In many places schools have done their homework. There are now sufficient licenses for data-compliant video conference and learning management systems. There are now enough notebooks and tablets so that every student can be provided with a suitable device for homeschooling. With all this technology, 11 plus tutoring has become much easier, but we also get on the nerves of our students. Children sit in three to four video conferences a day. Even some adults would be overwhelmed by this, writes teacher in the newspaper column.
Still many complaints that the school leaves its pupils at home alone, we teachers now sit a little too often in the living room for the children. Math starts right away on Monday morning. The tasks from the last week are discussed. The children had to upload them to the learning platform’s task tool by 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon at the latest. Now Lena *, the best in class, can explain how to add two fractions together. Everyone else has their microphones muted, and most of them have their cameras turned off. Otherwise the picture wobbles all too easily and the sound jerks because the domestic WLAN or the server capacities are overloaded. If you want to get in touch, you can do so using a small online tool. Only then should the microphone be activated. In the meantime, even our twelve-year-olds do it with astonishing discipline. We have all learned that it only gets annoying if we don’t follow these rules.
A conference break does not mean a learning break
After an hour and a half of math, the children have a break from the conference. Not necessarily a learning break. There is still a lot to do in your task module. For English, a number of tasks in the workbook have to be completed. Grammar exercises are also on the agenda in German. The PE teacher sent in instructions on how to make juggling balls out of balloons and rice. And at 12 noon the next lesson begins, again an hour and a half video conference.
Even we adults don’t want to sit in one video conference after another all day long – with more than 20 participants.
The online timetable has been thinned out compared to the school timetable. Video conferences are not offered regularly, especially in the minor subjects. That is also a good thing. Because even with the leaner version, our children have three to four large conferences in a row on several days. Tiring, isn’t it? Even we adults don’t want to sit in one video conference after another all day long – with more than 20 participants.
Intensive individual support by the remedial teacher in distance lessons
in the second lockdown we pedagogues have become better at supporting our protégés on a daily basis. With a variety of offers: There are lessons online as well as intensive individual supervision by the support teacher. Also the Social pedagogue has long conversations with children who need it. And if we teachers get the impression from time to time that the children urgently need more exercise, then we invent a scavenger hunt across the city. A report for the German class must then be written about them. Every day our students see new tasks with new deadlines once they have logged into the learning platform. They receive corrections and other feedback from their teachers on a daily basis. So a lot of input.
Anyone who does not take part in online lessons will receive a call
But promoting also entails demands, and countless pupils can report on it from painful experience. If you do not log into the online conference for German lessons in good time, you have to expect that the unexcused absence is valued. Or the teacher quickly calls the parents’ landline and asks what’s going on. Sometimes a child just overslept, quite banally. Sometimes a sixth grader would postpone her current online class schedule. Sometimes the internet just went down in the household. Sometimes someone had the mediocre idea of agreeing to install the update right before class. Sometimes there are just too many video conferences taking place at the same time. Because many parents sit in the home office with their children and, like their offspring, have to attend conferences several times a day. Or the parents do not sit in the home office with their offspring, but work from home, which is why the siblings have to manage their school day alone at home. And, often things get a bit much than what happens usually.
Deadlines and conferences flash on the learning platform
We demand a lot of organization from the kids. They have to keep an eye on their schedule, deadlines for their homework, and regularly check for new emails and other text messages. As a first measure, the class teachers send a timetable every Friday with all upcoming online conferences for the coming week. The IT teacher has adapted our learning platform so that the calendar with upcoming deadlines and conference dates flashes for every child when they open the app.
Nevertheless, Melina sends me an e-mail on Sunday night at 11 pm: “We have a video conference tomorrow at 10 am?” Jonas * writes to me the next morning at six that it is really too stormy for the scavenger hunt with juggling balls. And I get a text message from teacher with obscene insults. While talking to her and her parents, it turns out that someone hacked her account. She gets a new password and I hope the problem is resolved for now.
Not only we educators move too close to the students, with us the gap between private and professional life is vanishing into thin air. It’s a daily challenge – for everyone.
How is your experience with distance learning? Can it replace face-to-face teaching? Where are the limits of teaching by video? And which elements would you like to keep, even if normal operation is possible again in the schools? Use the comment function and share your opinion!