Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Can Online Teaching Really Work?

There is already a lot of discussion about schools and the fall semester. Will we be in physical spaces again? Will we be online again? Will there be some mix?

[Dallas Texas] District preparing for three possible scenarios to start the 2020-2021 school year

It’s far to soon to know but there are a lot of questions to be answered before decisions are made. I link to some articles below that may be of interest. But for now, I want to ask the question “Can online teaching really work?”

People talk a lot about equity and the digital divide. The current situation sure has highlighted that with access to computers and the Internet being a huge factor in many areas of the country. One would like to think that if we fix  that, give kids computers and an Internet connection that will be enough. As if!

I think there is more to it than the digital divide. I think there is a cultural question of the value of education. In some schools, students who could participate are not. Why? I don't think we know all of the reasons.

I teach to a populations for whom education is critically important. Parents are paying real money for education and kids know that how adults spend money shows what they value. I think that is huge. Talking to my students over the years, they know their parents are making sacrifices for their education. They want to make sure their parents are getting value for that money.

Sure there are the spoiled self-entitled students out there but in a school like  mine the culture values learning. Peer pressure helps motivate students to do school work.

That is not a universal culture. There are schools where the culture says "get out of school as soon as you can" and "you don't really need school but you do need to work." There are schools where students feel they have to go to work to help support their families. There are kids who parents will actually make them leave home at 18 and go on their own. (This is not a myth. I have seen it.)

School culture is very important. Peer pressure can work to help students value school or not value it. So my concern about online teaching is two fold. How will students who are not living in a culture, at home or at school, where it is cool to be smart, where it is important to go to school. or where they don’t feel like they belong motivate themselves to attend online classes?

And how will schools with a supportive culture be able to maintain and grow that culture online? It’s not going to be easy.

And that is just secondary school. I don’t even want to think about grades k-8. No, really, I don’t.  I can’t imagine online school working well at those age levels.

BTW are plans for the fall thinking about teachers? Especially older and otherwise vulnerable teachers?

1 comment:

Garth said...

Online teaching has killed my marginal students. Any student with an alphabet of issues (ADD, ADHD, PTSD, etc) is toast. Usually I can keep these students in the game with personal help in class and peer help out of class. School forced them to get ou of bed it nothing else. My motivated students were affected but not by much. Those students actually will Zoom in to ask for help. There is definitely a digital divide but it is more attitude that availability of tech.