Light Sabers, Storm Troopers, and a Simulation of Hybrid Logistics to Combat Learning Loss and the Teacher Shortage at ISTE 2022

Event News
By: 
Chris McMurray

Over 200 school representatives played a specially hosted simulation of “uberized” learning at ISTE 2022 in New Orleans June 26-29th.

Presented by Learning Counsel in partnership with Cisco at their hosted room in the conference facility, the games were lively activities showing a new way to use advanced logistics to hybridize learning. Every player took away a light saber with sound effects and had the opportunity to return for the reception with extra special guests – storm troopers! 

The simulation showed a new disruptive approach to reinventing learning for our critical post-pandemic moment as school systems across the country struggle with challenges to their effectiveness. Teacher shortages, student attrition and initiative overload are causing many schools and districts to seek out alternate solutions that wrestle with the use of time and space like Hybrid Logistics. Dreaming of personalization beyond the narrow context of traditional schools, and their typically invisible, routine normalizing of learning via bracketing students by age into existing grade, class, and courses, educators at ISTE were ready to hear how things could be dramatically different to drive equity.

School and district representatives learned that there is more to the post-pandemic world than they thought before. Many mused that unfortunately their districts were not yet addressing structure except as off-shoots with online courses. Many players stayed to discuss the fact that the simulation felt chaotic but “freeing” to create learning in such a different way than the traditional structure of school which remains too rigid and artificial to allow for personalization and fostering of student agency. The pre-game briefing on the missing is capacity of logistics to help coordinate the movement of teachers, learners, and resources and allow for multiple personalized pathways was a revelation for many.

The simulation, developed by the Learning Counsel, put participants on a life-sized gameboard as human game pieces to model an open and flexible learning environment as a student or teacher in a structure that breaks down traditional ideas of pace, place, and time. 

The difference shown starts with the awareness that the new structure supports personalization based on course pace by individual students – but does not sacrifice the needed intersection with human teaching. It makes those moments of human teaching of large or small groups, called “Knowmeets” in the hybrid logistics infrastructure, a premium

Chris McMurray, the Chief Academic Officer of the Learning Counsel briefed groups before game play that the ultimate in equity is recognition that students learn at different rates in different content areas. Therefore, rather than moving along a linear path of teaching moments, students can move along multiple paths of designed experiences, allowing for voice and choice to help determine pathways and next steps toward learning goals. In the simulation, teachers and students move independently through a variety of learning activities and spaces, intersecting with others as needed, maximizing the human element of teaching, and learning and allowing teachers to be much more interactive with each student. 

On the surface, it looked a bit random until observers noticed each player had their own detailed instructions and was operating along their own path, guided by a pretend set of directions they were getting from a central infrastructure. Players were able to see how logistics – more technology layered on their beloved apps and systems to manage the movement of people through time against parts of the curriculum – created a new reality that personalized for every student and freed teachers to truly connect. Through debrief and discussion after each game, educators in the simulation saw clearly how a layered approach to system structures allows for not only greater autonomy for students, but also greater freedoms for teachers to address student needs.

Parts of some of the discussion with schools included the facts that:

  • Networks would have to mature.  Since students and teachers would be “uberized,” to intersect with precision, a lot of careful consideration of the campus environment and remote access would have to be reviewed. See more.
  • Networks had a natural maturity path to follow to be ready for uberized learning, described by Mary Schlegelmilch, Education Advocate, Cisco at the game sessions.
  • Most schools are structured to implement a foundation of technology tools and systems that provide or allow resources for educators and students to use in their daily activity. This would include systems like the student Information System (SIS), or resources like digital instructional materials including discrete math apps or full courseware. On top of this is the human layer, which includes teachers, administrators, and students, who move along primarily linear paths determined by time constructs such as a bell schedule against a master schedule defined by space and time restrictions.  These dictate how teachers and students interact and constrict, through environment, the learning in a rarely considered artificial and inefficient use of resources.
  • The idea of a Hybrid Logistics Infrastructure is adding a software layer between the technology currently in use by schools and the human layer that coordinates the movement of individual teachers and learners.
  • Why is this critical now? Research by the Learning Counsel is projecting a teacher shortage of up to one million moving into 2023. That, coupled with continued increases in student attrition, will spell disaster for many of our most successful schools and districts across the country. That means systems nation-wide will have to be much more efficient with how teacher-time is used and be much more personalized in their approach to learning design. By implementing a Hybrid Logistics model for personalized learning, those efficiencies can be realized. The structural shift does require a mindset shift to break from the traditional industrial models that educators have been operating with, and schools cannot do it alone.

In summary, ISTE had an exciting new activity where attending school and district teachers and leaders got to physically experience the new motion in a fun way of what learning could be with hybrid logistics.  There are already calls for encore presentments of the game and Learning Counsel invites those interested to join in upcoming events or reach out to join the Expo Achievement Schools.  

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