The pictures with this article show the first live modeling of a new logistics and workflow-oriented use of time and space in schools. It was a professional development exercise played in several cities in 2019 with Superintendents, Chief Academic Officers, Tech Directors and other administrators. Its goal was to show potentials of using better workflow to accomplish truly personalized learning without sticking to a traditional classroom model. When the pandemic started, many of those educators wanted the workflow logic function built right away because suddenly teachers and students were mostly at home and needed to be organized entirely differently. Post-pandemic the desire for flexibility and the ongoing problems with absences caused even more interest in new ways to structure time and space in learning.
Education logistics is first and foremost the idea that what has been missing the most in schools is the workflow and integration between things, including how students and staff are organized to come together with better precision for exact purposes and to bring orderliness to the thousands of learning apps and systems. Logistics examines the purpose of togetherness in order to isolate the human act of teaching from what students can do on their own, and then elevates those teaching skills to be used more efficiently. Therefore, logistics for schools principally focuses on time and space intelligence for schedules to overlay digital curriculum apps and systems. The outcome of logistics facilitates personalized learning with more than the curriculum resources, it customizes the time on task and where the student is at on the knowledge path with less of a burden on teachers.
Many ideas have emerged in recent years to make sense of modern day learning using tech in the classroom, but none had considered the time and space structure of classroom learning itself as something deserving of logistics. In fact, terms like blended learning, flipped learning, online learning, distance learning, hybrid learning, and consumerized learning emerged which had a sort of “model” feel but were actually more descriptive of the place of tech in the human world of learning. For example, consumerized learning is really courseware sold directly to parents and students or schools and has very little human interaction if at all, perhaps only chatbots. There is extensive personalization for pace and path, however, often with automatic loops to present material over and over in different ways until a student passes a concept. Online and distance learning is similar in that it presents more formal course-structured learning but without a lot of human teaching.
Blended, flipped and hybrid learning were ways to architect or describe the use of tech in an otherwise human teaching-centric structure. There were benefits for different learners in every one of these constructs.
What has become increasingly evident since the pandemic, though, is that there is a disconnect with the purely traditional model with little tech or just “tech as a tool,” used in the same classroom structure as always. Having an online option for a school was also not really precise because there were indications that despite needing more flexible schedules and places of learning, many students still needed human teaching sometimes. If humanity learned one important thing in learning from the pandemic, it was that there is an “infinity scale,” not an either-or to needed learning modalities. Many students do learn better individually online with little human teaching, others need the energy of fellow students and a teacher around them to instigate their learning.
An in-between world of extreme flexibility needed to be explored. It would need to principally address the logistics of tech and humans, the points of need of each. This redefined the word “hybrid” in ways most educators had never thought of, as it is most commonly defined as teaching to both a physical classroom while coincidentally video conferencing live with remote students.
With an idea of better time and space logistics, there emerged a new definition and something called The Hybrid Logistics Project, which brought together a lot of bright minds and extensive research in order to develop a new thesis of what would be needed exactly.
Better time management meant trying to obtain the best of the consumerized learning world with courseware automating a lot of remedial student study in very engaging digital ways, other digital interactivity and distribution functions, and the best of teaching live and lesson plans. It also meant aiming at truly personalized pace of learning, which can’t really be done in the traditional model since students are age-batched into grades and often “failed forward.”
A course structure rather than classes only seemed a better model, though there would need to be room for a mix of old class structure and open course periods since schools will rarely be able to shift master schedules, teaching practice, and full curriculum all at once. The logistics would have to have a whole lot of algorithms to manage both an ideal restructure and only slight shifts modularly.
Courses would also need to be a “continuous belt” across all grades to join at any time to pace through individually – while still being automagically cohorted with fellow travelers for intermittent classes. In this way, path and pace could truly be personalized. Such a marriage of super-personalization with live teaching through logistics would incrementally transform the whole arena of education. Calculations showed that it would save a lot of teacher hours so their expertise could be used directly with students most in need for more of their time. There could even be fewer teachers handling far more students because logistics would be managing time and space better.
Hybrid-plus-logistics is the disaggregation of the doing the individual parts of learning just like the homework of old was separate from the classroom. With logistics, ideally the two modes of learning (study versus live teaching) are in separate spaces and the teacher is freed up for half or more of the old-fashioned classroom time.
This does not mean that student’s studying are only online doing some reading, video watching or manipulating some module in a digital curriculum. The asynchronous study could be the student doing the worksheets they might have otherwise done during a class, something hands-on or being paired up with other students working out a problem on an interactive whiteboard or co-creation app of some sort. They could be doing their study while in a homeroom space overseen by a rotation of teachers or para-professionals, or from anywhere. The flexibility of time and space helps meet the needs of many families.
One of the implications of all of this is that what the teacher does, those moments of “classes” coming together, would need to be well defined. What is the teacher doing and for how long? Is it a lecture, a discussion, a hands-on lab? How many students are required in the cohort? What is the teacher doing when they aren’t doing one of these meeting moments? Are they roaming to help students individually? Crafting a custom side-path for a student in need? Will the grade pattern fall into disuse since students could be all over the pattern regardless of age or be kept as a sort of guideline? What about testing? How does a logistics platform manage required instructional minutes? All these questions have to be uniquely answered for the culture and requirements of each school.
In addition, those coming-together moments would need to be a human-to-human experience complete with whatever tech tools improve the interactivity and understanding. These moments would be “expositional” defined as:
: a moment designed to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand (lecture, discussion, etc.)
A coincidence of treating these group learning moments to be thrillingly experiential would be the heightened utility of live teaching to a level of performance art, driving other benefits including retention and attraction of students and parents who might otherwise homeschool. Colleges and universities already do this and many K12 administrators will say some of their teachers model this well, but usually not all by a long shot.
School logistics also redefines “hybrid” because it brings together the benefits of the world of online learning courses or lesson sequences, which can be different for different students, and in which students can be faster or slower paced, with live teaching through auto-cohorting. Again, two worlds, the asynchronous and synchronous learning times are what hybrid logistics addresses by managing each appropriately for time and space.
When considering school models, logistics tech applies complex calendar functions to the needed active teaching moments. It copies the norm now in corporations of meetings-must-have-a-defined-purpose-and-invitees-are-carefully-selected in order to minimize meeting time to only those directly essential. That construct keeps everyone else working away on individual tasks. School hybrid logistics would need to use advanced logic to settle which students are in which cohorts, when meetings (classes) set to calendars, and manage targeting intervals between the cohort multiples. It would need to check “layered” calendars. One layer would be the teacher’s marked time for when they can do which subject meetings, their personal calendar, then each student, and also the layers of when testing days or holidays are on master calendars. There might also need to be prohibited times when meetings can’t land because it would interfere with another subject and teacher’s held time depending on adherence to study hours and that teacher’s individual availabilities. Gig teachers brought in from a distance over video conferencing may contract for tutoring time outside normal school hours, another calendaring complexity that would have to be dealt with as well as that outside contractor’s limited access to student information.
By-age and grade socialization would remain the same because students remain with their same general groups in homerooms. They can just be at different points and will likely intermix with students older and younger during auto-cohorted classes with teachers. Some students could be well behind their grade in terms of age in some subjects but ahead or at grade-level in others.
Many different teaching and learning programs and school models can use school logistics tech in whole or in part.
Initial application interest has been highest in these scenarios:
- Schools which have a major amount of attrition to alternatives because they aren’t meeting needs locally with their traditional model.
- Schools who can’t get the number of teachers they need to fill all the classrooms need to move to logistics scheduling for a remodel of their time and space so that they can use less teachers without overburdening them.
- Small schools with few teachers and many students all at different grade levels. The teaching moments are mostly check-ins and discussions for cohorts of one and up to five students at a time. The existing beta user of school hybrid logistics technology is proving this relieves the problems of very few teachers.
- Schools already running open or homeroom time which is used for some remediation and learning catch-up. Managing where and when those students who are at various points to move from homeroom or open time to the right places to intersect with teachers really needs the new logistics meeting mechanism.
- Schools running a lot of extra-curricular online courses, also using open or homeroom time, but that still need to have check-ins with teachers in a random pattern not tied to classrooms necessarily.
- Schools which offer certain trainings across grades and subjects for things like devices and interactive whiteboard and audio/visual us, but who want to accrue a small group before scheduling.
- Schools who want something studied or reviewed before the teacher or coach meets with them needs this sort of logistics meeting mechanism.
- Online schools who still want to organize teachers with small groups even though their courses are self-paced.
While many people have pushed for things to go “back to normal,” the normal traditional schooling structure even before the pandemic was already losing students in record numbers to all alternatives, the fastest of which was homeschooling.
Space and time logistics for school models can revert the attrition through a restructure of how schools use their valuable teaching and curriculum resources.