As we enter the third year in which every aspect of American life has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that educators, parents, and students have several reasons for real optimism.
Here are four ways I see education changing for the better in 2022 and beyond.
COVID won’t cause any more school closures. Looking forward to the new year, I’m foreseeing no more school closures due to COVID. That’s not really an educational prediction—it’s more about consistency, which kids really need to learn.
As vaccinations get distributed to ages five to 11 and then eventually to even younger kids, schools won’t need to close due to outbreaks. This is an incredibly welcome change for educators and parents because, whether they’re in elementary, middle, or high school, being away from the classroom and their peers is absolutely detrimental to the mental health of all children.
Kids will be happier. I’ve seen proof of this at my preschools this year. I’ve never seen so many kids so happy to come back to school. They missed socialization and the social-emotional connection with other children. I’m foreseeing a lot more happiness for these kids, many of whom were COVID babies isolated from other children. And now the opposite is happening. Things are opening up and they’re feeding off each other’s energy.
Schools will incorporate more screen-free technology. I’m always adding more layers of technology to my schools, but I have to take into account that a lot of families, rightfully, want to limit their kids’ screen time, especially in reaction to the screen-based lessons that schools relied on during the closures caused by COVID.
In my schools I use screen-free tech tools like the KIBO robot, which incorporates the coding skills that kids need to acquire in a fun way and with zero screen time. I’m looking to add drones to my classrooms in 2022, so I need to figure out a way for them to be screen-free, too. It might be something as simple as the kids telling teachers what they want their drones to do and teachers controlling the tablet that controls the drone. I predict that schools all over the country will be looking for the same sort of screen-free technology next year and into the future.
Universal pre-K will require more space and creativity. As federal funding for universal pre-K (UPK) moves closer to being a reality, I have somewhat mixed feelings. I think the initiative is beautiful. We should absolutely be teaching all our kids to love learning. UPK has been a reality in New York for a few years now, so I can make predictions for the possible national roll-out based on experience. In New York, assigning pre-K classrooms in existing public schools has created some space issues and led to larger class sizes in other early grades.
Of course, not all these new pre-K classrooms can be housed in public schools. I imagine that districts around the country will do what New York did and ask community-based child centers and private businesses like mine to enroll some of these pre-K students. As I said, I love the initiative. I could definitely see my schools being part of the UPK process if public education leaders would allow Brooklyn Preschool of Science to be what it is: a place where my wife creates the most amazing curriculum, where our teachers are artists who create beautiful learning experiences that help our kids become passionate learners. I love education, and I want to be able to fulfill my vision of inquiry-based schools where students learn by having fun.
In fact, if I could make one New Year’s resolution for education in 2022, it would be to incorporate inspiring thematic units of study to create love of learning through all grades—though predominantly K–5, which becomes the catalyst of success in middle and high school.