From an educator’s perspective, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. Arguments for the uselessness of school and abolition theory lost their power, an Edu-tech utilization infrastructure was built, and the ability of teachers to utilize edu-tech was significantly improved. As the title of article ‘When school stops, school becomes visible’ suggests, the crisis caused people to realize the important role and the necessity of school. The fact that school is not only a venue for democratic public education that reinforces the rules and the competency of a community, a venue for sociability training that helps children make friends and build their conflict resolution abilities, and a venue for knowledge growth, but is also the key institution for the growth of youth and ‘whole person’ education that develops personality has been significantly highlighted.

Written by Park Nam Gi, professor at Gwangju University of Education

Breaking free from retro-fantasies about returning to school

The opinion has been expressed that when online education enters the mainstream, mixed learning or mixed classes that incorporate online and offline education will be the conventional approach in the future. However, as a result of the great ‘COVID-19 education experiment,’ such arguments have been losing ground. When students are watching a screen for 6 hours or more in a day, it is hard to expect them to focus on class. Even if AI and the metaverse are developed, when the current technology level and the cost are considered, this edu-tech seems to be difficult to substitute for face-to-face education in the foreseeable future. Therefore, even if COVID-19 is becoming more and more serious, people are looking at school once again.

But when you shout out ‘back to the schools again,’ you should remember one thing. You should awaken from the retro-fantasy about returning to school, and should prepare what is needed. Retropia, a concept defined by the sociologist Sigmund Bauman, is when we romanticize, miss, and idealize a previous life. When full-scale school attendance started, the teachers and the students who missed the previous period during COVID-19, tell COVID-19 period was better openly.

After full-scale school attendance resumed, things that we used to take for granted were found to be difficult. More and more students are having a hard time getting up to go to school, straightening their back and taking classes all day. More and more students are sleeping on their desks, using the health room, and staring blankly at their teachers as if they were watching a monitor. Problems such as school violence, late and absent students, and difficulty in teaching and learning are also growing due to an increase in students with poor basic education. As a result, students and teachers are increasingly saying that the timing of remote classes was better.

Strengthening the role of schools and the competency of teachers

To respond to this, schools should make and operate a range of ‘school attendance adaptation rehabilitation programs.’ First, we should help the students to restore good life habits by communicating with their parents. And in order for students to adapt to the classroom, in which they must sit all day, the time for physical training should be increased, and the time for training the mind should also be increased. In addition, programs that strengthen the ability of students to communicate with friends and teachers should be operated. Of course, we should pay special attention when guiding students with poor basic achievement. In making this type of program, the teachers and the school steering committee should take the leading role, though it is also desirable for the students to participate.

Teachers’ face-to-face teaching ability should be also developed. Students are suffering from difficulties in face-to-face learning compared to the time before COVID-19. Static, teacher-led classes are no longer suitable for these students. In the major subjects, teachers should take the lead, but instructors should strengthen their teaching skills and prepare to give fun and personalized classes by switching class scenes every five minutes, promoting the active participation of students, and utilizing cutting-edge edu-tech.

The school and the classroom should be learning spaces equipped with augmented reality utilizing holo-lens and various other cutting-edge edu-tech facilities, and teachers should utilize online platforms and various edu-tech in teaching students. Educational AI is a supplementary device that can support teachers’ educational activities, and help them to overcome their physical and psychological limits, like Iron man’s suit.

The investment of a little more time and effort will result in easy learning and utility. Of course, not everyone can become a super-powered teacher just by putting on the ‘suit’. Iron Man needed to train his muscles to build up his suit’s superpowers. When a teacher has all the analog competencies they need, such as the principles of teaching and learning, counseling, motivation, conflict management, and classroom management capabilities, they can become a ‘super-powered Iron Man’ teacher with the help of the ‘suit’ of technology.

Creating the environment for ‘Smalog’ (Smart+Analog) education

Students should engage in a range of educational activities together with teachers in a smalog (Smart+Analog) classroom, and can pursue self-directed learning by utilizing edu-tech under the guidance of their teacher. For example, they can listen to the class and communicate with students in other regions (or nations). The participating teachers can proceed with the class as a cooperative class.

They might listen to a short lecture related to the class by an invited expert from the local community, or even one who is nationally or internationally renowned, which could include time for questions and answers. In this way, teachers can offer a dynamic class that is not given by the teacher only, but in which the teacher takes the lead in utilizing various resources. Here, the ability of the school and teachers to form broad personnel resource networks is important. Smalog education is education in which the students learn and grow along with various experts in an open class connected with the world. If several computer workstations are prepared in the classroom, the students can utilize them in small group activities and customized AI-based learning when needed.

In the afternoon, students enter the field of life directly, explore future jobs, develop necessary competencies, and learn life principles with the help of adult mentors (learning assistants). At the same time, as Minerva School students do, students can be dispatched to participate in reality improvement through projects that aim to solve problems in the community or institutions in which they learn about work and life.

If ‘school mainstream theory’ will be established as the alternative for future education, it is necessary to create and prepare the system needed to predict and overcome the darkness which ‘returning to the school’ will bring. Together with this, it is necessary to induce the active participation of the local community, to strengthen the competencies of teachers and students, to prepare educational programs and to build the school and the classroom infrastructure needed for smalog education.

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