The topic of distance learning has been discussed for years. Previously viewed with suspicion, it has proven useful for some people who cannot physically go to an institution, for people who want to take a class alongside their job, or want to add dynamism to their classes. Despite this more optimistic view of distance learning, the fact remains that education systems still rely heavily on classroom instruction.
Then came Covid-19. The contagious disease has forced many governments to restrict their populations to reduce the spread. As a result, children and young people had to continue their school year at home. A brutal transition that had never been thought of before. What quickly became clear…
The chaos of spring 2020
First big problem: not all students have access to a good internet connection or a computer at home. This digital divide therefore has consequences for them, which then fall behind their comrades.
Second, servers don’t always track bulk requests. So if the digital work environment for all French teachers already existed, it collapsed under demand in the first few days. This minor technical hiccup would not be dramatic in itself. However, many in the French faculty lamented the situation and said they almost never used this tool in their practice. Lecturers who are not trained in ENT therefore had to use it full-time for months.
In the United States, too, the situation was complex. As this Guardian article shows, many teachers were perplexed by this new approach. They had to find a corner of the house to teach and be comfortable with, learn to manage their own children for those who were parents themselves and, most importantly, tolerate the fact that it was much more difficult to interact with students, even with cameras. This sense of chaos showed that despite the guides prepared by the ministries, many teachers were not prepared for everything being possible online.
This does not mean that everything has failed, quite the opposite. TÉLUQ surveyed teachers who had used distance learning to ensure continuity of learning. The ministerial kit offered by the Quebec government at the time was a good starting point, but most needed to go further and use technological tools to offer more to students.
The online context requires significant organization from the teacher who must already know which tools to use in which context. In addition, sites like Charivari at school quickly offered a list of applications that could be used for teachers with disabilities. Other websites, such as that of the University of Mons, have also proposed an inventory of the tools available according to their needs (work environment, means of communication, sharing of resources, etc.).
This required pragmatic action from the teachers. It was impossible to reproduce 6 hours of online lessons. This is already difficult for adults, unrealistic to ask for this in younger people. Shorter approaches need to be followed online, accompanied by resources that can be consulted during the rest of the day or in the evening (video clips, PDF documents, etc.). This requires the creation of a credible roadmap that takes the technologies used into account. In addition, all the digital material already available online becomes an important ally in such a context. Whether it is the publishing platforms or the CNED, the work of digitization is gaining more and more interest for teachers.
Many were startled by the potential scuffle of dozens of kids logging on at the same time. However, as this DRNE (Regional Digital Delegation for Education) article recalls, it is entirely possible to pre-demand operating rules in this virtual classroom. Without counting on CNED’s offer, it is the teacher who gives the right to speak. This makes it easier to keep control.
Furthermore, even at a distance, it is very important to continue the individual feedback with the students. They need to know whether they are on the right track or on the wrong track. Most digital tools allow you to react quickly, even if they don’t offer all the comforts of human interaction. Social networks can facilitate such communication with learners.
Organizing an online lesson is therefore not easy. All you have to do is know the technologies available to you, plan your daily routine well and ensure good communication with the students. Unfortunately, the health crisis of 2020 has thrown many professionals and families into a context they were not ready for. Hopefully school systems have learned from this experience and become better prepared for online solutions. Finally, it is not excluded that other crises will force the establishment of distance learning in the future, without taking into account that for many students distance learning is preferred to face-to-face classes.
drawing : Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay
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