I am concerned. I have been reading and hearing people talk a lot about remote learning and almost always they focus on the technology tools. Use this tool or that learning platform, and you are all set for remote learning. Yes, there are lots of great technology tools out there that help make remote learning easier, but if you don’t use them properly, there will still be issues with student learning and engagement.
My son just finished his Junior year in the South Orange Maplewood School District. From March 16th on he had distance learning. He did tons of worksheets, went through google slide presentations, and tried to learn honors-level Algebra II via Khan Academy and EdPuzzle. Both great tools but not a substitute for live instruction or good remote learning. There has been a lot of the outcry from parents in the district about the lack of live instruction, inconsistent instruction, and poor construction of their distant learning plan. To address these concerns, the district is planning to purchase a learning management system. A learning management system will not fix the issues we are seeing in remote learning. Teachers need to be trained on how to teach in an online and or hybrid environment. The problems we are seeing with remote learning, not only in my son’s districts but in almost all districts, run deeper than just the learning platform used and really are about the pedagogy used. Harvard University’s Teaching Remotely — Best Practices for Online Pedagogy states the following:
“Focus on the pedagogy, not just the platform: the attributes of a physical classroom don’t guarantee that a class is effective or engaging. The same goes for online platforms. Time spent now thinking about how you want to teach using this technology will be time well spent. In particular, we encourage you to think about which of your classroom-teaching strategies translate well to the remote setting, which don’t, and what new approaches you might incorporate.”
My son’s districts and many others are doing the exact opposite of what is recommended as best practice. A shiny new learning platform will not fix the lack of engaging & relevant material that was given to students during remote learning. Survey results are showing that students do not feel like they learned much during remote learning. They surveyed over 559 students in my son’s school and this was the result:
Without a dramatic change in teaching practices, student learning will continue to not occur. The research shows that “the quality of student engagement correlates directly with the quality of student learning: An engaged student learns better. While convenience, accessibility, and flexibility attract many students to online learning, the learning environment can be alienating if not thoughtfully designed.” (Hollinghead, Carr-Chellman, 2019).
The problem is that nowhere in the presentation given in my son’s district or lots of other places are we hearing about how to design effective online learning. There isn’t even that much educational research out there on the topic. I know I looked. Here is a link I found.
Teachers need training on how to teach engaging meaningful lessons remotely. How you teach in a classroom does not always transfer well too remote learning. Teachers must learn pedagogy before they can learn about a new technology tool. Once teachers understand how to create engaging remote lessons they can then start to figure out with technology tools will work with the lesson. Whenever I talk with teachers about incorporating technology into the curriculum, I always say tell me about the lesson and what you want the students to learn, and then I will tell you which technology tools will help you get that desired outcome.
Use the research I provide and click on the articles referenced in this article. They will help you get started on your online learning pedagogy journey. Remember it is about the pedagogy, not the platform!
Remote Learning Pedagogy Resources
Elissa Malespina is the High School Librarian at Verona High School and a Presenter, Author and much more. The views are my own. Find my full resume above.