Because of the massive disruptions caused by COVID-19, educators and parents have had to pivot and reimagine traditional education methods and strategies. In order to socially distance students in an effective way, many districts across the country have turned to virtual and hybrid solutions.
While 21st-century skills, a collection of competencies identified by educators, administrators and employers as essential to thriving in our rapidly evolving world, have long been promoted as crucial, they have become more relevant than ever before in these uncertain times.
Below is an excerpt from our recently published white paper, “Essential 21st-Century Skills for a Post-Pandemic World” that highlights the importance of collaboration, and how educators can nurture this skill even in a virtual environment.
Collaborating in a Virtual Setting
Though admittedly more difficult to embrace fully in distance and blended learning environments, the ability to collaborate will be an increasingly important skill in a post-COVID-19 world.
In an article published by the World Economic Forum, Sandy Mackenzie, director of the Copenhagen International School, and Poornima Luthra, founder and chief consultant of TalentED Consultancy ApS, argue that because COVID-19 is a global crisis, education must account for the fact that we live in an interconnected world.
“COVID-19 is a pandemic that illustrates how globally interconnected we are — there is no longer such a thing as isolated issues and actions,” the educators said. “Successful people in the coming decades need to be able to understand this interrelatedness and navigate across boundaries to leverage their differences and work in a globally collaborative way.”
In addition to producing more creative and effective ideas, according to the National Education Association, group work has the added benefit of developing crucial interpersonal skills, as well as boosting confidence and self-esteem.
While group work and activities that build community are often practiced in classrooms across the country, the limitations of virtual learning have made creating collaborative environments more difficult. Because classroom culture is crucial to fostering trusting communities, it is helpful to adapt a few standard classroom community-building practices to this new environment.
In an article published in Edutopia, Leah Henry, a high school history teacher and curriculum writer, suggests a number of strategies, including establishing a digital community agreement and cultivating a culture of trust and respect.
Just as traditional classrooms have established rules and guidelines, Henry advises teachers to create a code of conduct for online learning as well. “The key to building a culture is revisiting these agreements during every class session,” Henry said. “Have students determine how well they lived the agreements as a reflection exit ticket or opener for the week.”
With a set of agreed upon rules, educators can begin building a healthy and supportive culture by making sure to engage with each student individually. For Henry, this can take the form of daily contact with a phone call, email or text announcements. Even when a student has technical difficulties, they should still be contacted. In this case, alternate methods of communication, including handwritten letters, can be beneficial.
Additionally, embracing a video application’s “breakout room” feature is another way to encourage group work. In these scenarios, each student can be assigned a certain job (timekeeper, note taker, etc.). These small jobs help to create a sense of accountability and respect, setting the expectation that everyone in the class has something valuable to contribute.
Download Our Free White Paper
To read our full white paper and find helpful tips on incorporating 21st-century skills in our challenging new reality, we invite you to visit our website.