Reflection, Imagination, and Transformation

By Qing Hua

This summer, I have attended more conferences than I have ever before. The mix of virtual and in-person formats provided me more opportunities to learn and share. In the first week of June, my colleagues Bird, Isaac, and a group of students and I presented virtually at Rock CS, a premier conference for Computer Science teachers in Colorado on a Saturday. The second week of June, my colleagues Pam, Becky, my daughter Estella, and I presented at the annual InnEdCO in Breckenridge, Colorado. In the third week, I attended the annual retreat hosted by the Gifted Education and State Advisory Committee of Colorado Department of Education (CDE). The retreat was held virtually for 8 hours over two days. Then on July 7th, I attended an ESSER community organization input session hosted by the CDE via zoom.   

While each session had a unique focus, a common theme emerged for me – reflection, imagination, and transformation.  In breakout rooms and happy hour conversations, we shared loss of loved ones, job changes, mental health issues, and while some kids and educators struggled, others thrived through the new mode of learning and teaching. Together, we reflected on how we changed practice in each unique situation and what planning for Fall and future looks like.

Two states of mind also emerged: those who are tired, exhausted, and “can’t wait to go back to normal”, and those who are tired, exhausted, and wonder “how we could preserve what we have learned, gained, and changed.” I belong to the latter camp. I wonder what I can do to help keep the momentum going. Throughout the last 16 months, I was constantly touched and inspired by the collective will and action demonstrated by colleagues, partners, parents, teachers, and students who just kept pushing forward through immense tenacity, creativity, empathy, and grit. 

Having survived the trauma, loss, and powerlessness at times, some of us seem to have found clarity and gained new found energy and power to create a new normal. While physically isolated and distant, we have become closer socially and formed strong bonds by our common missions to raise a generation of human-centered students who will innovate and solve problems. 

What is the new normal that we would like to build and sustain? 

  1. A learning environment that is more accessible, inclusive, and equitable for a diverse population of students. Students of various learning needs, ability levels, economic backgrounds, race, ethnicity, gender, geographical locations should all have easier access to higher quality education. 
  2. A learning environment that will be better equipped to keep up with the changes happening in the real world. 
  3. A supportive environment that will bring students, parents, educators, researchers, industry professionals, and community members closer together. 
  4. A learning environment that is more human-centered, where curiosity, creativity, authenticity, empathy, courage, and compassion are valued and practiced    
  5. A learning environment that is fun, enjoyable, engaging, and empowering. Students will identify authentic problems they want to solve, have the skills and mindsets to tackle them, and the commitment to put in hard work to take their tasks to the next level 

How is that possible? By refusing to go back to the old normal. Instead, commit to the following:

  1. Adopt asynchronous virtual learning as an option to support self-paced learning style

    Asynchronous learning gives older students more autonomy to conduct self-paced learning. Through their teachers, peers, and their own discovery, students uncovered all sorts of tools that they could use to learn reading, writing, math, science, computer science, and arts. 

  2. Extend live instruction virtual learning an option to enrich students’ learning network

    While older students may find asynchronous online learning liberating, younger students learn much more effectively interacting with their teachers through live online instructions. Further, through live online instruction, students gain access to instructors, mentors, advisors, industry experts, guest speakers, volunteers, role models that they normally wouldn’t have access to. It is much easier for a school to handle logistics of inviting the outside world in the classroom through live virtual learning. 

  3. Create a culture where growth mindset, empathy, perseverance are taught and practiced at all levels – from the superintendent to principals, to teachers, staff, parents, and students.

    We live in an AI-powered world that is constantly changing at an accelerated speed. The future is unpredictable. We humans must learn to better understand and communicate with each other to solve problems as they arise. 

  4. Insist on building and innovating and supporting those who build and innovate

    We owe it to ourselves and our kids to constantly ask, am I thinking bold enough, creative enough to help solve this problem we are facing? Am I doing my part to help the situation? Sometimes we may not have the bandwidth, capacity, capability, and foresight to build or innovate ourselves. That’s ok. Support those who do. Always cheer for students who think outside of the box, who have strange ideas, who dare to try. They are the ones who will change the world one day. 

  5. Form partnerships and build platforms

    Education is amazing and hard at the same time. Why? Because the outcome is unpredictable and a student’s journey could not be put in an algorithm to run a simulation.  However, we live in a world that runs on algorithms that are getting smarter and faster every second. To keep up with the machine, those of us who work at various roles and organizations in education should always partner up to synergize resources to make a bigger, faster impact as long as our missions align. Don’t create something new if others have already created it and are willing to share. Don’t withhold your secret sauce, our competitions are not humans but machines. Build, share, scale, and grow! 

To hold on or to let go, the choice has always been to transform. If not now, when?

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QING HUA

Founder & CEO

Qing is passionate about fusing education, technology, industry, diversity, and human empathy to make this world a better place through education. Before starting Build a Robot K12, Qing worked in the telecommunication industry for 15 years as a senior engineer, engineering manager, and a product manager. Qing holds a MBA and a MS in Telecommunication from University of Colorado at Boulder, a MA in Communications from University of Delaware, and a BS in Electronics Engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She currently serves on the Colorado Department of Education Gifted Education State Advisory Committee. Outside of work, Qing enjoys books, new tech, music, the outdoors, and exploring new places and cultures.

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