Blended Learning

Six Ways Distance Learning Has Changed Education

After surveying 50 schools using distance learning during the lockdown, Glenys Hart analyses the changes - some of them surprising and far-reaching – that are emerging.

Home support is essential

Teachers across the world are amazingly creative and have responded exceptionally well to the challenges posed by lockdowns. Now we need to reflect on our experiences of remote teaching and learning to be ready for the next stage of this new radically changed educational landscape.

Teachers have indeed been catapulted into 21st Century and there are a number of questions to be asked. Is the shape of education different? Broader, more inclusive? More of a reflection of the society in which we now live, rather than a continuation of the society in which our parents lived? Have learning and classrooms changed forever?  Will 30 in a room be a thing of the past? Is technology an increasingly vital tool?  Are families and communities becoming more and more involved in children’s learning? Have the boundaries of time and place for learning changed forever?  The underlying tools for 19th Century Education was basic literacy and now we can see for 21st Century Education it is Digital Literacy.

There are six areas where we have seen major changes in education: Parental and Family participation; Community involvement; Unfettered Learning; Performing on a Global Stage; Global Teachers and Global Learners. This article explores the transformation.

Parental and Family involvement

One of the most striking changes was the increased understanding parents had for the teaching profession. Not only their producing suitable content for learning but also dealing with social and emotional needs on a daily basis. Schools and families have re-evaluated their relationships.

As schools move online, learning platforms provide digital marking, rapid electronic feedback and evaluation. This comes just in time (J.I.T.) when the student and parents are still interested in the piece of work and so it proves to be very effective. Learning platforms provide features for teachers such as recording oral feedback, writing digital feedback remarks and offering visual feedback in the form of electronic stickers and e-certificates. In addition teachers can note which type of feedback is effective for each individual student and tailor their responses accordingly.

Parents have access to this information and this helped them understand what their children were learning, what they needed to know and where they were going wrong. Consequently, families are increasingly helping with the learning journey.

Family Learning

As families share lounges, kitchens and bedrooms there is a growth of family learning and well-being activities, which teachers can build on to promote health and well-being. Families sharing cooking, singing, exercising and painting. There are live projects available which include: Find things to do at home – virtual and on-line events run by the Arts Council.  Families music activities and on-line music sites where families can compose, record and even stream their music on lots of different instruments. Citizen Science Projects include challenges to collect valuable data on air quality and plastic pollution; Zooniverse created opportunities for students and parents to unlock answers and contribute to real discoveries and perform on the world stage. Geocaching was a great fun way to enjoy being outdoors. It is like a treasure hunt and participants find simple items hidden near where they live. The Kings College Covid Symptons reporting app is proving really important data directly from the community.

Working in the business community

Parents and students are sharing equipment when parents were working from home and students were able to see professional protocols and procedures in action. Parents are able to observe their children’s behaviour in the classroom setting. As students work beside their parents there is some crossover. Project management techniques such as the use of software like Monday is used by teachers and students to monitor their work.  

Improving concentration

Schools who transmitted lessons live (synchronous learning) and recorded them for later use (asynchronous learning) are able to provide for Larks and Owls. Teenage boys who notoriously hate waking up early, can to do their lessons at a time that suits their metabolism. They can able to eat snacks when they were hungry and consequently keep concentrating on learning. Early birds get the lessons out of the way and spend the rest of the day doing what they want to do. Social media is used when learning, WhatsApp is frequently used to ask friends for help during a lesson (and teachers have no whispering students!).

Enriched curriculum

Teachers enrich their curriculum even during these uncertain times. As part of a global experience, they open their classroom doors as they take students to visit places across the entire world, which fit with history, geography, science, arts and music. A number of the places listed have teacher resources available.

Global Opportunities

All of a sudden it was possible to learn beyond the curriculum, outside the classroom and outside the country. Using mobile technology and distance learning is opening classrooms forever. School are using global projects to build on this understanding. They range in subject and for age groups.

Global learning means that teachers can find the best there is to offer. One post pandemic lesson we have learned is that learning online can be a global experience. We are all experiencing the same difficulties and have all had to adjust the way we learn and teach. International projects can be linked to countries where there a number of students have come from to make it relevant and meaningful to the school community.  Schools may like to prepare for the International Schools Award which is available in 16 countries and is well-regarded by school inspection bodies and ministries of education globally.

Global Teachers

Students frequently used MOOCs or online courses e.g. http://www.openculture.com/free_certificate_courses or taught themselves online gaming which is going to be very important in the future world of work but is often frowned upon by teachers. Some students used the School Website for learning. E.g. finding out about homework set.  Other used libraries and online encyclopedia E.g. https://www.britannica.com/ https://openlibrary.org/.  Are teachers sharing this information?

Providing a range of learning experiences

The use of specific software enables skilled teachers to provide different learning experiences for slower and faster learners using packages like Class Dojo, Google Classrooms, Kerboodle, Microsoft teams, Nearpod and See-saw.

Special Education Needs

Teachers provide designed learning opportunities for students with Special Educational Needs.  Although Learning Difficulties in the mainstream classrooms maybe exacerbated by the use of computers. E.G. students with auditory or visual difficulties or learning problems such as autism, dyscalculia, dyslexia or physical, schools found a range of ways of dealing with these problems. Examples include using computer adjustments to do with vision and colour; a range of speech to text options; talking books and virtual assistants. See links below for more detail.

Learning without teaching!

The concept of Learning without teaching is a difficult one to accept. How can students learn WITHOUT teaching? Teachers are using independent learning techniques initially to help students access knowledge during lockdown and subsequently to catch up with missed learning. This method, with modifications, is being used across all ability and ages. Further, students are able to learn from parents, grandparents and other relatives. Different educational internet sites are used for learning E.g. BBC bitesize? Non-educational internet sites such as Youtube are popular.

Virtual Science

Schools are using lots of interesting and exciting websites that offer science learning experiences –  labs, animations, apps, videos, simulations. Examples include A level virtual microscopy – which provides a collection of slides covering animal and plant tissues. Frog dissection apps which gives in-depth information on each of the frog’s organs including anatomical comparisons to human organs.

Go-lab is one of the largest collection of online labs, with interactive inquiry apps. goREACT virtual chemistry lab is a drag-and-drop lab that lets students experiment with different reactions. I-cell app gives an interactive, 3D view inside a animal, plant, and bacteria cell. Labster provides students access to a realistic lab experience to carry out experiments and practice their skills. Nova labs is a free resource which offers beautiful, high-quality virtual science labs. The Open Science online laboratory features investigations based on on-screen instruments, remote access experiments and virtual scenarios using real data. One of the best science and simulations sites is PHET.

Cross curricular learning

Although the school still imposed subject barriers on learning it is increasingly obvious that knowledge does not exist in little compartments and nor does learning. Cross curricular (transdisciplinary) learning is important for students enabling them construct their understanding of the world.  As teachers strive to ‘catch up’, cross-curricular activities help with time constraints – more content can be covered in less time. Schools are systematically identifying appropriate projects and writing them into their schemes of learning across the range of years taught.

Conclusion

Underlying the changes in the education system is the vital importance of Digital literacy for both students and their teachers. Digital skills are at a premium and are developing rapidly. The UK government Essential Digital Skills Framework (updated April 2019) defines the digital skills adults need to safely benefit from, participate in and contribute to the digital world. In many ways these skills can also be applied to students. They are: Digital Foundation skills ; Digital Communication skills; Digital Handling Information and Content; Digital Transaction skills; Digital Problem-Solving skills and Digital Being Safe and Legal Online. Schools can audit their staff and students’ skills and devise strategies to develop skills gaps and address mismatches between teachers and students’ digital skills.

As we continue to navigate the current learning environment with all its uncertainty, it is vital that we seek and find solutions to overcome the difficulties of the situation. Distance learning and the increased use of technology has proved to be beneficial to many students and their teachers.

Useful links

Auditory https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/impairment/hearing  explains  how your computer, mobile or tablet can be made easier to use for people with a hearing impairment

Autism https://do2learn.com/ where printable picture cards are available to promote functional communication in children with Autism.

Dyscalculia http://aaamath.com/ Interactive pages help remove frustration while doing maths.

Dyslexia Dyslexia and computing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjld2154Y0Y; 5 Great Tech Hacks for Dyslexia https://abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/5-great-tech-hacks-dyslexia; Dyslexia software http://www.inclusive.co.uk/software/dyslexia-software#

Storyline Online https://www.storylineonline.net/ is an excellent resource for children with learning disabilities like dyslexia

Learning Ally  https://learningally.org/Browse-Audiobooks helps people with print disabilities, especially dyslexia.

Moderate Learning Difficulties https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/impairment/cognitive – computer adjustments to do with attention, learning and memory https://uk.ixl.com/  offers adaptive learning for students with disabilities; https://www.funbrain.com/pre-k-and-k-playground  is an educational website with exciting  games.

Physical https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/impairment/motor – computer adjustments to help with mobility, stamina and dexterity; https://www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk/communication/computer-input-1188/ for computer input modification advice.

Visual https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/impairment/vision– advice about computer adjustments to do with vision and colour.

Speech to text – Dragon software and free app such as Google Keyboard and Speechnotes.

Talking Books can be downloaded and listened to as audiobooks, talking magazines and podcasts.

Books on Kindle, Audible, or iTunes plus internet articles can be read aloud by Alexa.

****************************************************************

Glenys Hart is an education consultant and has recently had the unique experience of evaluating distance learning through observing over fifty lessons across the whole age range of schools. She has run international webinars during the summer to share her knowledge and written many practical resources and advice for schools which can be found at Little Market of ideas https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/gmh01

Glenys Hart is a director of the Society Of Education Consultants

Register for free

No Credit Card required

  • Register for free
  • Access to 3 free articles
  • Free TeachingTimes Report every month

Comments