If you are finding that you or your students are remote learning, not out of choice, but because of the school changes or the pandemic in general, it’s still possible to resist having your upcoming school year turn into zombie learning.
When our son took an online course through UC Berkeley Extension in Marine Biology as a high school homeschooler, we joked that the professor could have died and no student could have been able to tell the difference. All the lectures were text-based with a book chapter assignment, and although discussions were assigned and graded each week, there was no interaction between teacher and student…ever. For all we knew, the questions and the grading could have been conducted with a computer algorithm. He had been expecting to learn from a professor who loved marine biology, but if not for the college credit, he could have learned by reading the book on his own.
Some dyslexic students really thrive on in-person learning; as a result, depending on how information is translated into distance learning, school can become more of a curse than a blessing in the new pandemic school year. What can be done?
FOSTER INTERACTION AND ENGAGEMENT
Some schools are switching to part-in school and part-online experiences and will help some students as long as students and teachers will be able to be safe. Even if all school may shift online, promoting interactions, including regular check-ins, polls, online discussion areas, and posting can prevent the zombie experience
Some online courses share screens and include PowerPoint or Google Docs and oral presentations. Zoom debates can also take place with group members getting together in chat and collaborating on shared documents through Google Docs.
If you’re a student in a “dead” class, contact your teacher by email, ask if you can speak by phone or web chat if that’s a better way for you to communicate, and be proactive to get the level of education that you need and deserve.
If you are a homeschooling parent who will be using remote learning for a majority of your student’s formal education, select schools and platforms that have the interaction that your student needs. You can ask whether is there any group work and/or online discussion sessions.
If your student is having trouble understanding material, how can they get their questions answered?
SELF-ADVOCACY TO ENSURE EDUCATION PROCEEDS
There will be a lot of pressure and upheaval with schools and school personnel, but one thing almost all educational professionals agree on is that students with extra learning challenges will be among the most likely to be disadvantaged with pandemic–related changes that include reduced budgets and personnel loss.
Some school districts may expand their homeschooling resources for parents given the shift to employ more distance learning. It’s possible that some of these changes can be helpful to homeschoolers; in return for being able to continue declaring a student as being in “public school” (with federal support that follows), they may be able to share resources and funds for homeschoolers registered with their school. This money in turn can be used to support paid online tutors or enrichment classes that have more engagement and social and leadership opportunities for your student.
Finally, if you’re a lemons out of lemonade sort of person, see less in-person time as an opportunity to spend more time on individual creative pursuits. Having more time to oneself can be a blessing and also a stimulus for more engagement with others later.
Is this a time for your student to be learning how to play a musical instrument, compose music, draw, dictate or write stories? Many creative pursuits are quite social but require alone time for real development. Think out of the box about possible mentors and people your student can learn from. Developing real relationships with people who care is surely an antidote to a zombie education.