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Guest post: An Hour With Yong Zhao

By Dr. Doug Green


Thanks to the Chapters International Team, I attended a webinar featuring Yong Zhao and about 600 educators from all around the world on May 22, 2020.

While I got to log in at 8:00 am Eastern time, Yong had to be ready at 5:00 am in Oregon. With attendees from all over Asia, Europe, and the Middle East I’m sure some people had even less desirable time frames. We all met on Zoom and got to enter questions in the chat room that the moderators fed to Yong.

Here are my distilled notes from the event.

His first point is that after spending much of their time online for months, students should spend at least some time online daily after they return to school. The main reason for this should be to connect globally every day. Since students have had to take on more responsibility for their learning at home, they need to manage their learning more in school. They need to have voice, choice, and self-determination.

Traditionally teachers taught the whole classroom. During remote emergency learning, this was less likely to take place on a regular basis. A lot of innovation has taken place and we need to keep it going and not fall back into our old habits. It’s also clear that replicating traditional learning online isn’t going to work. For leaders, this is a good time for professional development that can create a new type of schooling.

Another tread from the webinar involved assessment. In addition to disrupting schooling as we knew it, the lockdown has also disrupted standardized testing. This could be another positive consequence of this experience. Yong thinks that all schools should have a portfolio system. Once you give a grade, a student is done. Grading doesn’t promote continuous learning.

Online can’t replace the schools we knew, but it can do some things that traditional schools can’t. The majority of governments and education leaders are managing the crisis instead of taking advantage of the opportunities that the crisis presents. It’s time to stop and rethink what’s worth teaching and learning.

Anyone can go on to higher education where there is more innovation than you will generally find in K-12 schools. The real question is are you prepared to take advantage of what you are likely to find there? As for the students who aspire to elite schools, rather than grind for scores on increasingly irrelevant standardized tests, try to tell a good story about yourselves.

For my money, Yong is one of the leaders that we all need to listen too NOW. Please keep up with him via his blog at and check out some of my summaries of his books at https://DrDougGreen.Com. Just go there and search “Yong Zhao.”

Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. He is also a professional fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, Victoria University in Australia, as well as a Global Chair at the University of Bath, UK. He has published over 100 articles and 30 books, including Counting What Counts: Reframing Education Outcomes (2016), Never Send a Human to Do a Machine's Job: Correcting Top 5 Ed Tech Mistakes (2015), Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and the Worst) Education System in the World (2014), Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization (2009), and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (2012).

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