Hidden Opportunities: COVID-19, Technology and Islamic Educators
I am sure that most educators by now realize things in education will never be as they were. We are all learning many things about the students, ourselves as teachers, the parents, and more. The experience is not over yet.
Education has quite honestly been peeled like an onion, removing layer after layer. So, what does that all mean and what opportunities can we glean from that experience? Of course, there are many answers and some will be most fitting to a public system and some can be tailored to an Islamic School setting.
Islamic School Leaders: Renewed Purpose amidst COVID-19
Islamic School leaders are not alone in this, but like all school leaders, you will be challenged to carry your schools into a future we cannot see. Therefore, we must be purposeful and powerful in setting up deliberate planning teams for making our school’s existence– a strong and well thought through existence with educational programing for these times.
Yes, that means we must be on top of our digital game. We must be able as administrators, families, faculties, and boards to carve out the ideal scenario for both teaching and learning in a digital age with Islamic ideology at the core.
Yes, families have choices but we recommend that they stay and weather the storm with their Islamic School family. The university program each family has been aspiring toward is also going through a similar series of changes.
Attaining Jannah is the real purpose in living the earthly life, so while careers and professions are important, we want to maintain that focus on Islamic education for your child/children. If Corona Virus taught us something really important, of the many things we learned, it showed us and continues to show us how close each one of us really is to departing the worldly life, without much if any notice.
Digital Skills for the Digital World
The truth is, the digital skills were needed anyway and could not have been put off much longer for our students, teachers, families, and administrators because the world we are navigating has put our life in digital order with or without our consent so all of us and especially our students need to readily function in the digital world.
Just this month alone we witnessed dozens of online fundraisers for the various Islamic institutions where we paid through Zelle, Paypal, or other electronic tools. Students who graduate from college will soon discover that their transcripts are housed in a clearinghouse of transcripts where colleges and universities send our records, just like our medical records are housed in easy to reach digital files for doctors and hospitals alike.
Keep in mind as you re-situate yourselves to ‘go back to the brick and mortar’ venue, be certain that you are making deliberate choices about how your school ‘should be.’ Leadership is not often as important as it will be in these times. There are many challenges to be faced.
I hope that Islamic schools will spend the summer planning for the future we cannot see in three areas to start with:
- Developing a plan for your Islamic School to thrive, not just survive
- Preparing for new instructional strategies by creating multiple modalities in learning with secure and strategic digital planning
- Creating and investing in multiple modalities and venues for professional development (PD) for all faculty to attain life-changing skills for their classroom teaching (face to face, both in person and on electronic platforms, blended, hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous)
As a tenured university professor, for many years, I have been involved in the discussions of the future plans for teacher education and for learning quality in higher education as a whole. We must constantly look at what skills new teachers need and what professional development experienced teachers can benefit from having. We must also look at what format college students will learn best through.
I have been involved in this for the past several decades on encouraging us to move toward the ISTE standards (International Society of Technology Educators) and to join the Maker Space movement, having presented on these topics at conferences nationwide.
Here to Support You
As the chairperson of ISLA, I want to let you know that we are here to guide, discuss, and point you in directions where you too can make the navigational choices and decisions that your school, teachers, administrators, and families may benefit from.
With this, let me close out by stating, I have spent a lot of time with Islamic school topics since the mid-70s, from weekend schools to full-time schools. Those topics float at the forefront of my mind making connections with solutions and resources. I am impressed so very often by the successful strides that you all are making in Islamic education with your expertise and love. I am thrilled that these things happened in my lifetime, and I am so happy I was able to witness this.
I am grateful to Allah (S) for allowing me to be a part of the Islamic Schools’ development in the west. Please let me know if I personally or The ISLA can guide your school family, suggest ideas, or share resources for your school as you mark the 2020 COVID 19 event as an event that helped your Islamic School thrive and build your piece of the Islamic School network in the American landscape stronger and stronger.