Gradient Learning

From crisis to creativity

After her school transitioned to remote learning, Dr. Cicely Woodard knew she couldn’t pretend that everything was normal. Woodard, a former Tennessee Teacher of the Year, realized she needed to begin her math classes in a more meaningful way to connect with students during an ongoing pandemic.

“I started each class with a 10-minute conversation that had nothing to do with math, perhaps touching on something happening in the world,” said Woodard, who now teaches at Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri. “Those 10 minutes were critical for staying connected with my students. And the students really valued the time and asked me to continue the check-ins even after we returned fully in-person.”

Woodard is one of several teachers featured in Gradient Learning’s new white paper, “From Crisis to Creativity: Can technology play a role in strengthening teacher-student relationships?

The comprehensive report, created in partnership with Whiteboard Advisors, explores the experiences of educators who harnessed the potential of technology to maintain—and often strengthen—relationships with students in the face of unprecedented challenges. It provides an overview of evidence and research to make the case for something that educators already know: relationships matter. 

The paper also highlights examples of schools and districts across the country that are leveraging the potential of technology to make connections with students in ways that extend far beyond the four walls of the physical classroom. 

“For many teachers, the abrupt shift to remote learning was a trial by fire,” said Joseph South, a former U.S. Director of Education Technology who is now the Chief Learning Officer at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). “There was no time to prepare for, or to optimize, how the technology was implemented.”

The unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have sparked a renewed appreciation of the critical role that student-teacher relationships play in the classroom. While technology is no substitute for in-person interactions, a growing number of educators are now using skills learned during remote learning to strengthen relationships with students moving forward.

The paper is grounded in perspectives in research, and the real-life experiences of educators. The report also considers the many ways that technology innovations can help to foster positive relationships, such as:  

  • Freeing up time in the school day to build relationships;
  • Supporting teacher capacity to build effective relationships; and
  • Enhancing student-teacher engagement with new and existing tools.

How else did the COVID-19 crisis fuel creativity that may have an enduring, positive impact in education? Learn more by reading the full white paper, From Crisis to Creativity.


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