We live in challenging times. COVID moved all aspects of our lives online – work, social contacts, teaching, and learning, etc. The virtual transformation in education was a quick survival jump, and it took place in less than a week. It was a necessary step, but the main issue is that teachers weren’t prepared to teach online. Here are the main problems that occurred and what we can do to resolve them:
- Attention– students have a short attention span when it comes to online learning, about 35 seconds. Imagine the same kids spending five to six hours in front of a computer. It’s boring! So, in order to keep kids’ interest, all the activities during the lesson need to be gamified, and the students should be active participants as in a traditional classroom. They need to write, draw, create things together with their peers and have fun, not only be passive viewers of a presentation through screen sharing.
- Content and lesson preparation for the digital learning environment– Teaching in a virtual classroom isn’t the same as teaching in class, and it shouldn’t be treated in the same way. All the content needs to be adopted for an online environment. All the activities online should be well-planned, and the teacher should have some goals in mind. What do students need to achieve at the end of the lesson? And here is where professional development comes. Teachers should know how to use technology in the learning process, how to engage their students by using this technology, and last but not least, how to prepare for the lesson by using the technology. The platform that they are using should be purpose-built for education, not a business tool for video-conferencing calls. The platform should save teachers’ time for lesson preparation and have all the tools to track, engage and motivate the students. All the rest comes from the teacher – experience, confidence, approach, knowledge, and motivation.
- Classroom management and statistics – Kids are really creative and can easily make a lesson go awry. That’s why it’s really important for the teacher to have full control over their actions when it comes to online learning. Permissions and settings on a group level or individual level can support a teacher’s work significantly. Also, when you are online it is really easy to skip the lesson by stopping the camera or closing the browser. So how can the teacher be sure if the students pay attention? A distraction monitoring feature is more than needed here. There are some pedagogical tricks they can also use, for example randomly ask questions to different students every 2-3 minutes and see who responds. At the end of the lesson, how do they know what they’ve done well in their job? They definitely need some statistics. They need to know how much time each of the students spent in the session, how many times they were disconnected, how much time they were distracted, how many activities they were part of, etc. All that information is necessary; first, to track students’ progress and engagement, and second, if more students didn’t pay attention during the session, we definitely need to change something on the methodology part – content, activities, or approach.
In conclusion, don’t forget that our students are digital-era kids. They are used to technology in any form, and when it’s not yielded correctly, it serves as a distractor. But, when teachers are equipped with the right technology, they can keep students engaged and learning, and students have the opportunity to be even more successful virtually than they were in the classroom.