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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Schools embrace e-learning

Distance learning involves open communication among all stakeholders­—teachers, administrators, parents and students.

Last Sept. 2, I addressed officials, administrators, teachers from more than 100 schools during a webinar hosted by the Bank of the Philippine Islands Asset Management and Trust Corp.

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Schools need to be aware of family concerns, so I discussed common issues brought up by parents and students, ranging from homeschooling (“Should we homeschool?” July 30) and self-discipline (“Discipline Is not a bad word,” Aug. 27) to gadgets (“Teens talk about growing up wired,” Sept. 10) and communication (“Help! Our teen does not listen to us,” Sept. 3).

But the bulk of the webinar centered on practical strategies for the participating institutions, from prekindergarten to graduate levels.

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Some schools are family-run. Like family businesses, bigger schools have more resources, such as technology, funds, personnel and reputation.

But smaller ones are more nimble. They can make decisions faster, since they are unhindered by bureaucracy and silos, which is an advantage in this new normal.

The best practices, I reassured everyone, remained the same, since we are all teachers at heart.

“Where should we focus our resources?” asked a school. “Aside from technology, what else should we prioritize?”

My reply: learning structure, learning tools and teacher training.

For learning structure, we discussed live versus nonlive classes, where the mix would vary based on age, grade level and subject matter.

For example, live classes are best for complex topics such as math and science, and for discussions that aim to elicit insights from groups. They have to be planned well, taking into account the warnings from pediatricians worldwide that children cannot focus online for too long.

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As for asynchronous (nonlive) classes, I advised schools not to go overboard. Content is not the problem, as I keep telling government and private groups that request me to write textbooks, do materials and upload video lessons. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, since the web is teeming with content, some of them stellar (like Khan Academy, which I am not getting paid to endorse).

It is tempting for teachers to include websites and videos galore in their classes, but most serious study should still be done mostly offline, especially in basic education.

Reading online (versus offline) materials results in problems with resource constraints, text navigation, focus and retention. Eye-tracking research shows we tend to scan rather than truly read when we are online.

Printed textbooks are essential, as are downloadable materials that can be printed for study.

During enrollment, teachers in Xavier School packed books and supplies, delivered directly to students’ homes by maintenance personnel on personal motorbikes, reported director Fr. Ari Dy. This is an act of dedication and generosity that other schools can emulate.Other effective strategies include: link to single webpages rather than entire websites to minimize distractions. To avoid copyright violations, use open-source textbooks.

My college math class is using a chapter now from Oscar Levin, an American professor who placed his textbook online for anyone to access. He also sent me additional resources.

For learning tools, we discussed investment in management systems, such as Edmodo, Canvas, Google Classroom, Moodle and the like, which are all basically similar. These are not enough, however, since schools also need videoconferencing platforms, like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

Again, these technologies are mostly the same, but having tried more than 10 in dozens of webinars, I personally experienced less lag time and malfunctions with Zoom (again, I am not getting paid to endorse them).

(To be continued)

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TAGS: Distance learning, e-learning
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