Remote learning is a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn't actually fit all.
The following was submitted by a secondary school language arts teacher in Aurora, Colorado, where classes are fully remote through October 8.
Today concludes the first week of remote, online learning for my students.
This fall, virtual learning is a whole different animal from what it was in the spring. Because we were so near to the end of the school year when the nation went into lockdown last March, we were close to the end of our curriculum anyway. We did the best we could to offer online instruction with such short notice—without being adequately equipped in advance for longterm online classes. But at the end of the day, our lessons just skimmed the surface of what we would usually do in person (it felt like busy work), and we were just relieved when the school year ended.
Now that we are back to remote learning with more preparation, here are my thoughts after the first week:
1. My school is using Google Meet, and while it's a great program for business meetings, it was never designed for classroom use. The needs are different. Having wide-open chats and a lack of volume control on students' microphones (they can unmute themselves) has led to a flood of behaviors learned on YouTube channels, which just aren't good for class.
Students are required to keep their video feeds on so teachers can monitor behavior, but it's impossible for teachers to present the content and watch the students' feeds at the same time, especially when the content is being presented in a slideshow format.
2. Teachers have no ability to read the room like they usually would—no ability to react to students or interact with students. Teachers end up becoming live versions of YouTube videos, and students can't help but see them that way. Through a computer screen, it's hard to gauge whether or not the students are actually understanding the material.
For decades, educators have been learning strategies for reaching kids, but in a virtual environment, most of those strategies go out the window. There can be no collaboration or group project learning. We're reduced to a simple lecture/assignment model. Because of the difference in internet speeds, I can't even read with my students because some of them are getting the audio and some of them aren't, depending on their WiFi.
3. Speaking of WiFi, every family's internet connection and bandwidth are different. In some homes, multiple students are streaming online classes on the same internet signal, so the connection drops and the kids are kicked out of the class. Lag and technical difficulties plague classes constantly.
A common argument is that it's good that the pandemic didn't happen 10 years ago because we wouldn't have had the technology to do remote learning. The truth is, we still don't have the technology. It just looks like we do. We aren't as advanced as we think.
I understand everyone's needs are different and that some people find it necessary or more comfortable to work/learn from home. So in my opinion, there should have been an effort made (and should still be an effort made) to match up the teachers who are more comfortable with remote learning with the students and parents who also prefer remote learning. Then, the teachers and students who would rather be working in-person would be able to do so, too.
This one-size-fits-all solution doesn't actually fit all.