Like so many of you, I am experiencing distance learning in my own home with my two children – my son is starting high school and my daughter is in middle school. I am also Chief Product Officer at PowerSchool, a leading provider of K-12 education technology solutions, where I am driving innovation for tools that support remote learning at a time when teachers, parents, and students need them most. You may already be familiar with Schoology, our learning management system that makes it possible to learn from home during this pandemic.
Having a front row seat in the education technology field gives me a tremendous amount of empathy for the incredible adjustments so many people – parents and teachers alike – have had to make through this challenging time. It also gives me a great amount of hope to see the efforts educators have put into ensuring our children are successful this fall, and I see the opportunity to do better, and leverage technology to better support everyone involved in a child’s learning in this new hybrid education model.
It can be difficult to be in this online format for so long. There are so many virtual meetings, logins, and passwords to keep track of, and what feels like hundreds of emails to sort through. There are also a lot of expectations on our kids to digitally manage. It can also be frustrating to manage and streamline all the communications coming in as parents and for our students. And the weight of wondering what exactly they will learn this year, are they going to behind in their academic and social development can be heavy.
While it has been a challenging time, I think we can strike a balance of setting an expectation of learning without setting undue stress on parents, students, and teachers.
As a mom and an EdTech leader, here are a few of the silver linings I believe we as parents can take from the experience of distance learning/learning in our homes:
Providing Flexibility in Schedules
We have a unique opportunity to create flexibility in our schedules more than ever before. When I first made the shift to working from home, I tried to maintain “normal” work hours, but have since adapted to creating a more flexible schedule. I may log on early, then break to have breakfast with my husband and kids, and then work while they are gearing up for school. At PowerSchool, I lead a global team and have found this also works well for the different hours we are online. It does not mean you are not working as hard or there for your team – you are simply doing things in a more flexible manner. My kids never saw mom home for lunch or at 3 p.m., and we are enjoying our new, intertwined schedules to have great connections.
Helping Your Children Develop New Skills
With children at home using new technology and tools, we have an opportunity to help them develop executive functioning skills they otherwise might be developing later in life. Helping them work through organizational needs, and strategies for keeping track of deadlines, assignments, and class meetings, we can help our children build skills today that will set them up for later success and serve them for the rest of their lives.
Incorporating Family Mindfulness
As professionals, we can use working and learning from home as an opportunity to create family mindfulness and togetherness. Without the demands of busy travel schedules, my family has been finding more things to do together – we head out each week on our paddleboards and kayaks, and create a space to take a break from our screens and get out of the house. It has been amazing how relaxed my family is when we do these things to connect. We are finding with our more flexible schedules, we can do these things together for a mid-week evening break, not just on Saturday mornings. We are not only trying new things, but also continuing practices from before that keep us together, like preparing and eating dinner together and doing something together for an hour after. With all the uncertainty during these times, we continue these routines as healthy ways to build continuity and predictability for the kids.
Leveraging Opportunity to Become Part of Learning
In my work at PowerSchool, I have the unique opportunity of observability, to see what my kids are doing so I can bridge what is happening between the classroom and technology that powers the education ecosystem. I know the background of technology, understand the structure and models of learning in a tech environment. But I can be more part of their learnings, I can see and hear what they are learning each day. This is something we all can contribute to that we could not always do while traveling or working from the office. Learning with my kids, enables me to see that formation and development in a real way – we celebrate the Aha! together.
Taking Time to Learn a new Hobby
There’s enough time and space to do new things and reignite old ones. My son, previously into Fortnite and extra gaming screen time, has taken up skateboarding and my daughter has taken up a passion for nature photography. It is great to see them learn a new hobby they would not have had time before with old schedules. My husband and I have all enjoyed dusting off the mountain bikes and hitting the neighborhood to find new trails to explore together.
While distance learning is not ideal and not something many of us would have chosen to do, I encourage everyone to take the time to find the silver linings throughout their days to help stay positive during this time. Things will get better, and it will be helpful to have a positive mindset as we all work together to create a sense of “normalcy” in our new realities.