Reflecting on 2020 – What Learnings Are You Taking Into 2021?

Across Australia and New Zealand, schools started off the 2021 school year with everyone back in the classroom.  Students, teachers, and leadership went back poised to get things back to the usual routine and make up for “lost time”.  At Deploy Learning, we started booking face to face workshops after almost an entire year of online training.  All of it had the look of normal.

Then in mid-February, the state of Victoria went back into Stage 4 lockdown.  Shops shut, schools closed, 5km limits enforced and masks back on everywhere.  It was a brief excursion back to 2020.  I can’t help but wonder how schools navigated this lockdown a second time (or was it the 3rd?!) around.  What a school did at the start of the year must have had a direct impact on how they navigated this lockdown. 

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

What did you learn from 2020?  Did your school consider what happened last year as part of your 2021 plan?  Or did you choose to move on instead? I can only imagine that it has been difficult for some educators to see past the obstacles from last year….the missed lessons, the mistakes, tech issues, etc.  

Make time to reflect

It will be easier to focus on the fact that students have been working hard to make gains in spite of these obstacles.  They surely learned more in 2020 than the lessons that were presented as part of the curriculum.  We know that students developed resilience and independence while learning to troubleshoot technology, cooperate with their teachers to learn in new ways and juggle their family/home relationships. What else did they learn?  How might we help students to identify these new skills before moving back into a “normal” routine?

As teachers, I think it is important to reflect on our own takeaways in addition to student successes.  Take a moment and identify where you succeeded and where your school succeeded.  Was anything worth repeating? Is there something that should be integrated into year long practice?

With our new learnings, there are things that need to be tossed and others that need to be modified.  For example, we have seen paper portfolios go away and become completely digitized. With working from home and virtual offices, imagine parent information evenings moving to online and keeping parent teacher interviews virtual…one on one with the teacher from my kitchen table. As a parent, I can see this working for me. I serve on my daughter’s kindergarten school board and I am grateful that those meetings are virtual. No travel time, no parking.

In speaking with other educators, we hear mostly that the adoption of technology was a huge takeaway.  Many schools spent time and money on professional learning that focussed on practical uses of technology to support learning. In addition to digital portfolios, schools improved on providing feedback to students and improved communication with home.  The result is many staff start 2021 feeling competent and comfortable with the use of technology. 

How are you capturing the 2020 teaching experience? 

It is one thing to reflect on practice, but it is another thing to capture those experiences and share them with others. On Twitter recently, I asked what schools are doing to reflect on last year’s teaching experience.  Richard Olsen, a teacher at a Melbourne based Primary School replied that his school has hired a photographer, visual artist, dancer, and a musician to lead inquiries across the whole school, to explore and learn from this pandemic.  The results will culminate at a Wellbeing Festival.

Emily MacLean is a Junior School Deputy Head at an independent PYP school in Melbourne.  She described her school as embracing the hard work her students and staff gave in 2020.  Students were encouraged to add to a time capsule as a way of capturing their mind set following a bizarre year. Staff  were also invited to a reflective session on the first day back to discuss the accomplishments of last year.  How  might your school capture those thoughts and discussions?

What tools can support reflection?

These solutions come with the kind of commitment and resources that some schools can’t (or won’t) commit to.  There are other options.  For example, Screencastify just announced that their new application Submit is now integrated with Google Classroom.  Imagine students and staff easily recording their responses to a reflection prompt using a simple webcam and sharing them with each other in the learning commons of Google Classroom.  

FlipGrid is a website almost created for reflection using video.  With an easy user interface, students and staff can submit responses to a prompt using a webcam. You can encourage them to respond to each other’s submissions to create conversations.  I would suggest a series of prompts that activate thought, create a safe place for sharing and continue to dig deeper into the core takeaways of 2020. 

As a former television producer and instructor, I am naturally inclined to encourage the  production videos to capture these 2020 takeaways.  Videos are sharable with a wider audience via the school website or even a site like Youtube. While the idea of producing a video can trigger more stress, it really isn’t that hard with so many resources available on the web.  To start, you can interview teachers and students that are comfortable with identifying their successes.  

Interviewing people on camera can be easy.  Check out this (a bit rough around the edges) Youtube video.

Interviewing people on camera can be easy.  
Check out this (a bit rough around the edges) Youtube video

Videos can be edited together with a program like WeVideo.  This online video editing application is cloud based and can be used on a tablet, laptop or mobile device. A bonus is that their website has an endless list of helpful resources in their WeVideo Academy.   Deploy Learning is the only authorised training organisation for WeVideo in ANZ.  We are happy to help you explore how the application can help you tell your story.  Take a look at their new Term 1 promotion for 2021…

Contact us to learn how to get free virtual workshops with your purchase.

No matter how you choose to tell the story of last year, we hope that you make the attempt to capture your school’s stories from 2020. Hopefully, we won’t have to go through another lockdown again for a very long time.  The learning that took place, no matter how obvious, will have an impact on us long after we return to “normal”.

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