What we’ve learned from x months of home schooling


What has changed and why?

I just read this article in the Guardian about the Italian home school experience. In the case of Italy, X equals 2. In Norway, X equals 1.5. We are starting to feel the zoom fatigue and the novelty of this way of teaching and learning is far gone. People looking in from the outside are asking questions like these:

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And answers are to be found in an abundant number of articles and blog posts. Not surprisingly; the conclusions vary. It is easy to predict that these months in 2020 will have an effect on how we do school in the future, how radical and sustainable the change will be, remains to be seen.

Why change is hard but necessary

First of all, change is hard now because most teachers were not used to teaching online. And also they were used to having pretty rigid and predictable long term plans for their students, all of which had to be radically changed. The same with the carefully planned tests for the rest of the school year. They all had to be reconstructed since students are at home, collaborating with peers, parents, and heavily relying on the internet.

Secondly, the way of teaching in a traditional classroom deviates from what we are doing today. Long PowerPoint presentations to introduce a new topic do not work well now. Probably never have, but certainly not in front of an online class at home.  The same with teacher prepared content where questions only have one right answer. What I am trying to say is that teachers using new technology to reproduce the same old teaching methods will not work now. My guess is that that has been going on in many classrooms up to now.

Hopefully, we are seeing a shift towards grasping this opportunity for a completely new kind of teaching. We need to emphasize that technology is just a means. Its effectiveness depends entirely on your didactic approach.

What I really liked in the article from the Guardian and what I really think is important today is this;

There has always been a battle in Italy between hardliners and child-centred reformers such as Maria Montessori. It now seemed as if progressives had the upper hand. Salvatore Giuliano, a headteacher in Brindisi and a former deputy education minister, told me: “A child of 15 has far more creativity than we have. Every time you give them the freedom and tools to create something, they will astonish you.” Giuliano described some memorable student-led presentations he has seen in recent weeks. His favourite was an extended family – parents, siblings and grandparents – all dressed up as the planets and moving around the room.

How to promote deeper learning in your classroom

I think the answer lies here. Because deeper learning has been the goal for a long time now. And that is what we should be exploring right now. Because our current situation is the perfect opportunity for this.

Rarely does deeper learning happen when a teacher spends the entire classroom lecturing from the front of the room, Fine and Mehta found. By allowing students some choice in the topics they explore and the methods they use, teachers can let students see the purpose in their learning and be more engaged. Harvard

Voice and choice

It boils down to two words; voice and choice. Every time you plan your, digital online learning class, you have to ask yourself; do the students have a choice, and am I giving them an opportunity to have a voice? Today we have the perfect opportunity to let our students explore and learn, to ask the questions they want to find the answers to. When introducing a new topic how about asking the students what they would want to know about it? How they learn best now when they are sitting in their bedroom, how they can meet other students in the class to collaborate. ,

How about working on projects like these; Share your story about the coronavirus outbreak from BBC World Service. A teacher at my school encouraged her students to share here. And several of their entries were accepted. Voice and choice. Another teacher gave a choice of 15 different tasks divided into 3 categories. Creative, useful, and entertaining. They involved going for a walk, filming, reading, Instagram, and writing a poem about Covid-19. Voice and choice. 

When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own. However, this skill is rarely, if ever, deliberately taught to students from kindergarten through high school. Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity or engage them more effectively. We have found that teaching students to ask their own questions can accomplish these same goals while teaching a critical lifelong skill. (Rothstein, D., & Santana, L. (2011). Harvard Education Letter, 27(5))

THE BENEFITS OF SELF-PACING

Many schools in the US have now begun looking into their rigid 7 class schedules. “The reason I enjoy online learning is because of the opportunity to structure my day efficiently,” wrote a 10th grade student in English teacher Katie Burrows-Stone’s class survey. “I am able to workout, relax, and complete the work in a timely manner, with no distractions.”  Edutopia

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