As a pretty traditional teacher for the last 17 years, I never thought that I would be teaching online from home. In fact, when I first heard we were switching to online learning I was scared to death. Yes, I work in a technology charter school, but that didn’t mean that I was ready to give up the personal face to face interaction with my students that I had always thrived upon.
So my next question was what should the school day look like? Taking pride in my time management skills and always making the most of every moment of my day, I considered should students
- Follow a typical school day schedule in which all instruction happens for all students at the same time, also known as synchronous education
- Follow a modified or reduced hour schedule (also synchronous)
- ,Have flexible learning time in which they can access videos and work on assignments at their own pace, also known as asynchronous.
Although there are positives and negatives of all these options, depending on the type of student one of the options may be way more advantageous than the others.
However, Many experts believe that a combination of option b and c benefit students the most because let’s be honest, so much time is wasted during a typical school day and in addition all students learn at different rates, in different ways, and have different attention spans. Therefore, it only makes sense to have a reduced hour school day in which teachers deliver condensed to the point instruction without a lot of fluff and then allow students who need or want extra reinforcement to access video lessons and complete assignments on their own time given a specific deadline to submit their work. The scheduled learning time could also be used for collaboration with small groups (zoom breakout groups). Another benefit of this type of instruction is that it puts more responsibility on the student and will ultimately help prepare students for college in which they need to be self motivated and proactive in their own learning. It’s a win win or is it?
Students will have to take ownership of their education, but are all students ready for this? This is where private tutoring can be extremely beneficial because let’s face it not all students are self motivated nor can they grasp difficult concepts super quickly. Additionally, some students need more one on one support and reteaching. For those students who struggle to pay attention teachers, should try to involve and require student participation as much as possible during the scheduled learning time, whether it is having students answer questions through zoom’s chat feature or reteach.
One of the biggest benefits of a shorter school day and more flexible student paced assignments is that students will have more time to exercise, employ their creative talents such as painting, drawing, writing, as well as explore their own interests. I think with this extra time teachers should require students to learn a new skill and write about it to share with their classmates. Making sure students use their free time wisely versus watching mindless tv, playing video games or spending hours on social media will ensure students value their alone time and not take it for granted.
So is distance learning here to stay and if it is what should educators consider?
An important fact to consider in planning distance learning is student age. I have mostly been examining this issue through a high school teacher’s lense, but middle and elementary students can also benefit from shorter periods of instruction and assignments that can be completed at their own pace as well. Unfortunately, they will likely require a lot more support from parents or private tutors. Subject matter is another issue to examine when looking at distance learning. English is often easier to use flexible (asynchronous learning) as it involves students reading, thinking and writing on their own; whereas, Math should be taught in a synchronous period so students can ask questions and see teachers model problems. Right now we have the ability to experiment with distance learning to see what works best for teachers and students, but given the choice I think distance learning could be the positive change in the Brave New World of education that is here to stay.