Distance learning: questions, answers and some practical tips
Starting Monday, March 16, 2020, all schools must introduce distance learning. This is an open opportunity that not only should we not be scared of, but we can also use to do in school what over the rest of the time, fulfilling thousands of requirements and regulations, we are unable to find time for a little more creativity, creativity, and innovation. The crisis and the challenges it poses can be an appropriate stimulus for needed changes. What practical means of introducing distance learning and what should guide students, teachers and parents
What is distance learning?
An unambiguous answer to this question can hardly be answered at this time. The provision of Art. 113 of the Law on Distance Learning, distance education, which refers to students over 5 classes who have certain health problems. In this case, it is a non-attended form whereby students remain engaged in the learning process and there is communication between them and the teachers. At present, mass understanding is a sign of equality between distance and digital education. Digital education can be distance learning, but distance education is not just digital. Distance learning can take several forms:
Through the available online platforms – there are already enough – the Microsoft platforms, Zoom, various other videoconferencing capabilities, various logs also offer such
You can use basic online communication tools that are widely distributed as shared chats via skype, vibe, messenger, live viewing in closed Facebook groups and more.
Use of audio virtual conference rooms
You can use digital lessons – many of which are already available in the space – Learn, Academico and more. Most of these lessons include exercises. The students also released a free subscription to the lessons for the time being
Through the use of electronic textbooks, which almost all publishing houses have made freely available online in recent days. Students can be assigned to work on specific topics in the textbooks, tasks, exercises, and the examination of the completed tasks is organized accordingly. The major challenge here is whether students have sufficient skills to self-organize, plan, and accomplish their assigned tasks; do they have sufficient motivation and discipline to impose on themselves time slots in which to work on the course material;
Printing of materials, textbooks, textbooks, tests to be given to students and to work independently at home. This is the one that teachers have the most preference for when it comes to students from vulnerable groups who do not have free access to the digital environment – they do not have enough mobile devices to be able to work with them all children in the family, they do not have enough good coverage and free internet access, etc. However, the most serious problem here is how to control the completion of the tasks, because these types of students may not have sufficient skills for self-organization, discipline, and self-control, which most need to be applied when you have to decide when, how and how long you work on the assigned learning tasks;
There may be other forms of teleworking
Which of all forms is best to use?
There is no universal form or just one platform that is used by everyone. Each school uses this form or a combination of the forms it deems most appropriate. It is quite possible, not only in the same school but even in the same class, to apply different forms. The important thing is to reach and involve as many students as possible.
There is no good or bad form – it all depends on the circumstances. The easiest, but also the least effective, will be to print and distribute materials. The added value of this will not be high. The Amalipe Center encourages schools to take the opportunity to test new methods. It will be challenging at first, but
How long will distance learning continue?
March 30 is now cited as a date for students to be back in classrooms, but there is likely to be an extension depending on the epidemic.
How to do distance learning after some of our families have no or limited access to the Internet?
As we have pointed out, distance learning is not necessarily tied to the Internet, although most of its forms are. However, let us keep in mind that there are relatively few places with no internet access. Minister Valchev’s assurance is that the Government is in talks with mobile operators to secure these places. Various forms of distance learning will need to be implemented, as part of the students can be reached online and another part will have to be contacted. Educational mediators are your first helpers! The Amalipe Center also mobilizes its network of mediators and volunteers to assist schools. but we must be very careful that everyone who goes out on the field should be provided with the necessary disinfectants and protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) so that he or she does not risk his or her family’s health or become infection carrier! Anyone who works in the field, in any form, should receive detailed precautionary training and precautionary measures in the current epidemic. Amalipe Center prepares such briefing for its mediators and all those who work in the field.
What hours should be kept remotely?
Let us note that in very few cases it will be literally hours / online hours. In most cases, distance learning is likely to take completely different forms, which will include assigning tasks, checking their completion, methodological assistance, etc., without the hourly design.
It is important to emphasize that distance learning over the next two weeks does not aim at teaching new lessons – even on the contrary. The main purpose is to use the time, practice and consolidate old knowledge and, if possible, to teach new knowledge – without great expectations, without anyone pushing teachers what they have done and what they have achieved. We have the assurance of the MES team that it is not expected through distance education to catch up with the missed material. Minister Valtchev stated that this was not a matter of hours of the curriculum, but self-preparation and validation of the material. This is also stated in the official text on the MES website. Use this as a way to get more exercise, knowledge validation, interactive games, and more that time is lacking. Keep in mind that once classes are restored, you will need to restructure your classroom content. This is always about missing out on exercise classes and reinforcing knowledge. Use the opportunity now and teach new knowledge only if you think your students are prepared for it. The purpose of distance learning is to keep students and the school connected and use the time for useful, meaningful things, to try new methods for which time, behind plans, reports, and paperwork, leave us no time. This is a great opportunity to turn negatives into opportunities. Use it, colleagues!
Should student absences be written?
No, as we said, these will not be standard hours. Try to reach as many students as possible through all the means available. The challenge here will be to make these distance learning activities interesting for students to participate in. Attract parents to your ally. If we now succeed and provoke the interest of students, even when they are not in front of us, we are sure that this will give us a new and useful tool to work in the classroom afterward. Of course, no teacher should be punished for not attracting all students. Similarly, in the case of an emergency, students who do not participate or passively participate should not be penalized. The risk with this approach is that it would be a good excuse for both non-motivated students and non-motivated teachers, but we hope their numbers are limited.
Is there a risk of zero school year?
Minister Valchev flatly stated that there was no such likelihood. Despite the flu epidemics and the current shift to distance learning, critical thresholds have already been crossed, and from now on, catch-up will be applied by restructuring the material and stopping trips and camps (these can be organized after being allowed through a second-order, at non-teaching time and during holidays).
At the moment, the MES is only discussing a reduction in the spring break until Easter, and no decision has yet been taken.
Will NGOs for Grades 4, 7 and 10 and DZI in Grade 12 be canceled?
Also – not! At this point, only the reduction of some topics to be covered is being discussed. The MES believes that the topics will be tailored to the training material covered in the region with at least days of attendance. From this point of view, current students will even find themselves in a more privileged position than those in previous years.
Should teachers go on vacation?
It is not necessary if they can prove five hours a day of telework. This was stated by Minister Valchev in interviews with the national media on Sunday morning. This is done by showing the materials he sent, produced, discussions with students and many others. This kind of reporting goes to the relevant director, not to the Regional Education Authority or other institution. The principal has the responsibility to organize this process in each school according to the specifics of the school.
Of course, some of the teaching staff and non-teaching staff would not be able to work remotely and in that case, would have to take leave.
Some practical tips:
If you haven’t already, quickly gather information on what devices your students have. Consider that if there are multiple school-aged children in the same family and one phone/tablet/computer, this can create problems if you plan to use a platform that includes real-time viewing and/or material/task solving online. Then a schedule should be made of who is using the device. This would also be a problem in families with parents whose work is computer-related and work from home;
Don’t expect, as much as you are prepared and trained to work with electronic platforms and resources, everything will work perfectly for the first time and from the first day. Don’t be disappointed! These days are precisely the time when we can test what works, what doesn’t, and how to adapt things to work;
Be prepared to tailor your chosen methods and tools daily to what your students provide. One system is more alive, the faster it adapts;
Seek Parental Assistance – They can be your first assistant to ensure student engagement and commitment. Don’t worry about the fact that some parents are low-educated: if they are committed to their children’s education (and this is often the case with the most uneducated), they will be able to secure their children’s engagement. Now is a period of crisis. Approach your parents by showing them that together you can overcome this crisis. This brings together and creates communities. This will strengthen the links between parents and teachers. For Roma, a sense of belonging to a community is especially important, understandable and recognizable. Also, in the Roma community, mutual assistance is one of the core values and widespread practice. Show your parents that you trust them and you would be hard-pressed to do without them.
Seek assistance from educational mediators and NGOs who work with parents of the most marginalized families. They can reach them, but remember that they need to be properly equipped and instructed, as we have indicated above.
Consider making the students themselves active in the process: give them responsibility, empower them to create things – this will provoke their interest.
Here are some ideas:
Have the student / s create and administer a messenger / FB group that you will use for distance learning. If this is a student you have not encouraged so far, this is an ideal opportunity for him to express himself. He can more successfully reach, engage and activate his other classmates (at least, most students actively communicate with each other via messenger, Viber, etc.);
In some of the schools, some successful mentoring students help their classmates with certain difficulties, whether they are related to teaching materials, motivation, participation. The mentoring student model can be successfully adapted in distance learning as well, with mentoring students being tasked with working more closely with certain students (however, this relationship should also be remote rather than physical)
Have the students develop the topics and exercises themselves (and you can try a new lesson) and present them to others. The lessons can be digital. During the Leadership Academy, organized by the Amalipe Center in November 2019, in one of the sessions, we worked out such lessons with the participants. If you choose to do so, you can count on our help. This will inevitably provoke the interest of the students – they will become authors themselves, and the Amalipe network of lessons can be shared and viewed by students and other schools;
Don’t just focus on the best and engaged students. This is a natural reflex, but with appropriate forms of distance learning, you could also attract students who have been passive so far.
Deyan Kolev, Teodora Krumova