The Educational Development Acorn

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Kevan Williams – TELT

At times it may feel quite difficult to find even an ounce of positivity or optimism surrounding the global Covid pandemic, but even in the darkest and most challenging of situations, the green shoots of opportunity can be found. We have witnessed a dramatic uptake in online delivery over recent months and have had to hone our digital skills in an astonishingly short space of time. In some instances, this has been achieved in a matter of days and is something we would have previously committed some months or even years to consider, develop, implement, and reflect upon. The rapid pace of progress and uptake are testament to the tenacity, dedication, commitment, and professionalism of colleagues working throughout the education sector and now we are shifting our focus to support the quality enhancement of this transition.

In the days following the national lockdown there was very little time, if any, to redevelop content for an alternative delivery. Very often, a PowerPoint presentation designed for delivery in the physical classroom as part of a practical activity was loaded onto Teams and delivered as effectively as our level of digital capability would allow and we all did the very best we could to try and maintain acceptable levels of student satisfaction. It quickly became apparent that this was a short-term fix, and that our cognisance, confidence, and creativity in the use of learning technologies to support online delivery would inevitably fuel many a sleepless night.

It is immensely reassuring to see colleagues share their outstanding examples of digital practice that have emerged and evolved so quickly, many of which are positively affecting and enhancing online learning and teaching experiences. Capturing these successful approaches is equally as important as recognising what has not worked well and both will make a significant contribution to how we will define the future hybrid blend of physical and online activity.

The acorn is a wonderful metaphor for how we as educational developers, innovators and evangelists of authentic practice view the opportunities that lie ahead. As a small seed of the great Oak tree, the acorn contains the potential to grow into something significantly more substantial. All the challenges we have faced, and all the upheaval and endless changes forced upon us over the past few months have provisioned each of us with a metaphorical acorn of our own.

Our philosophies, educational principles, constructs, and underpinning pedagogies are the roots, they provide the flow of nutrients and the ability for the acorn to grow. Our traditional approaches form the trunk of the tree, they are sturdy, we understand them, they have always been with us and they are reassuringly familiar. However, this acorn, has the potential to grow some powerful, innovative, and creative branches, they will challenge the status quo and are unlike any that have come before. With an eager anticipation of the unleased potential of the hybrid educational world ahead of us, these branches are not confined to a predetermined disposition, they are informed by the new experiences and observations we have shared over the past 12 months.

Collaborate with those around you and share aspects of your digital practice which you take most pride in and which your student cohort have acknowledged and responded positively to. Build recognised approaches into your new delivery and allow the branches of authentic and contemporary educational opportunity to grow and mature.

Your future approach may include, traditional in-class delivery which would form the trunk of your oak tree, it is where you are currently most comfortable. The branches provide the opportunities to develop and embed innovation and digital excellence into your curriculum and are informed by current practice.

For example, you may provide simultaneous online access to in class teaching via Microsoft Teams, provide an online collaborative activity prior to the timetabled contact time using Padlet, record the session for revision and review whilst building a digital resource bank for the module, poll students during teaching sessions to reaffirm understanding using Forms, Mentimeter and Kahoot or create engaging content using Rise, Thinglink and Canva. We already have case studies, colleagues, and established support communities ready to help.

Admittedly, these are just examples and you will naturally gravitate to the digital approaches and techniques which inspire your own practice and energise, engage, and enthuse your students. Take some reassurance in the knowledge that we are taking control of this educational revolution together and there are already some excellent outcomes to consider. It’s very easy to feel lost, disorientated and overwhelmed in this new digital world, but remember you already have the well-established roots and the mighty oak is only an acorn away.


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