When a virus shakes our convictions… for the better!

After a certain moment of disillusionment in which we watched in disbelief as some of our most stubborn ideas about the conduct of school activities collapsed, great things happened in our closed schools. Faced with these various successes, our collaborator Marc-André Girard shares three observations.

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After a certain moment of disillusionment where we witnessed, in disbelief, the collapse of some of our most stubborn ideas about the conduct of school activities, great things have happened in our schools, which are closed. Faced with these various successes, it is important to make three observations:

Finding 1: Everyone can innovate in education

Contrary to what we may believe, innovation in education is not about reinventing the wheel. What you need to know is that "innovation is bathed in a culture and a context" (Lison, Bédard, Beaucher and Trudelle, 2014, p. 11), which also highlights the importance to be given to the institutional culture of the organization to ensure that it has the best possible chances of successfully merging innovation into the culture in question.

However, “what is new in innovation is not the object in question or its content, but its introduction into a given environment. It is in fact a question of improving what exists (…) ”(Ntebutse, 2009, p. 22). Thus, innovation follows novation (an invention or introduction of something new, which does not exist elsewhere) and "it always exploits what precedes" (Ibid.), Already existing in the environment and it "is is based on the assimilation of objects transferred, imported or borrowed from other places ”(Ibid.) or from other people. Even, it "can be a return to what has already been tried and abandoned elsewhere and therefore be part of the perspective of wanting to do otherwise in order to achieve an improvement" (Ibid., P. 26). This particularity therefore gives it a certain level of subjectivity: what is innovative for one environment or one person is not necessarily so for another.

In short, everyone can innovate. When schools were closed, we saw what the nature of innovation is. We were faced with a problem imposed on us and difficulties for our students. In several school settings, solutions were considered without holding back. For some, it was animating a class session using videoconferencing software, while for others, it was creating capsules on YouTube by teaching on the board by inverting the image on the camera. With this perspective of the fundamental nature of innovation, teachers, like principals, can shake off the undue pressure of novelty. Everyone can innovate one step at a time. Innovation is accessible to all; it is customizable and differentiated.

Finding 2: The school does not have a monopoly on learning

Yes, students can learn surprisingly outside of school, but at the same time, it is obvious that the “teacher effect” is an inescapable determinant at the source of student learning. In a post-COVID-19 era, where fears related to a second wave of infection in the fall underline the importance of preparing educational activities in hybrid mode, it should be noted that the importance of school attendance becomes a lesser imperative in the educational equation. What takes precedence in the circumstances is not to sit the students in the same class. What is more important is the leadership of the school team to offer educational activities to students and, above all, to provide adequate follow-up with confined families. It is also essential to ensure the collaboration of parents to support the supervision of school activities at home. No, parents are not teachers, but nonetheless they have a role to play. Not to teach, of course, but rather to establish a routine at home, to make the necessary follow-ups for the completion of the work and to see that the child can get the necessary help from education professionals, optionally. In short, the teacher effect does not have to be confined to four walls; it can spread differently and shine well beyond school.

Make no mistake: school is an essential institution! This allows, among other things, unreserved access to teaching professionals. Beyond learning, it is socialization that is made possible in the school context and, of course, a concentration of multidisciplinary services in support of educational initiatives. However, when young people are deprived of school and teachers in poor regions of the world, it has been shown that the latter know how to put in place supplementary learning mechanisms to continue learning with help, in particular. , collaboration, experimentation and trial-and-error strategies, not to mention the use of various computer tools. On this subject, see the works relevant strengths Sugata Mitra.

Finding 3: There is room for technological tools at school

I have been campaigning for a good dozen years for the educational integration of technology. Since that time, I have heard everything:

  • “It's a fad. It will pass ";
  • "In my time, there were none and I did well";
  • "They are gadgets";
  • "It will replace the teachers";
  • "It harms human contact and it will dehumanize education";
  • And so on.

Suddenly, however, ICTs in education have become essential for several key tasks:

  1. In recent months, they have been the glue that held the now confined social fabric firmly in place. It is to be expected that they will continue to play this role;
  2. They made it possible to carry out additional follow-ups with vulnerable students;
  3. They allowed the pursuit of basic educational activities and, thus, ensure a minimum education.

If, for a long time, the school has lived in the past, constantly in search of its traditional points of reference, now I see the opposite: its actors in full force are looking to the future, realizing that a school anchored in the 21e century is now at the turning point. From the mouths of several teachers, they say they do not want to go back. The big steps taken since mid-March have made them understand several things:

  1. The importance of their role and their profession;
  2. Their ability to innovate
  3. Their ability to learn about their own profession;
  4. The importance of ensuring their own professional development;
  5. Their ability to deal with a high level of uncertainty and ambiguity.

The future of education is bright. I'm confident. I won't go back either. Never again will I take my profession and my institution for granted.


Lison, C., Bédard, D., Beaucher, C. and Trudelle, D. (2014). From innovation to a model of innovation dynamics in higher education. International Review of Higher Education Pedagogy, 30(1).

Ntebutse, JG (2009). Phenomenological study of the dynamics of change among university professors in the context of pedagogical innovations aimed at the professionalization of students (Doctoral thesis, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec).

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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