Distance learning is an opportunity. Many teachers are frustrated that all the work they’ve done, which was preparing to teach students in a classroom, is now irrelevant. I suggest they mourn the loss and move on. If they try to continue to hold on to their old methods, the ghost of the classroom will haunt their students through cyberspace and into the students’ own homes.
There are certain things that teachers do, mostly because of how attached they are to the traditional school schedule and methodology, that they should simply abandon in the face of the internet. Some of which are:
- Live Lectures
Live classes do have a place. If a class is so small and engaged that live class discussions are actually productive, then go ahead, have live classes, but not live lectures. If students have specific questions to ask, and it’s just quicker to have them talk instead of writing out their question and writing a response, that’s also a good time to use live video chat. But, if information is mainly traveling in one direction, use a video or assigned reading for that.
Lectures are always better as videos, especially if they have captions. Students can adjust the speed, rewind, and pause. This allows them to follow along better and understand more. Certain platforms, like Edpuzzle, even let teachers assign questions for students to answer at certain points in videos to check understanding. Videos are also usually edited to be more concise and accurate. Teachers don’t have to make their own, and they probably shouldn’t. I don’t know what kind of topic a teacher might want to talk about that isn’t already covered extensively in at least one YouTube video.
- Class Periods at a Specific Time
Students don’t all need to be focused on the same thing at the same time in different places. Everyone should be able to get their work done with their own timing. Unless there’s something particularly 8am-specific about some assignment, students should be able to work on any of their work any time they want.
There might be group projects where small groups of students definitely should all be online simultaneously, but no teacher should ever have a full class of 34 people working on a single project together simultaneously. 34 people working on something at once should never be necessary.
- Lockdown Browsers
I don’t even really know how these work; I haven’t been required to use one, but I know that there is no way to prevent a student from accessing information, other people, and the internet while they’re in their own home. AP exams, which are now online, won’t even require a lockdown browser because lockdown browsers don’t work.
Teachers should probably change some things about their tests (or not) and declare everything open-note. To do otherwise would be to willfully ignore the fact that students cannot be constrained or controlled by any legal means.
Now is the time for collaboration and creation. That’s what the internet makes inevitable.
Teachers, and adults in general, are not known for adapting easily. Their job is to impose order on groups of people, and that may be difficult to let go of, but if you’re a teacher take note of what I say here. Your school or district might be forcing you to do certain things, but think of the students, and maybe see if you can get some policies to be changed. If you’re somebody who holds sway over a teacher who can’t seem to let go of their classroom-focused mindset, encourage them to let go and move forward into this great unknown. The future is your sandbox.