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Making Sense of The Week That Was: Education Interrupted and Disrupted

News Wrap Edition #46 of Volume 1 | 3rd December 2021

Editor: Su McVey, with Geeta Dhir

These are a series of stories and headlines we are tracking in the
Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers Newsroom. Here is The Great, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what we observed this week.

This week’s theme is Education: Interrupted & Disruption

Education sits at the intersection of the past, present and future. It borrows methods and structures from the past, teaches in the present moment, building skills, thinking and passions in students, that will form the future. Education is the biggest investment society can make in its sustainability and continuance. It is essential in creating a strong, wise and prosperous society. It is critical to the social and mental well-being of children around the globe.

At the peak of the pandemic, there were over 1.5 Billion children affected by school closures, which according to UNESCO was 94% of young learners. Not only were they not in their schools, but up to 370 million students missed out on the free lunch meal, which for many children is their only meal of the day. The learning loss that accompanied these closures has been found to be catastrophic.

The study strongly bolsters the argument that closing schools may have been necessary in the short run but proved devastating as those closures continued. Other studies have found that students also experienced emotional and social harms from a homebound school year, which have been evident in classrooms this fall.

Countless industries and organizations were disrupted by the pandemic, but I would posit that the disruption and interruption of normal school in pre-school, elementary, secondary and higher education may have the most significant long term impact on our society. This young generation has lost more than class time, they have lost socialization skills, friendships and milestone moments that can never be regained.

The World Bank estimates this generation of students will lose $10 trillion in earnings over time. Affordable and reliable internet access has created a new class of the haves and the have nots. Socio-economically marginalized communities continue to be impacted around the globe and some students will never return to school. A generation potentially lost.

The impact of young children being at home instead of school also disproportionately impacted women more than men, affecting employment and mental health. There were some positives, with families spending more time together and parents becoming more engaged in their children’s learning. Students have learned to be resilient in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. They have learned to adapt and support each other. They are learning that it ok to say you are not ok.

I come to this topic as an educator, a student, a parent of post-secondary students, past school board member, grade parent and executive at an educational not-for profit. I personally see and feel the impact of the disruption every single day, having to pivot from teaching in the classroom to moving online, seeing my children struggle with the options and choices, my students now anonymous with names behind zoom labels, and an increase in mental health issues everywhere.

Teachers are challenged to engage learners of all ages through the different modes of learning. Students are trying to learn and survive. Schools, boards, and institutions are trying to maintain safety for students, educators, staff, and maintain some sort of equilibrium. It has not been easy, and nothing has been perfect. Execution has been clunky, uneven and sometimes misguided.

When education systems collapse, peace, prosperous and productive societies cannot be sustained.”

After a few initial stumbles and grumbles, we all seemed to get the hang of the remote/distance learning as long as there was reliable internet and a screen available. Perhaps we have become too used to it, as now there are some stumbles and grumbles upon the return to in-class teaching and learning, as evidenced in a few of the following articles. In a recent informal poll among my students, most said that while they loved the convenience of online learning they wanted to get back to the classroom, though when offered in-person classes in January of this year, a number were not ready to make the change.

Many of my peer professors are concerned at returning to the classroom, due to safety concerns and the new technology we need to learn to conduct hybrid classes that offer simultaneous in-person and remote learning. Higher education institutions are fighting hard to prove their value proposition and that the tuition fees charged for remote learning are valid and necessary. Many beg to differ on this.

Education was ripe for disruption. The pandemic blew it up as we knew it and now it remains up to us to take the best of the past, the opportunity of today, the promise of the future, and make it better for all.

This wrap aims to cover the Great, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Grey Zone of Uncertainty as it relates to this massive societal hit to a whole generation of learners. For this wrap the categories are represented by a grade which may change under appeal. It will cover specifically the impacts to traditional education, and we will save other forms of education, for another week and another wrap.

So…Let’s Wrap ourselves in this rich, complex, and essential topic of education.

A+ (With Distinction) 😊

Teachers continue to be a source of inspiration. Teachers everywhere have had to massively adjust to changing circumstances and modes of teaching during the almost 2 years since the pandemic hit. For many parents who were challenged in assisting home-learning, the respect for teachers and what they do, has grown. All of us are likely have that one teacher we remember that inspired us, challenged us and ultimately changed us.

This story about a teacher in rural China who lost both his arms in an accident, who walks 8KM to school every day, has not only inspired his students on a daily basis but shown them that resilience and determination can conquer almost any barrier. This is in the category of “show” not “tell”.

The conditions at the school and village are indeed poor, but I never thought of giving up. After I was injured, my life hit a bad patch, but the children brought me happiness and confidence. They gave me the courage to continue living. That is all that I can hope for.”

The internet is full of stories of teachers going the extra mile for their students, working to engage and challenge the minds that will drive and build the future. There could not be a better example for the children in the mountains of rural China.

Students are a force for change. The pandemic seems to have done little to dampen the critical and necessary protests and demonstrations for change, that students have traditionally led. If not for student protest, their energy and their belief that they can change the world, we as a society, would stagnate.

Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do. — Steve Jobs

China has come under the spotlight, due to current examples of human rights abuses, and there is some attention being garnered ahead of the Winter Olympics. In addition to questions about Peng Shuai’s well-being, there is the ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

After the Olympics, when the cameras have turned away, Beijing will have one less reason to fear the scorn of the international community. But behind the scenes, the infrastructure for a long-term divestment movement is being built by the one group of Americans with no diplomatic or financial conflicts of interest: college students.

Students in universities across the US are organizing to protest China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., may have just scored the movement’s first big success. On Oct. 18, 2021, the student government association unanimously passed a resolution calling on the university to divest any and all of its financial holdings connected to Xinjiang atrocities.

“All universities should have a commitment to avoid being complicit in mass atrocities,” student senator Gerald Sharpe, who introduced the resolution. “This method works. This is just the beginning”.

Matt McCoy Photography by Anthony Creary

Senior citizens and students — a perfect combination when it comes to giving and getting. Matt McCoy, with three friends, started a service that connects high school students with seniors in the need of tech help, called Student Helpers. High school students in Ontario need a certain amount of volunteer hours to graduate. The pandemic has played havoc in the charitable sector, with many front-line charities that would normally take students on, not being able to offer any hours. Matt McCoy, a recent university graduate, found he was fielding a lot of calls for tech help from his grandmother, and since the pandemic, his parents. Matt saw an opportunity to create a non-profit service to connect seniors, who were in need of technical know-how and students, who had the know-how and a need for volunteer hours.

The good thing about Student Helpers is that seniors know that the students who are calling them are volunteering their time and want to help, which removes any sense of guilt or being a burden.

This has been a win-win, with seniors reaching out to the service, making a request and generally, the request being filled by a student, within 35 seconds of it being posted on WhatsApp. Requests range from how to set up an Instagram account to how to order products on Amazon. So in the midst of disruption, an amazing service has been born that benefits everyone. That’s an A+++!

B (With Merit) 😊🙌

R2D2 and Star Trek come to class. In Korea, they are preparing students in kindergarten for the high-tech jobs that may dominate the future. One way they are doing this is by acclimatizing young children to robots, who are acting as assistants in the classroom. The robots sing, dance and their pupils become heart shaped when in conversations.

We believe having this experience in nursery schools will have a lasting effect throughout their youth and as adults,” Han, a government official, said.

Everywhere you look, you see technology and education coming together, whether it is the learning management systems, robots in class, online games, and simulations. In the US, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) announced a major partnership with Roblox, a global platform bringing millions of people together through shared experiences, to deliver a high-quality educational experience available to students and educators across the U.S.

“This is an incredibly impactful investment, and by bringing PLTW learning experiences to everyone on Roblox, we are creating even more opportunities for students to be creative, imaginative, and inspired problem solvers who want to pursue critical and enduring career paths.”

The metaverse is next. What will that look like?

Schools let the sunshine in! Four colleges in Massachusetts and one in Maine, are teaming up to purchase solar energy to power their schools. This is believed to be the largest solar project in New England. The schools came together to make this happen and involved students in the decision-making process.

There’s no question that there’s interest from this generation of students that are coming in, they’ve grown up knowing about this crisis, this is the defining crisis of their time,” said Matthew Orlando, the senior vice president for Finance and Administration at Bowdoin College, whose office is overseeing the school’s involvement with the solar effort..

D (Just above a Fail) 😬

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to school, Delhi has had to close schools due to pollution levels being so severe. People are working from home and while students were cleared to go back to school a week ago, the Supreme Court ruled they must stay home. So now not just COVID lockdown, we have the SMOG lockdown — school is safe but getting there could kill you.

We had reopened schools considering the forecast that air quality would improve,” Rai said, according to The Times of India. “However, the air pollution levels have increased again and we have decided to shut schools from Friday till further orders.”

F (Unacceptable and below expected standards)😱

School’s out forever! School closures stretched across the globe starting in many countries in March 2020. Most K-12 schools have resumed in-class learning. The Philippines stands as a massive exception. There are about 5,000 students out of 27 million who have returned to class. The impact is further exacerbated by a significant digital and technological divide.

Globally, COVID-19 will be impacting the mental health of children and young adolescents for years to come, UNICEF warns. School shutdowns have already been blamed for a rise in dropout rates and decreased literacy and the World Bank estimates that the number of children aged 10 and below, from low- and middle-income countries, who cannot read simple text has risen from 53% prior to the pandemic to 70% today.

UNESCO cites multiple impacts that school closures contribute to: learning loss, poor nutrition, economic impacts, social isolation, and a rise in dropout rates among a longer list of adverse consequences. The Philippines response could be very risky and may have a devastating impact on the future of a generation and a nation.

DAVID BEBEE / WATERLOO REGION RECORD FILE PHOTO

The Ivory Tower can be seen but not touched. In another example of schools being closed, in Ontario some universities and colleges are completely open, and some are completely closed for in-person classes. The article in the Toronto Star, “Ontario universities are playing their students for fools by keeping classrooms closed” asks a very valid question — How can you have students jammed into residence and at the same time not conduct in-person classes ? Every student (or parent) is paying full freight tuition for, in many cases, remote learning. It seems incomprehensible that while all staff, faculty and students have to be fully vaccinated, there are not more in-person classes being conducted. The university and college experience is more than what happens in a classroom. It is unfortunate that for many students, their first years of post-secondary are a continuation of their last years in high school — online classes and lacking any in-person activities.

These students are learning a life lesson in what it’s like to be played for fools and fleeced by their fearful elders. Fully vaccinated and fully paid up, these students have been betrayed by the very institutions they thought would prepare them for life’s challenges.

We see distrust in institutions rising in younger generations. Is there any doubt that this display of inconsistency and weak rationale (ironically from institutions that tout teaching critical thinking as a desirable and in-demand skill), will contribute to that distrust?

It’s not what you know, but who you know. A lawsuit that claimed Harvard University discriminated against Asian applicants, has opened up a lot of previously unknown information that has cast the admissions policies at Harvard, in a less than positive light. A study was conducted and identified that there was preference given to a group classified as ALDC — Athletes, Donors, Children of staff and faculty, students who never would have been admitted through normal admissions channels.

According to their findings, more than 43 percent of the white students admitted were ALDC. But the share for African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos was less than 16 percent. Furthermore, the research shows, roughly three-quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if not for their ALDC status. Finally, eliminating preferences for athletes and legacies would make the pool of admitted students much less white.

Besides all that, colleges in the US have seen enrolments drop, as costs to attend have gone through the roof. Many students who do go to college or university are left with crippling debts that will take a lifetime to pay off. There are 47.9 million borrowers of student loans in the US with a total of $1.59 trillion in federal student loans and $132 billion in private loans.

The disruption to higher education has people questioning things in a deeper way. — Maria Flynn CEO OF JOBS FOR THE FUTURE

Under advisement (Ungraded- Under Review)🧐

Gender, equity and the divisiveness. Education has always been a political hot potato. Legislators and politicians make decisions about schools, funding, and curriculum while in office. The repercussions of their decisions have far-reaching and significant impact on student outcomes and lives. Take what has happened in Tanzania. The new government has decided to allow girls who have become pregnant to come back to school after they have given birth. In Tanzania, if a girl becomes pregnant she is barred, by law, from attending school as she is deemed a poor moral example to classmates. Now with access to education up to two years after giving birth, it’s progress not perfection.

In India, studies have shown that not only is there a gender skewed digital divide, with boys having more access to digital devices, but that education is prioritized for boys. The pandemic has resulted in many female students not being able to return to school for economic and social reasons. It is estimated that up to 10 million girls in India will not return to school after the pandemic resolves.

Interestingly in the United States, this New York Times article suggests that the rising gender gap in college education — currently three women for every two men — might turn out to be one of the most transformative trends of our time.

The simple mathematics of more women than men earning college degrees means that many highly educated women will either have to partner with less educated men, or forgo partnership. We currently live in an era of work and family, but this might presage a harder choice between work or family, and consequently a lower birthrate.

The Future of Education — The jury is still out on this: will we live in a hybrid mode with a mix of in-person and distance learning? Will robots replace teachers? Will one teacher replace hundreds by broadcasting lessons to hundreds of students, synchronously and asynchronously? Will teachers turn away and turn off, due to their roles as classroom sanitizer, instructor, mask police, bubble manager, and more? Will parents continue their march forward looking to provide education that fits their view of the world? Will we be teaching children crypto in school? What will the future of education really be like? Here is one version, written from the future by Lorena Dexter Chaichian, Grey Swan Guild member, and Associate Director, Communications and Media Relations at UBC and futurist:

Why not join us on Sunday, December 5th at 8am (PST) 11am (EST) / 4pm BST We’d love to hear your thought on Education so why not join us on Clubhouse this Sunday the 5rd December 2021 at 8 am PST | 11 am EST | 4 pm BST | 5 pm SAST to make sense of it all, have your say, and engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors:

Doyle Buehler, Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Louise Mowbray, Ben Thurman, Antonia Nicols, Esmee Wilcox, Geeta Dhir, Gina Clifford, Su McVey with Clubhouse Captains Howard Fields, Scott Phares, and Lindsay Fraser.

The Tapestry

The collection of images, videos, and charts delivered by the zeitgeist that is the internet and the news cycle.

Meme of the week:

Source: edutopia

Book of the Week

Videos of the Week:

The fundamental backbone of education is teachers. Most of us have that one teacher that has changed our lives or had a significant impact on our sense of self. The first video is a classic and an example of a teacher that is impacting the daily lives of her students. The second video is a surprise reunion between Adele and the person who she said changed her life, her teacher.

Charts of the week:

Infographic of the week:

Podcast of the week:

Class Disrupted Podcast: Why Is This Teacher Shortage Different — and How Did We Get Here?

Quote for forever:

About Us:

Come join us this Sunday: https://www.clubhouse.com/join/grey-swan-guild/50WbcjN2/xXzOB654

We’d love to hear your thoughts about Education, the disruption, what it means to you and what it means for the future. Join us on Clubhouse this Sunday the 5th December 2021 at 8 am PST | 11 am EST | 4 pm BST | 5 pm SAST to make sense of it all, have your say, and engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors: Doyle Buehler, Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Louise Mowbray, Ben Thurman, Antonia Nicols and now new additions to our team Esmee Wilcox, Geeta Dhir, Gina Clifford, Su McVey with Clubhouse Captains Howard Fields, Scott Phares, and Lindsay Fraser.

Grey Swan Guild

Our Mission: Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges & Next Grey swans — curating and creating knowledge through critical thinking observation, informed futurism, scenario-driven foresight and sensemaking analysis🦢

Join our Guild: https://www.greyswanguild.org/

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