As we near the one month mark of school closures in the United States, teachers, parents, and students are adjusting to the routine of distance learning, for better or for worse. Many opportunities and challenges from in-person learning are still present, and even amplified, in remote learning.
In this installment of Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning, our middle school journalist describes some of the good and bad habits that are a part of her remote learning experience.
I started off the day the same way we start every day now, with an email from my teachers with the schedule and instructions to sign in on Google Classroom. I had a video call for my first class and the teachers gave us instructions to work in small groups. When we were in the small groups, my group was fighting a lot. We were all unclear about the instructions, which is something that happens a lot because the teachers phrase things so loosely.
While this sounds a bit hectic, there are some good things going on. The routine for how to start each day is clearly established, and everyone understands how to get an assignment and break into groups to get to work. That’s great! Using technology in a way that all students can access is crucial.
The challenge of understanding directions, which led to an argument, is less stellar. Helping students understand the directions is always one of the biggest challenges in teaching, so make sure they have a clear way to ask for help.
In math, the teacher just gave us a page in our textbook to work on. It was easy because it was something we had learned in class before we started remote schooling. But there was one part that one other kid and I didn’t understand, and I needed help to figure it out. The teacher set up a piece of paper under his camera so we could see him work on the math. But whenever someone else spoke, I couldn’t see the teacher’s camera anymore so I couldn’t see the math. He tried to help me fix it, but it didn’t help.
One unfortunate refrain we’re hearing a lot is, “We aren’t learning anything new.” Learning new things is what makes education engaging for students. Paired with another common challenge, ubiquitous tech problems, this math class was a recipe for frustration.
My next class started on a call discussing the book we’re reading. It might just be this particular teacher or the kids in the class, but the discussion was stale, no one else was saying anything useful. It was being dragged on like a conversation between me and the teacher and there weren’t any ideas flowing.
And then there’s the struggle to make online discussion engaging. A dull discussion is a risk in any class, but the online format presents additional challenges. Giving students clear expectations on engagement, paired with strategies for how to engage, can help them contribute to discussions.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
This post is part of our Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series.