Jul 07 2021

K–12 Leaders Look to Innovate the Future of Learning

Educators pulled together during a school year unlike any other to reinvent our education system in meaningful ways.

Before the pandemic, the way we delivered education hadn’t changed much in 100 years. But March 2020 became a turning point almost overnight, not just for the world, but for education as we know it. In the pre-COVID-19 world, many K–12 students had to show up to school buildings, file into rows of desks and, for some, take notes by hand as their instructors spoke from the front of the room. Conducting classes any other way was uncommon — until it wasn’t.

The pandemic and nationwide school shutdowns quickly forced millions of educators to reinvent, on the fly, the way schools operated. Today, educators are not only showing us that children can learn outside of a school building, but they are also redesigning those buildings and their classrooms for more educational flexibility moving forward.

A Different Lens for K–12 Education

Michael Kuhrt, superintendent of the Wichita Falls Independent School District in Texas, believes “traditional schools don’t serve the needs of a 21st century learner.” That is why his district is building high schools that offer students “a flexible schedule, flexible spaces and flexible learning modes.”

Though they had been looking at a virtual option for years, educators at Fort Smith Public Schools in Arkansas didn’t take the leap until the pandemic. “The pandemic has forced us to look at things through a different lens,” says Deputy Superintendent Martin Mahan.

And while digital equity issues persist, recent federal and state funding has helped bring millions of previously disconnected students online. In “Digital Breakthroughs,” Mississippi educators share how federal and state aid allowed them to not only support connectivity for families who live in remote areas, but also make significant infrastructure upgrades. Scott Muri, superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District in Texas, searched for and found a long-term broadband solution for the entire community.

After more than a year of remote and hybrid learning, many educators are rightly questioning what is and isn’t impossible. What we are all learning is that sometimes our most innovative and creative ideas come from necessity. And as we look toward fully reopening physical schools that have undergone seismic shifts, we can and must take some of these new ideas with us.

WATCH NOW: Educators discuss the future of learning for K–12 students.

Sitthiphong/Getty Images