The Covid-19 has hit us all hard. Lockdown was unexpected, distance learning much less. In hindsight, « We were unprepared » admit most school system leaders from Western countries. Now how about getting a closer eye to what happened to avoid making the same mistakes?
1.Teaching challenges : Lack of preparation and digital training
In many countries, teachers have worked hard to provide students online lessons using a variety of tools and plateforms. Many of them have had to learn quick on how to use these technologies without any or much support. Most of them had to use their own devices and had to deal not only with remote teaching but also with the supervision and teaching of their own children. The usual class schedule was totally upside-down with teachers adapting to the akward situation by learning how to shoot their own teaching videos, prepare online quizzes while juggling with phone calls and different videoconferencing platforms to give a greater access to learning to their students. As a result, peer learning between teachers became quite common and professional meetings during the weekends became the norm for some, putting pressure on the many ones that were not familiar with technology at all.
2.Learning challenges : Inequalities and digital literacy
However, despite their efforts, many students have not had access to proper learning during lockdown. Researches have highligted the provision gap in learning during that tricky period. Between 4% and 15% of students worldwide have dropped out providing little if no work at all. In suburbs and rural areas, where education was already a challenge before the Covid-19 crises, the decline of learning has been noticeable. Without much surprise, students from deprived background have been hit hard.
The first problem relied on the lack of material and on its use. Many students in the poorer areas do not have access to a computer or they need to share it among their siblings and parents. Their only access to digital ressources was via their smartphones, which complicated their access to proper guidance and did not encourage the submission of work. The lack of Wifi access in some areas was also a big challenge.
The second problem is that we tend to believe that young people are tech-saavy because they spend all their time on social media. The truth is, their basic digital literacy is pretty low and teachers had not only to teach their own subject but they also became IT technicians during the lockdown providing help to their students to download files, access files from Google Drives, insert pictures etc. Not to mention the fact that teachers posted information and courses on different platforms which highly complicated the work of supervision for parents.
3.The role of the teacher : How to support vulnerable students
In many countries parents have realised one thing : they are NOT teachers. Converting yourself into a teacher is no easy task. It is even more difficult when you need to deal with your own child and when you know little about the subject ! Teaching requires some technical and soft skills and even though some media have pointed out the lack of involvement by a very small portion of teachers, overall most parents have praised the role of teachers.
In a classroom, it is usually easy to notice when students struggle and teachers have the tools to provide them the kind of support they need. However, diagnosing those needs over the phone or during a videoconferencing is much harder. Differenciation of learning was difficult to adress during the lockdown and vulnerable students are the ones that suffered most from the physical absence of their teachers.
These are just some of the issues that appeared during distance learning. How about YOU ? How did you manage it all ?