Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Teaching during a pandemic: pushing that rock up the hill

The picture above depicts how I feel today as I embark on another day of remote teaching and learning. Why the struggle?

At school we typically coach students to complete challenging, deep, and meaningful assignments. To do this means that we maximize all the tools available including the positive energy of teamwork, the anticipation of a wonderful performance and celebration, and daily motivating and helpful lessons and efforts. 

Online it is more difficult to foster these deep, meaningful, and challenging learning experiences. For example, I am coaching students to write sophisticated biography reports about famous people. These reports require dedicated research, analysis, and writing. Students have been working on these reports mostly on their own at home, and although they are making some progress, they are not making the progress they typically make when they have the dedicated, regular support of teachers and classmates. Instead, it's clear that individual students lose focus, direction, and success with this project on their own. To respond to that, we are having online meetings and coaching sessions, but the results are not as good as when we have daily person-to-person and whole class coaching sessions in real time. While parents are working overtime to support students with this assignment and others, their capacity is limited by the fact that they often have multiple children to teach and their own jobs to attend to. Further, they don't have the experience with this project or the related teaching which makes this difficult too.

This situation begs many questions:
  1. Is this a good online project? How could we better organize a project like this to foster deeper and better independent study by all students?
  2. How do we best use our online teaching time--what strategies are most effective with respect to motivating students' deep and purposeful online and at-home study?
  3. Are most students able to learn with depth, purpose, and perseverance at home on their own or do most students need a good schedule of daily coaching, accountability, review, and response? 
I will be thinking about these questions as I continue to teach online. Clearly, this kind of teaching and learning is different than the team-focused learning we do in schools daily. There is much to consider here. I look forward to the discussions that will occur amongst teachers, parents, and students in the days ahead in this regard as we look ahead.