Coping With Remote Learning

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What Is Remote Learning?

Remote learning happens in circumstances like a pandemic when teachers move face-to-face classes to online space. This is likely to be the education trend of the future. Educational robotics, promoted by Poloeuropa, is a group activity to enhance thinking, planning, implementation, and communication in all subjects. Student groups devise their learning using technology and then present the results to peers. This active approach focuses on talk as the technology for learning and is now taught worldwide. It encourages curiosity and creativity, giving learners a choice and voice to make connections, think positively, and find a purpose. The future shape of education is:

  • Diverse in place and time
  • Personalized
  • Choice of tools and curricula
  • Project-based
  • Field experience
  • Data interpretation/application
  • Assessment by personal record
  • Teacher mentors not instructors

Remote Learning Guidance

The following ideas provide some guidance to make remote learning experience bearable:

Design A Timetable To Fit Everyone’s Schedules

It is vital to develop a routine that suits those involved. Once something works, stick to it, as this will allay anxiety to some extent and provide a plan and purpose. Start the day with a learning map and to-do list for keeping on track. Make a rule not to check/send messages or do anything else that might take attention away from tasks. At the end of the day, review the timetable and what has been achieved as well as activities for the following day. Make sure all required tasks are completed (unless there is a good reason) and be strict about this, otherwise work piles up and becomes a mountain to climb! Keep in mind the well-being of the learner and appreciate that a change of routine is never easy to cope with either emotionally or socially.

How this agenda happens depends on individual circumstances. Are you using a Learning Management System (LMS)? Does your student love learning or is it a struggle? Is the curriculum fixed or is there room for creativity? How flexible are the curricula demands? Are all tasks graded by the school?

Choose A Suitable Place To Work

This is not easy in busy spaces, but if one can be cleared for a learning hub it will be worth the effort to provide stability and order. It is generally possible to personalize the learning space (sound, light, equipment, etc.) and adjust the schedule if necessary. You may even have some steer over the curriculum (what to learn).  It is always positive if a learner can have choice and control over some learning tasks to acquire initiative and independence. Use learner strengths and talents and build on them as much as possible. The more a student owns their own learning, the easier and more fulfilling it is for everyone.

When I was a class teacher, I felt it important to let go of the prescribed curriculum for an hour a week, so that students could research, explore and create something that interested them. The students named it “Opportunity Hour,” which complemented a Communication Opportunity Group Strategy (COGS) (Sage, 2000) that we ran in the school to develop thinking and communication. These rules, discussed and agreed upon by all, aimed to assist independence, creativity, initiative, and informal/formal communication.

  1. A question must begin the process
  2. The question is researched by web hunt, personal interviews, or library visits
  3. Something must be created: digital, physical, or service for others
  4. The outcome must be presented to the class and then at a public occasion

This is similar to the “Genius Hour” that recently came out of a Ted Talk by Daniel Pink (“The Puzzle of Motivation”). Google has a 20% time policy when employees can work on a project that interests them. It gives choice and control as well as fosters curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving.

Check Resources Required

These will include paper, pens/pencils, a reliable WiFi connection, log in details for all necessary accounts, note-taking apps (if used), and reading strategies. Make sure the student understands it is their first daily task to check that everything necessary is to hand. Notify the school if there are resource problems and keep in contact with them by checking their message systems daily, encourage the learner to do so as well. The website www.learningliftoff.com provides the top 20 websites for homeschooling, such as TED talks, TED-Ed resources, Simple Homeschool, etc. You are bound to find something that is helpful among these resources.

Support Not Teach To Facilitate Understanding

We all learn in different ways with a preferred sense. 40% of the population favor learning through tactile means (real experience) and may not perform well at school, because the focus is on hearing and sight input. However, they are successful in life and are talented at applying knowledge in practical ways, which most jobs require. Therefore, support learning by doing, if possible.

Also, the way we process information is very different. Some have what is called a top-down strategy; they need an overview of what to learn and a structure of how the information will be presented. Others have a bottom-up strategy; they need personal examples to grasp the meaning and like a more informal approach. Teachers produce information in their preferred style and as 50% of us are top-down and the other 50% bottom-up, it means that half of the class will find it more difficult to assemble meaning. We all have experienced teachers that suited us and others that did not, so this is a reason why! Make sure that you talk about the content before it is formally presented. The brain has 2 halves: the right one creates possibilities and the left sequences information logically. Experts say that school learning focuses on left-brain development at the expense of the right. By helping the learner to think around the topic/task before carrying these out helps right-brain thinking, which is important for understanding, independent learning, and achieving a broad, balanced view.

Writing about your favorite holiday is less difficult to support than an analysis of poetry and prose meter. In the latter case, you may have to learn about it first. The internet is helpful here! Prose is the normal language of speech/writing, with sentences and paragraphs as in fiction. Poetry (verse) generally has a regular rhythm and divides into stanzas, not paragraphs, with lines often rhyming.

Spot The Barriers

If the learner appears to be struggling or is unhappy about things, is it the topic or focus? Perhaps it is motivation? Is there too much or too little structure? Do they need a hug for support or a friendly warning if failing to keep to the timetable agreement? If it is a knowledge deficit, find out exactly what they do not comprehend. When students say, “I don’t get it,” the first thing to spot is what “it” refers to. This may not be easy, as most students are unaware of what they do not know. Why? This is because in British schools there is not a routine of a third lesson given over to students feeding back briefly on what they have learned. This exposes them to the many different interpretations made by their peers and is a powerful way to absorb diverse views for wider understanding.

Encourage A Mindset To Become Self-Aware

Encourage a mindset that is not about what or how to learn, but to think about the experience to become more self-aware. Neuroscience can illuminate effective learning.

  • Neurobiology shows how learning rewires the brain and extends connections;
  • Moderating stress helps learning, while mild and extreme stress are detrimental;
  • Adequate sleep is vital for consolidating learning to lay down memories, whilst nutrition and exercise boost energy to maintain and sustain effective study;
  • Active learning, involving all 5 senses, stimulates multiple neural connections to promote memory, retention, and recall and to strengthen the experience; and,
  • Sharing new learning, through talk, is vital in order to become aware of what has been learned. Research shows this is the most effective learning strategy. It helps to transfer and apply learning for decision-making and problem-solving. 5% is retained from a lecture but 90% of learning is shared or taught to others.

Recognize And Reward Behavior By Setting Up Systems Supporting This

Documenting progress and rewarding seemingly minor but important behaviors, like attention to tasks, help outcomes to be achieved. This assists in finding the motivation to understand where it comes from. The dynamics of parent-to-child is necessarily different from parents-as-teachers-to-child. Realize that a learner needs a wide range of support: emotional, academic, collaborative, psychological (recognition of learning style), technological, disciplinary, nurturing, etc. Motivating is an area where parents are usually better than any teacher. The idea is to help a student want to learn, without punishing them emotionally or making motivation external and independent from the value of knowledge and competence. Offer challenges, points, and visible progress markers that suit the learner.

Build A Learning Network

Build a learning network by connecting with peers, who are essential to support and expand learning. Peers operate within similar experiences and communicate at a level that is easy to understand. Encourage links with others having similar interests, ambitions, and approaches to life.

Use Questions

Use the power of questions to develop both creative and critical (logical) thinking. The following are ones that can be altered to suit circumstances:

  1. Tell me about a time when you felt excited by your learning.
  2. Tell me about a time when you felt confused.
  3. Think about your learning today. What would like to know more about?
  4. Think of a question that has come from your learning today.
  5. Were there times when you did not feel valued?
  6. Were there moments when others showed care and concern for you?
  7. What has challenged you about your learning today?
  8. Were there times when you felt proud of yourself?
  9. What did you particularly like about your learning today?
  10. Tell me about a conversation you enjoyed with someone today?
  11. What did you most like about today?
  12.  What did you learn about yourself today?
  13. Is there anything that you would like to talk about and work out?
  14.  Is there anything that you are worried about?
  15.  What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  16.  Is there a question you would like me to ask about your day?
  17.  How might you follow up on your learning?
  18.  What is your way to remember what you have learned?
  19. How could you make learning easier?
  20. How do you help yourself to keep motivated?

How, why, and when we ask questions makes a difference to the information we receive from learners. Of course, you do not ask the list all at once—probably one or two at a time. Questions need to be posed when having time to focus for full attention. Mealtimes are good for this and should become routine for questions and discussion. Powerful, positive conversations mean:

  • Do not interrupt
  • Ask for more: I’d love to know more about ….
  • Ask about feelings: How did you feel about
  • Confirm feelings as normal and feed this back
  • Make sure they understand it is not right for anyone to be unkind
  • Always thank them for sharing and appreciate honesty

Conclusion

Learning is a communicative process and is much enhanced if given priority and opportunity. In Britain, we do not value or promote this aspect like many other countries and consequently have more learning and mental health issues than them. The 10 top nations educationally put language, communication, and relationships to the fore of a learning agenda, acknowledging that in life 80% of what we do is oral and only 20% is written. Putting effort into improving these aspects pays off in better educational standards. Above all eat, sleep, and exercise well for self-care as learning cannot happen if tired, stressed, or hungry.

We listen to a book a day.

We speak a book a week.

We read a book a month.

We write a book a year

References:

  • Sage, R. (2000) Class Talk: Successful learning through effective learning. London: Bloomsbury
  • Sage R. (2020) Speechless: Understanding Education, Buckingham University Press
  • Sage, R. & Mattueucci. R. (2019) The Robots are Here: Learning to live with them. Buckingham University Press
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