We’ve just completed the first week of school in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. It went very well. I think that the majority of students were ready for it and are happy to be connected to the school again. That’s my first observation.
A Few Observations
- I’m putting in just as much time I would have during normal school. In order to have effective online schooling one needs to communicate with students and their parents. Every Friday, we post the general outline of the objectives and activities for each of our classes. This is very helpful for both parents and students, but it takes time to create it. Most of my communication with individual students during normal operations would be a quick conversation before or after class. Now I have to compose an email or a message. Then there is the production of learning materials–I’m making videos and creating documents that would not be necessary if we were in the presence of each other. A lot of this work is important, even when there isn’t a pandemic–now it’s essential.
- Students are, by and large, happy to be at school. They’ve told me so. They like having something to do besides watch TV, play video games and argue with their siblings. The felt like they wanted to be “doing something productive.” They like the connection to, not just friends, but acquaintances and even teachers. I don’t think they necessarily appreciated what they have at school, despite the homework.
- We’ve shifted from content to competencies. This is the direction that the government has been moving education so it might accelerate some teachers’ shift to the new paradigm. You can’t lecture very well in this mode of teaching; you can’t expect students to sit passively and learn content for a test, if for no other reason than the test is no longer secure. In this learning environment, students can be more active, doing the work of learning, while the teachers provide feedback on their work and create resources for the next steps in developing essential competencies. Active students learn more than passive students.
- Speaking of competencies. Students are having to become more competent at producing, revising, communicating and collaborating in digital environments. It’s amazing what kids have had to learn out of necessity. Many of these skills will be necessary for future learning and careers.
- Students are learning more self-discipline. At least, if they aren’t learning it, the effects will be significant. I can tell when a student has arrived into the digital classroom, but once they are there, I can’t tell very well if they are engaged, or even if they are in the room. I can assign work and tell them I expect them to be working on this for the next 30 minutes, but I can’t tell that they are. If they need to knuckle down, it’s just their knuckles. It’s up to them. Until now, many have been reliant on others to do that work. I think this is great. Some have told me that this is hard–to be self-disciplined.
- From where I am sitting, student learning has not been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic at all.