Higher level cognitive, technical, and social-emotional skills are being prioritised alongside traditional curricula following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Vice-President of Education at Microsoft.
In her keynote speech at the annual BettFest education conference, Barbara Holzapfel focused on how schools and learning are changing due to Coronavirus. She also said school leaders and teachers were in a great position to help young people develop their social and emotional skills. These will not only help them cope with adversity and disruption in their lives but will also make them more employable, she added.
A recent McKinsey & Company report found that employers are looking for a mix of cognitive, social-emotional and technical skills. These are the same skills that are helping students to navigate remote learning.
Schools across the world had to accelerate digital plans last year as governments tried to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing in lockdowns, with many children learning remotely from home. This has led to a surge in the number of students using digital tools such as Microsoft Teams to engage with their teachers, collaborate with classmates and complete schoolwork remotely.
Barbara Holzapfel said the pandemic has shown that it’s critical teachers and students continue to communicate and engage with each other.
“COVID-19 has caused the convergence of three crises: a public health crisis, an economic crisis and, in many parts of the world, a humanitarian crisis. Education is at the intersection of all three,” she said. “Schools have responded to this crisis, transitioned to a new school year and are reimagining how learning will continue in the future.
“It’s important as we move forward and reimagine learning to focus on the individual learner and critical skills, prioritize social and emotional learning, create a safe and secure environment for all learners and drive scale to keep all students engaged in learning.”
She added that students feel there are some benefits to remote learning: they like not having to spend time traveling to school, and appreciate the more flexible schedule that allows them to work at a pace that suits them. Additionally, they value having family members more engaged in their learning.
During BettFest, which usually takes place in London but was held virtually this year, Microsoft announced a number of software and hardware updates for inclusive learning environments of the future – inclusive, collaborative, engaging and prioritizing student wellbeing.
Reflect, for example, lets educators use Microsoft Teams to connect with individual students and invite them to share, one-to-one with their teacher, how they are feeling in general or about specific topics, such as learning from home, assignments, current events or a change within their community.