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This module focuses on two potential educational opportunities associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Session (1) more student centered, “deeper” learning and session (2) greater collaboration among key actors – teachers, administrators, parents, and students – in public education.  A final section focuses on key organizational and planning questions related to reopening schools this fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted elementary and secondary schools across the country.  In the spring, most schools closed their doors for the rest of the school year and turned to remote learning.  This shift revealed major equity challenges in school districts as well as many other challenges around the delivery of education.  These concerns have only grown as schools prepare to open this fall.  However, this disruption also has created important opportunities to “reimagine” public education.  This module focuses on two of these opportunities: more student-centered, “deeper” learning and greater collaboration among key actors – teachers, administrators, parents, and students – in public education. A final section focuses on key organizational and planning questions related to reopening schools this fall.

  1. Reading: Hugh Vasquez, “What if We… Don’t Return to School as Usual,” National Equity Project 
  2. Video: “There’s No Single Right Way to Do Distance Learning”
  3. Reading: Eric Tucker and Tom Vander Ark, “How to Reopen Schools: A 10-Point Plan Putting Equity at the Center,” Getting Smart
  4. Discussion: Is the pandemic an ‘opportunity’ or ‘obstacle?’  What has been your experience?  What determines whether it is an opportunity or obstacle?


The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for schools to further focus on student-centered teaching and deeper learning.  Monica Martinez and Dennis McGrath define “deeper learning” as the “process preparing and empowering students to master essential academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, have an academic mindset, and be self-directed in their education.”  The readings and video in this section focus on how deep learning can be fostered.  The response to the pandemic, including online and hybrid learning, creates new and challenging opportunities to further develop deep learning.

  1. Reading: Michael Fullan, Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning
  2. Questions to Consider:
  • This reading offers the following quote: “Emotion is the gatekeeper of motivation, cognition and attention.”  What does that mean in the current context for re-opening schools and strategies for teaching and learning?
  • What are the six global competencies of deep learning?  To what degree have they been a part of your learning experience?  Would you make any additions to the list?
  1. Video: “Empowering Students in Distance Learning Environments” 
  2. Questions to Consider:
  • What are key components to Schlechty’s view of student engagement?
  • What are key characteristics of UX Design and why are they important?
  1. Video: “Excellence with Equity: Inspiring Agency”
  2. Question to Consider:
  • What does it mean to develop student agency?  How does that happen?
  1. Reading: “Continuum of Voice,” Personalize Learning Transform Learning for All Learners
  2. Question to Consider:
  • As a student or teacher, where do you spend most of your time on the “Continuum of Voice?”
  1. Questions to Consider:
  •  Describe examples of “deep learning” in your own experience as a student or teacher?
  • How can online or hybrid learning foster “deep learning?”


This section focuses on the important role of collaboration across school systems, particularly among educators and administrators.  There are two videos by W. Patrick Dolan that provide an overview and more detailed look at the nature of collaboration in schools and school districts.  The National-Labor Management Partnership adds another perspective on collaboration by emphasizing the importance of communication and lasting structures.

  1. Video: “The 6 Boundaries of a School System”
  2. Handout: The 6 Boundaries of a School System
  3. Question to Consider:
  • What are the main “architectural” features of a traditional school system that structure collaboration efforts? What are key challenges?
  1. Reading: “2018 Call to Action,” National Labor-Management Partnership
  2. Reading: “Collaborating in a Crisis: Working Together to Safely Reopen Our School Buildings,” National Labor-Management Partnership
  3. Question to Consider:
  • The National Labor-Management Partnership provides a broad overview of collaboration and application to the current reopening challenge.  From this perspective, what are the key ingredients to successful collaboration?
  1. Video: “Learning to Live Together: Building a Culture of Collaboration Focused on Improving Teaching and Learning”
  2. Question to Consider:
  • What does it mean if teachers become “professionals?” What is the difference between district and school level collaboration, and what is the relationship between them?  At the school site level, what is the difference between “inform” and “input” in shared decision making?
  1. Reading: “Rutgers-Cornell Research Summary,” Culture of Collaboration Resource Guidebook
  2. Video (Optional):  “Peoria High School: A Case Study”



This final section focuses on the many questions schools and school districts must consider for reopening in the Fall.  The most central question is around the basic structure of teaching and learning.  Generally, the options include all online remote learning, all in-person learning within school buildings, and a hybrid approach that combines both.  There are many other questions, such as providing special education services and transportation.  The readings cover various topics related to these many challenges, and the last reading/video provides an example of one school district’s approach to reopening.

  1. Reading: “How We Go Back to School,” Education Week
  2. Reading: “10 Questions for Equity Advocates to Ask,” Digital Promise and The Education Trust
  3. Reading:  “Imagining September: Principles and Design Elements for Ambitious Schools During COVID-19,” MIT Teaching Systems Lab
  4. Question to Consider:
  • From your perspective, what are the top three principles for a reopening strategy from the list of seven in this article?  Which story-board ideas from those principles would you emphasize?
  1. Video: “Seven Teacher-Tested Ways to Find Renewal During Distance Learning”
  2. Video: “Reopening Plan: Start Strong Jefferson”
  3. Question to Consider:
  • As a school superintendent or principal, what are the top priorities in a fall 2020 re-opening plan?  What would be you overall online strategy?

Review and critique the fall 2020 ‘Back-to-School’ plan for one school district.  Based on themes and material in this learning module, what is your assessment of this plan?  Your assessment should include at least the following key points:

  • Is equity a key theme in the plan? How is it considered?
  • Is there a shift in the approach to teaching and learning? Does the plan consider a more student-centered approach?  What is the strategy with respect to online learning?
  • Was the plan created in a collaborative manner? Is collaboration part of the strategy for the fall?
  • What are the major logistical issues for a fall re-opening discussed in the plan?
  • Overall, did the fall re-opening appear as an ‘opportunity’ to address educational challenges or an ‘obstacle’ to be overcome?

Your written response should be approximately 5 pages, double-spaced.

You can find re-opening plans on many state and district websites. Education Week has an updated list of school districts with links to their reopening plans.