Looking at a fourth grader, it is hard to image that they may run for office one day. Or become an open-heart surgeon. Or compete in the Olympic Games, engineer a dam, or sculpt a million-dollar art piece. The point is, when we look at students today—particularly K‒12 students—we often see them as they are in the present moment: just kids. But these students are also the ones who are going to run the world—educate it, govern it, innovate it.
Now of course I am not saying we should treat fourth graders like adults, because, well, they still are very much kids. But I am saying that the world they grow up in today is going to be vastly different from the world they are going to be adults in tomorrow. If we teach students dated lessons with dated tools, they will enter their adulthood with dated knowledge. This is why we need educators to become facilitators of learning, showing kids how to apply their lessons outside of the classroom while also teaching them soft skills that can help deepen their understanding of certain topics.
As we slowly emerge out of the pandemic—at least particularly in the US—I believe that right now blended learning is going to be the new reality. Blended learning is the concept where students and teachers can shift to in-class or at-home learning depending on any circumstance. It allows students and teachers to build relationships and knowledge through in-person activities, but it also gives students flexibility to access their course material through online platforms if necessary.
But like I have said many times before, in order to achieve a blended learning environment, every student needs their own device that is suited for their age and grade. At Intel, we are ready to help educators, administrators, and IT decision-makers alike integrate this blended classroom with initiatives like our 2030 RISE goals and the Skills for Innovation Framework.
The RISE initiative is Intel’s commitment to manifest a positive impact with the purpose of creating technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth. The pillars in RISE stands for responsible, inclusive, sustainable, and enabling (as in, enabling the first three pillars with technology).
The I in RISE addresses diversity and inclusion across Intel’s global workforce. It aims to expand opportunities in technology by closing the digital divide and making technology inclusive and accessible. In the past year, Intel provided remote learning solutions to students in over 15,000 families, representing 45 school districts that serve Title 1 students.
With access to devices for remote learning, these students can smoothly transition to a blended-based learning system at any time. Blended learning starts with a device in every student’s hand, and while Intel has done a great job so far by supplying students and their families with these devices, we still have a long road ahead of us.
You can check out more about the Inclusivity pillar of RISE in our 2020-21 Corporate Responsibility Report.
Why blended learning? Why now?
The pandemic taught us to collaborate and accept change. Even in the upcoming year, we will all have to continue to find the right mix of attending school in person vs. videoconferencing. While the blended classroom may seem like a scary change for a lot of teachers, administrators, IT decision makers, and even students, the key factor to remember is that the blended classroom means that everyone in education can adapt, so they don’t have to change their current system ever again.
If some students are going through a period where they would learn better at home, the blended classroom lets them do that. If there is another pandemic that makes everyone stay at home, the blended classroom lets them do that. Even if there is extreme weather that makes it hard to physically get to school, the blended classroom allows students to still learn from home. (Sorry, kids, no more snow days!)
How SFI enables the blended classroom
The Skills for Innovation Framework (SFI) is about teaching and providing new tools and techniques that create immersive learning environments that nurture mindsets and skill sets that students will need for jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Not only do the framework’s lesson plans and guides teach students about technology, but students and teachers are meant to use those lessons and guides with technology as well. No matter if students are learning from home, in class, or anywhere in between; they can all learn together about the same lessons. The SFI framework additionally makes sure to integrate soft, socio-emotional skills into the lessons, ensuring students feel supported and have the mental capacity to effectively answer questions and solve problems.
Integrating technology-related activities like those in the SFI framework into teachers’ curricula also allows students to actually engage in their lessons. I am sure teachers are well aware of how hard it is to keep a roomful of kids engaged during a lesson—especially when every student is hidden behind a computer screen. This is what I particularly like about the SFI framework: it was designed to keep those remote/blended students engaged. Keeping kids engaged in any setting, especially virtual, is so difficult. But the SFI framework is built to help kids learn from home or in class, experience lessons through technology, and get them excited to learn about something that maybe would have otherwise bored them.
All in all, while adapting to the blended classroom via SFI may be a drastic change at first, schools need to integrate it now—so teachers, administrators, and students don’t take another step backward. It is best to make change happen now, so we can be ready to adapt to whatever comes next.
1 “Intel Launches Expanded Initiative to Help Underserved Students, School Districts Overcome COVID-19 Barriers.” Intel Newsroom. August 11, 2020.