The Pandemic Induced Digital Transformation of Schools

Digital Design Under Duress

Tom Barrett
4 min readJun 20, 2022


This article is part of a series exploring the throughline: Restart, Reframe or Recast the Purpose of Education?

This week I turn my attention to how the pandemic, lockdowns and remote learning caused a shift in digital implementation. My focus is on what’s next? Do we restart, reframe or recast?

#265 | May 13, 2022​ | Photo by zhenzhong liu

Steep Learning Curve

Talk to any school leader (business owners, too) about what it was like during the shift to remote learning, and they often say the same thing: “It was a steep learning curve.”

Do we come crashing down from the digital learning precipice?

Teachers, students, and families had to quickly learn and implement new technologies and approaches. We didn’t have time to ease into it or make a gradual transition. It was all or nothing, and we had to make it work if we were to access education.

Millions of teachers did incredible work to ensure students could continue learning despite the many challenges.

Now that we’ve had time to catch our breath, what do we do next? What’s after the curve?

Noting that schools are still deep into a six-week lockdown in places like Shanghai and across major cities in China. How will we look back on remote learning? What do you recall?

Do we come crashing down from the digital learning precipice? I worry that the collective trauma (of the pandemic) surrounding digital adoption prevents integrating what works into future practice.

The Mother of All Invention

Necessity had its time in the spotlight. During the extended lockdowns and disruptions, some schools fast-tracked digital and technology strategies from years to a few short weeks.

Yes, this might be a transformation due to necessity, but what harm does this cause? Design under duress is one way to frame this.

Duress, emergency, trauma, necessity

There’s an inherent risk when we make decisions out of necessity. They are usually reactionary, not…



Tom Barrett

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