at the Learning Counsel, “Hybrid Logistics utilizes innovative technology that “uberizes” live teaching’s intersection with students and resources, maximizing the human element. In this model, the movement of learners follows personalized pathways, allowing students to exercise agency, increase engagement, and grow at their ideal pace rather than along an artificial construct of seat time, bells, and blocks. From the teacher’s perspective, Hybrid Logistics creates greater efficiencies, giving time for more individualized attention to students, and minimizing time spent on tasks that are better served with automation.
“The purpose of this model shift is to give schools, whose primary brand is human teaching oriented, the ability to retain relevancy over fully online and mostly teacher-less consumer models, stop the attrition of students, and manage to deliver learning despite the mass teacher shortage.”
Another growing pain is student attrition, as our schools lose large numbers of students to other, non-traditional forms of education. At present, more than 37 percent of students have voted with their feet, choosing other forms of education including homeschooling, private (or independent) schools, charter schools and learning pods. Shrinking rosters mean less money, school consolidations and closings. Fortunately, there is an answer to this as well.
Wowing the Students
If you want to get the students back, you need to wow them. And herein lies the best that is yet to come.
One option with a wow-factor that is through the roof is virtual schooling in a metaverse. Steve Grubbs at VictoryXR and others are creating the entire school experience online – the school and everything. Higher ed is a bit ahead of K-12 on this one, with 10 “Metaversities” opening this fall. According to Grubbs, “These Metaversities include Cal State, The University of Kansas, South Dakota State, New Mexico State, Northern Illinois University, Alabama A&M, West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global and Southwestern Oregon Community College. A Metaversity is, very simply, the combination of a university and the metaverse. It's a near perfect digital twin of the campus combined with thousands of 3D modeled learning objects like molecules, artifacts from history, famous paintings and so much more. When students go there to learn, it's as if they have walked onto their actual campus.”
There is no reason K-12 can’t join the fun, and some of our K-12 brethren have joined the fray already. One example is American High School near Miami. In their literature class, they built the courtroom from the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. As the students read and study the book, they can do so from different vantage points within the courtroom: Some may sit in the balcony, some may sit on the floor, some might sit on the judge's bench or in the jury box. As they change seats, they change their understanding, seeing the novel from the viewpoint of different characters.
There are other amazing things we can do with the education metaverse. Imaging studying astronomy from the International Space Station, or studying anatomy with a 3-D Cadaver, or actually going on field trips around the world. This is all coming to your school, and probably much sooner than you think. As Grubbs said, it’s very much like the Internet was, starting out. People didn’t realize how important it would be. What seemed a bit crazy then is obvious now.
AI and the Teacher
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another technology that may seem a little crazy now but will seem obvious very soon. According to Sal Gerardo, Chairman of Value Spring, “There is one thing that teachers do better than anyone else, and better than any technology ever created. Teach. But if we don’t remove all the minutia from their professional lives, their days of teaching are numbered. And that’s where AI comes in. Artificial intelligence, which I can tell you from personal knowledge, is getting more and more sophisticated. So sophisticated, in fact, that it has the ability to provide all the mechanicals, all the repetitiveness and all the assessments education needs. AI can get the basics out of the way. AI can empower teachers.”
According to Gerardo, it won’t be long before AI tutors will have unscripted conversations. The AI and the student will solve problems together. The tutor will work at the student’s pace, using Socratic dialog to stimulate critical thinking. It will be a huge help for teachers, as the AI tutor can collaborate with them, identifying learning problems and continuously assessing student mastery without tests. In fact, the AI will act as the teacher’s assistant, freeing the teacher up to do the things that only a teacher can do, connecting with students on an emotional level, helping students to find the joy and wonder in learning.
Sometimes in education, it feels like we have done it all, seen it all. You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine. But still, stick around. It’s a real good bet. The best is yet to come. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.
About the author
Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.