Pandemic, schools and online learning: how to teach children in the new environment?

Teaching during a pandemic: Resilience

Suzanne Loeb:; This situation helps us to focus on what exactly we want to teach children

Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, told Voice of America how to successfully teach students online.

Margot Gontard: Online education is less effective than full-time education?

Suzanne Lobe: Excellent students and those who just did well and got high marks usually do well with online learning. But those who find it harder in general have more difficulties with distance education, their results are usually worse than with face-to-face classes in school. This is the answer to the question of why online educational programs are usually not as effective as teaching children in the classroom. I think this is due to the lack of communication with the teacher and classmates that children are accustomed to, which forms a sense of responsibility, which helps to focus on the educational material. In addition, online it is difficult to determine whether children really understand the material: communication between a student and a teacher is much more difficult..

M.G .: What needs to be done to ensure that all children can learn online? For example, in some states of the USA, libraries are going to be used as free Internet access points..

S. L .: Many families do not have sustainable access to high-speed Internet; there are areas throughout the country where the necessary equipment would be very useful. We can see how this situation reinforces social inequality, as some children have inherently better technical ability to learn online than others. Unfortunately, even this is not enough to ensure a quality educational process: we do not know if these children have a quiet place to study, if they have responsibilities for caring for their younger siblings … unlike a school that provides study space.

It is also necessary that the parents of the students are under less pressure. If there is one parent in the family, then he cannot work and educate children at the same time. Therefore, we need government support in the field of childcare, or we should provide parents with resources that will serve as such support..

If schools are unable to address these issues, safe open spaces could be created in shopping malls and libraries. If we cannot provide the opportunity for all children to return to school, we can return at least some of them. It will help those who find it difficult to study at home..

M.G .: Is something like this already happening?

S. L .: Discussions are currently underway about what age children should be returned to school. Many people decide to return the lower grades first. There are educational institutions where they are going to resume full-time education in preparatory and first grades, or all primary school students up to the third grade. This makes sense because at this age children need someone to look after them – in high school they are already able to take care of themselves..

Online learning is not much different from traditional learning: it also requires a qualified teacher, a well-developed curriculum and good teaching materials. This is what you need to pay special attention to. Usually the teacher tries to use their own teaching materials and this is very difficult for individual teachers. If we did this in a more centralized way, children would have access to teaching materials, and teachers could focus on maintaining communication with students..

M.G .: How to make online learning effective?

C. L .: Some children do not have problems with motivation, they can learn on their own and feel great in this situation. But most need to know that there is someone who cares, who cares about them learning the material, and that they will be praised if successful – this helps them to practice..

It is also good if the educational material is interesting for children. The current situation helps us focus on what exactly we want to teach children. Not everything that they go through in school must be memorized, as, for example, all the terms from the course of biology. However, they must learn to analyze and process information, acquire the necessary skills. Therefore, if the students have missed something, it is not a problem. The main thing is to help them learn to think correctly..

There are really vital knowledge and skills. And I think to some extent our concern that children are wasting time in education makes us think about what is really important to us in the learning process and can help us allocate resources properly. We have recently tried to personalize and diversify learning with computers, but we have found it very difficult: you cannot just sit your child in front of a computer and expect him or her to start learning right away..

M.G .: How COVID-19 Affected School and Education?

S. L .: Obviously, many children received less knowledge. The question is how important it is. The stress students experience can have significant consequences. But overall, our educational system gives children the opportunity to catch up. You need to know exactly what they have learned and what they have not. But it was like that before, we just didn’t pay enough attention to it. There were many cases when children moved to the next grade without fully assimilating the necessary material from the previous grade..

M.G .: Enthusiasts of virtual reality technologies talk about great prospects for their use for teaching children. Do you share this assessment?

S. L.: Similar things have always been said about new technologies: TVs, computers … I think VR has potential, but only if the technology is integrated into the learning process by an experienced teacher as part of a coherent curriculum. Our main task is to help children learn something. Perhaps visiting the Sistine Chapel is better than seeing it in the photo. But I’m not sure if the difference is very significant.

M.G .: Nowadays in the United States, mobile applications are used more often: both teachers to communicate with students and students to communicate with each other. Will this practice continue after the end of quarantine??

S. L .: Yes, I think it can bear fruit in the long run. Programs like Class Dojo have great potential because they have really made communication easier, allowing teachers and students’ families to better maintain contact. It is possible that such applications will be more actively used in the future..

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