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Getting Technical: Lessons learned from pandemic should lead to innovation

EMMY BEESON
Emmy Beeson

As a former social-studies teacher, I have a special affinity for the idea that we should learn from the past as an instrument for creating the future.

I always told my students that more than the dates and facts inside of history lessons, the real power in studying history is to decide what kind of individuals we will be.

History provides us a canvas to inspect and learn from. Were the decisions and character traits displayed by historical figures ones we should emulate, or are they ones from which we should steer clear?

The other reason I enjoy the study of the past is because I have an intense future-focused perspective, and learning from the past builds foundations for innovating in the future.

This article isn't specific to career-technical education, although it is certainly speaking to us; it is really for the entire industry of education and schooling.

Teaching and learning has been disrupted by the COVID-19 coronavirus health crisis, and I have listened to so many educators say we will never go back to the pre-coronavirus days of education.

I agree. But what exactly does that mean?

The temptation will be to return to school as usual, with the added option of teaching remotely in a more robust way. That would be to domesticate the radical idea that schools now have the technological know-how to help students learn 24/7 and in ways specifically tailored to the students' actual life circumstances.

To simply add remote learning as a tool in our education toolbox right now and not consider what we believe learning could look like in five or 10 years is to miss the opportunity we have been presented. I can't take credit for this quote, but I say it all the time: "Never waste a good crisis."

This time period is a dividing line in history. There will be educational institutions that return to school as usual, with an increased use of technology as they prepare students to be college- or career-ready. And there will be educational institutions that seize this moment and reimagine what teaching and learning can look like to prepare young people to be human-ready.

The current model of high school was developed in the early 1800s and separates all the academic disciplines into their own courses of study. And to a great extent, we still schedule our school day just like that.

The model for career-technical education in Ohio was created in the 1970s, and with some minor tweaks, it looks exactly like it did 50 years ago. Yes, our curriculum has changed, and, yes, we take constant steps to be in line with current industry practices, but our delivery model is relatively the same.

I am inspired by all the innovation and creativity I have seen in education in the past 90 days. I am in awe of the hard work and willingness to go where "no one has gone before" with very limited time and resources.

I am convinced that the only barrier to our capacity to innovate and create the next paradigm shift in education is our imagination. Let us imagine together as we create an experience that goes beyond the expectations of our students, families and partners with marketable skills and positive relationships to ensure all students are prepared for their successful futures.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@ tollestech.com.