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Disruption Fuels Innovation

I’ve written in several places about the fact COVID-19 has had an impact on more than 90% of the students in the world. This is a major disruption in the working lives of many parents, and certainly in the lives of the vast majority of students in the world. The disruption is worse for some than for others. For example, many are unable to work from home because of the nature of their jobs. Similarly, many of the students affected by this around the world are either sitting out any learning at all, or are unable to have the level of synchronous learning we are enjoying at ASH. Even in the international school world, where students benefit from outstanding educational offerings, the present crisis has resulted in widely varied practices. As parents and educators, it is important to remember our students and children will look to us to gauge how they themselves respond. This is a good time to reflect on some of the silver linings visible in the clouds.

New Ways of Learning
In this blog, even before the virus disrupted our lives, we have explored new ways of learning to prepare for a constantly changing world. Now change is even more immediately apparent, and we have adapted quickly. We have had to find new ways to engage in teaching and learning, but also in many of our other important business processes. At our leadership team meetings, we have started to inventory some of these innovations and what we have learned, as many of them may be useful to us even when school goes “back to normal.” Recall, for example, the assertion in an earlier entry that learning can and should be captured and documented according to competencies learners are actually demonstrating as opposed to how much “seat time” is involved. Already an outdated concept, seat time is shown to be even weaker at predicting student competency when the concept is exploded in our current reality, even as we simultaneously realize how important face-to-face interactions are for many types of learning. In other words, we are learning more and more about the right mix between teacher-directed and student-directed learning. These are concepts that will outlast a time of imposed distancing.

Getting Work Done Virtually
Beyond teaching and learning, many of our business processes have also had to move to virtual models, as I am sure is the case in many of your own businesses. A good example is the crucial work of showing prospective students and families what an ASH experience entails. Our marketing communications and admissions teams have worked very quickly to create a virtual admissions experience to be used when the campuses are inaccessible. Using the platform of our new website, the virtual admissions experience allows visitors to navigate through the campuses, see the areas where they would be spending their days, and still have a live interaction with a member of the team to get their questions answered. The need has been driven by current social distancing practices, but the value of the platform can easily be seen in even the normal working environment, especially since we cater to students from all over the world. This kind of innovation leads us to think about what other areas of work can be addressed with the same technology, or at least the same mindset.

What About You?
Just as your business and ours have had to adapt, how have we adapted as people? Are there lessons we can learn from the present circumstances that could drive innovation for us in our daily lives in the future? Have you had this conversation with your students at home? No one loves having to stay at home or having to adapt quickly to new ways of doing things that have otherwise become familiar. But what are the lessons learned that can be helpful to us even when we can go back to the normal way of doing things? What might your student have learned about him or herself, or what techniques have they developed that might be helpful going forward - in any circumstance? This question goes well beyond the technologies we have learned to employ and can get to the heart of ways of working, habits, and practices we have adopted to meet the present challenge, but can last a lifetime. So, what are your silver linings?

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