We’ve all heard how remote learning is not working for students and teachers. And some of these problems arise from issues systemic in our society. Nevertheless, the challenges that come with remote learning can also be opportunities for change in our education system.
Let’s be honest, remote learning is not the same as real face to face interaction with the teacher and classmates in a physical classroom.
The engagement for students is not the equivalent when participating in video conferencing classes. One may argue that valuable, socio-emotional skills needed for communication and collaboration cannot be learned through an online setting. Do we have the same confidence in this new age of at-home learning?
What will this generation of students lack if remote learning were to continue for more than a year? What is lost with preschoolers who are just starting to make connections beyond their family? What valuable personal growth would teenagers miss by not having chances to socially interact with their peers? How much of the university experience be removed when networking through informal gatherings are absent.
My argument is that fundamental to the act of teaching is personal human connections. This cannot be replicated by mere video conferencing a lecture, such as going through multiple Powerpoint Slides. Instead, we must leverage the times we see each other virtually to understand each other deeper. Thus, I propose a few suggestions for helping teachers build more connections with their students in a remote learning environment.
Give Students Private Space
Create that safe space during video conferencing for students to share their hopes, dreams, and worries. Many video conferencing platforms have features for participants to break out into smaller private rooms for intimate conversations. Make use of this feature. Trust students to have these conversations regardless of their connection to our lessons. Many times, these private conversations are necessary for students to work through the challenges that they face. In turn, students respect teachers who provide them with autonomy.
One to One Conversations with Students Matter More
Design your scheduling so that you can have one-on-one conversations with students multiple times during the week. In this time of quarantines and lockdown, teachers having a one to one conversation with their students breaks isolation. It also helps teachers gain a better understanding of their students on a personal level. These conversations help teachers create more personalized instructions and feedback for their students. The secret to these conversations is teachers’ willingness to set aside time to listen and empathize with their students.
Design Home Projects to Be Meaningful
Students need to engage in projects that are authentic and meaningful to them at home. If teacher assignments are limited to worksheets, students do not have the context to engage in meaningful conversations with their peers and the teachers. It would be far better for teachers to co-design projects with their students and validate appropriate knowledge and skills mastered by the student.
Home projects are an excellent opportunity for teachers to understand better their students’ passions and interests. For example, one of my teacher colleagues guided his students to more in-depth concepts about physical forces by inviting them to explore different household objects’ center of balance. He extended to their interest by having his students investigate how their learning extended to their personal interests in the application of forces in different sports and hobbies. It will be critical for teachers to continuously monitor and give feedback. However, such projects’ personalization and authenticity will be more meaningful and will help students make better learning connections.
Indeed remote learning is not perfect. And we still have much to learn about how to make virtual learning work. Nevertheless, if we can just add a bit more human into our remote interactions, perhaps the online experience will be much more approachable for our students and teachers.