Yael Shafrir.

Embracing the challenge: Are we prepared for the next school disruption?

Whether it’s a strike, a military operation or a climate event - the sad truth is that we are underprepared and our kids are going to pay the price. How can we make it better for them?

Remember the new normal? Three years ago we all had to adapt to this work-from-home while our kids were learning-from-home situation. It was hard, but we accepted the fact that a new, uncertain, demanding reality has taken over the world and we must be prepared for whatever it brings us. Fast forward three years. This is all forgotten, no one prepares for anything, even the notorious zoom-learning completely passed from our schools. This takes us back to the starting point, where if something unexpected happens, like a hurricane, a war situation, another pandemic, or something we cannot foresee - we’re, again, totally unprepared. No lessons were learned, no conclusions were taken, we have no strategy or tactics to deal with whatever comes next. And it will come.
Why should we learn from home?
Climate change, wars, strikes, and other routine-breaking events are constantly disrupting education. Check out what has been going on in Ukraine since the Russian invasion almost 1.5 years ago. Approximately two-thirds of the Ukrainian refugee children stopped attending schools in their host countries. And while obviously surviving is more important than learning - we can’t disregard the damage caused by this pause. Like other disruptive events - the pause has worsened access to education, especially for the underprivileged, deepened existing inequalities, and negatively impacted the well-being of students and teachers. “There is no pause button. It is not an option to simply postpone children’s education and come back to it once other priorities have been addressed, without risking the future of an entire generation” said Mr. Khan, a teacher in Ukrainian high school.
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יעל שפריר
יעל שפריר
Yael Shafrir.
(Photo: Uri Taub and Ronit Cohen)
But it’s not only the disruptive events that force us to be reminded of the new normal.
The way we work has monumentally shifted in recent times, and the concept of hybrid work has spread. What initially seemed like a temporary solution for the pandemic outburst, has evolved into a long-term transformation that is tapping into the young generation’s preferences and reshaping the future of work. Remote working presents challenges and requires new skills, including advanced teamwork methodologies, time management, presentation, feedback reception, and more. This massive transformation must be backed by schools’ adoption of hybrid learning methodologies.
Why don’t we like to learn from home?
There are numerous reasons to resent the learning-from-home experience. To start with - the screen-centered methodology is really impossible. Too many hours of screen engagement lead students to completely disengage with the learning experience, and even protest against it by turning off their cameras, leaving teachers to talk to black screens. This epic failure to adopt Zoom echoes today, preventing many school principals from being open-minded about EdTech platforms and from embracing hybrid learning as the new normal. But please keep in mind - remote learning does not have to mean using Zoom or any other form of online lecturing, which is a frustrating experience for both teachers and Gen Z students. Just think about remote work as an example. Has anyone ever thought that the employee needs to be on Zoom all day with their boss? Maybe they can manage tasks more effectively in schools too.
Another key reason for disliking online education is because it’s a downgrade from the familiar in-class social interaction. Why would someone like to learn remotely with friends that they can meet face to face? Work meetings make a good reference. The world started using Zoom sessions to meet colleagues from other countries, right? That made sense, as otherwise, the work processes would have been way slower and more expensive. So how can remote learning be more global? Maybe students should not only meet their classmates and usual teachers. How about if they could meet friends from around the world?

How can we benefit from the hybrid (blended) experience?
When life gives you lemons - make lemonade! Hybrid learning brings an opportunity to not only upgrade the usual learning experience, but also connect it to students’ future requirements, aka “life skills”. We’re living in a mind-blowing era. AI is reshaping the way we create, asking us to find our uniqueness, be proactive, and differentiate ourselves from the machine. This is an amazing time to reinvent education as we know it and come up with an experience that will align with these emerging trends. Li Jin came up with the term passion economy, to explain that people will have multiple opportunities to turn their hobbies into their source of income. How about applying this to learning, thus creating a passion-driven learning process that lets students’ X-factor shine?
Another goal when revisiting education is to look at potential structure improvements. While most current systems lay all the responsibility for learning - management, guidance, measurement etc - on the teacher, a new type of learning can involve additional stakeholders, from the students themselves to the surrounding communities. Ownership is one of the most crucial skills in life, and getting students to take responsibility for their own progress, as well as their peers’ progress, could be a game changer for the whole learning, and working ecosystem.
Bottom line - implementing Hybrid learning is imperative for 2023 students who are about to become grownups in a world dominated by uncertainty. Assuming we wish to help these kids be prepared, let’s train them to manage their time, own their progress, help their teammates, find their passions, and shine like a diamond.
Yael Shafrir is the Co-Founder and CEO of ReShuffle, an English Learning Platform, enhanced with life skills practice and SEL.