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Remote learning seems to offer a different learning experience to children. Let's get to know the reasons behind it and what the educators think about online classes
It was March 17, 2020. As the children were getting ready for school, I received an SMS from the school saying classes were being suspended because of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation. However, there was no mention of when the classes would resume.
Only a week into the lockdown, we received another SMS from the school. And this time, it was about the classes restarting, but through remote learning. This news made all the four of us happy, but for different reasons. While I and my wife were glad that our children would get back to studies, the children were excited that they would get to lay their hands on the mobile phone.
And the day finally came when the online classes began. Although they didn't get off to a smooth start, over the next three to four days, everything settled down.
In fact, our children were so impressed by the online classes that they would log in a few minutes earlier and wait for the session to start. By observing them, I learned that although the system was far from perfect, the children were enjoying the different learning experiences. On talking to them, I found that their classmates were also excited about remote learning.
Can you guess why children are so enthusiastic about remote learning and why it seems like a different experience to them?
Children, by nature, are curious, keen to learn and imaginative. When online classes are conducted in a creative manner, they offer a fun learning experience. Remote learning appears exciting to most children because it offers an opportunity to:
1. Use technology for studies: A classroom setting is almost the same across our country. Typically, it's a room where students sit in their respective places and listen to the teacher standing in front of a blackboard and giving a lecture. Children just take notes and answer the questions asked. With remote learning, however, things get more interesting due to the opportunity to use technology. Features such as chat and whiteboard, virtual teachers' rooms, ability to record sessions and screen sharing make a class interesting and lively. Children not only learn their lessons but also learn how to make the best use of technology and how to use technology in a responsible manner.When asked about her experience with online classes, Simerdeep Kaur, a teacher with Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, said, "The benefit of conducting online classes is that virtual learning provides plenty of tools-videoconferencing, chatting, augmented reality and other graphical interfaces-that make it easier for students and teachers to connect with each other. This is a great advantage compared to traditional classrooms, where there's only one channel of communication."
2. Learn from a comfortable environment: Ergonomically uncomfortable seating, being asked to speak in front of their peers and eating a meal that may be different from what others are having are a few things that can create stress and trouble a child. However, remote learning gives a child the liberty to learn from the home-a place with which she is familiar and instills a sense of ease in the child. Learning from a comfortable space, along with a feeling of safety, freedom from distractions and support from parents, makes a child feel valued and motivated to learn.
3. Collaborate more with peers: Whenever we think of remote learning, the image of a child sitting quietly and staring at his laptop's screen is what comes to mind. However, learning from home doesn't mean being lonely or learning alone. Children form teams to complete projects and assignments, share their skills and provide support to each other. And because teams are using technology to connect with each other, they can get together at any time of the day and for as long as they want to. Such extensive collaboration isn't possible when children are attending school, as they stay there only for a limited amount of time.
4. Indulge in blended learning: Traditionally, blended learning or hybrid learning is considered a combination of face-to-face learning and online learning. But, with schools shifting to online classrooms, the concept of blended learning will have to be redefined. While conducting a class is easy, it's not easy to dictate extensive notes or provide study materials and access to the school library.
So, children must browse the internet and research on their own to complete their projects and assignments, often without guidance from the teachers. This way, they also learn to browse responsibly; use search engines well; understand the right search terms; and cross-check and verify the information. While all this fosters a sense of self-learning, these are things that children have never done before, and therefore can be very interesting.
5. Address different learning styles: Every child learns in a different way. Some are visual learners, some prefer kinesthetic learning and some the auditory style. However, in a traditional classroom, children, irrespective of their learning styles, are taught by teachers the same way. But, integrating technology with learning allows teachers to address the needs of every type of learner. And this is what is happening through remote learning. Interactive remote classes, the breakup of lectures into small modules, video presentations and offline assignments and projects all cater to the needs of different types of learners. These not only help the students learn well but also enrich their learning experience.Kaur echoes a similar opinion when she says, "A large number of students are visual learners, and virtual learning has reinvigorated their enthusiasm for learning. Even though it has been adopted as the last resort, virtual learning appears to be an effective method of teaching and learning. There are several advantages-you aren't required to wake up early, and there's no fear of being reprimanded . This makes learning comfortable. The only drawback is that the relationship that develops between a teacher and a student in a classroom setting cannot be replicated in a virtual classroom. Virtual learning has proved to be a good alternative to classroom learning during the lockdown, but it has some limitations for now and therefore cannot replace classroom learning."
6. Learn at one's convenience: When it comes to performance, our children, like us, go through three phases-peak, trough and recovery. Some children who are early birds perform well in the morning, some who are night owls do well in the evening or night and some are at their best at some other time of the day. However, school timings are not fixed based on these three phases, so there's a drop in the performance of some children. With remote classes, children can record the classroom sessions and listen to the teacher's lecture when they are in their peak phase.
7. Gain ownership of learning: In a classroom filled with 30 to 40 students, it's usually the front-benchers who grab the teacher's attention and contribute most to any discussion. Those sitting on the back benches-or those who are shy-are left out. But, with remote learning, every child attends the class from a different location. So, when students are called upon to take part in an activity or discussion, the teacher can ensure that everyone participates equally. Also, because classmates aren't around to help, every student makes his own contribution. This way, students gain ownership of their learning experience.
There is a flip side to everything. While remote learning definitely comes to the aid when a child is unable to attend school, it also has certain disadvantages. Here are a few of them:
When schools switched to online education, we never imagined that this new system would be an interesting and enjoyable experience for our children. However, remote learning has some limitations and is not a replacement for attending classes in school.