Has Your School Switched to Remote Learning? How Is It Going So Far?

What does a “school day” now look like for you? Are you able to stay on task? Do you have enough work to do — or too much? What do you miss the most about going to school in person every day? What do you miss the least?

Has your school shifted to remote learning in response to the global pandemic? How is it going so far?

Are you anxious to get back to school as soon as possible? Why or why not?

In “Coronavirus Is Shutting Schools. Is America Ready for Virtual Learning?” Dana Goldstein writes about the great shift that began taking place in American education in mid-March. Here are excerpts from that article:

Educators experienced with remote learning warn that closures are a serious threat to children’s academic progress, safety and social lives. They say that running a classroom digitally is much harder than bringing an adult workplace online, and that it can disproportionately affect low-income students and those with special needs.

Here are some of the warnings and tips that teachers well-versed in remote learning have for schools planning to move online.

Not every home has computers or high-speed internet.

The vast majority of households with children have broadband internet, but there are still big disparities by income, race and the education level of parents.

Low-income families are more likely to rely on smartphones for internet access, and children in those households may not be able to use more sophisticated learning software that requires a tablet or computer. It is not unusual, educators say, for siblings to try to complete their schoolwork on a single cellphone.

Younger children require lots of adult supervision.

Younger students need help to learn online — lots of help. Parents may need to assist their child with turning on a device, logging into an app, reading instructions, clicking in the right place, typing answers and staying on task.

Even the tech-savviest adult will find this difficult while working from home at the same time — a more common scenario as the coronavirus spreads. Parents who continue to work outside the home when schools are closed will need to arrange child care, where technical help could be scarce.

Even great teachers lack expertise in creating online lessons.

While there are lots of exceptional teachers, not all of them are ready to move their instruction online.

Online lessons need to have more clearly written-out themes and directions for students, said Sarah Giddings, a teacher at WAVE, a high school in Ypsilanti, Mich., that blends online and in-person learning.

“You can be a fantastic teacher, but writing curriculum is hard,” she said.

Students with special needs can be the hardest to teach virtually.

Christopher W. Bakk, a social studies teacher at Turning Point Academy in Racine, Wis., has taught special education students both in-person and remotely, via the Wisconsin eSchool Network.

Some of those students have behavioral issues and thrive online because there are fewer social distractions, he said. But others find it difficult to have less direct access to teachers and peers. “The self-discipline is a struggle,” Mr. Bakk said.

Schools provide more than academic skills.

Even when the devices, Wi-Fi, software, lesson plans and adult supervision are all in place, a lot is lost when schools transition students to remote learning. Many children rely on schools for free or affordable meals, for counseling and for after-school activities while parents work.

When schools are closed, children lose a crucial social outlet. And families, especially those who work in the service sector and cannot easily adjust their schedules, can struggle to find appropriate child care.

“If you think about it, the school is a city we provide to kids,” said Mr. Ridgway. When that city shuts down, he said, no online learning platform can replace all the structure and vibrancy that is lost.

In “Teachers’ Herculean Task: Moving 1.1 Million Children to Online School,” David W. Chen describes the adjustments and challenges that New York City teachers have faced in their first week of teaching from their own homes. He writes:

Gloria Nicodemi is part of a co-teaching team and teaches earth science to ninth and 10th graders, most of them Chinese-Americans qualifying for reduced or free lunch, at East-West School of International Studies in Flushing, Queens.

“It’s only Day 2 but it feels like Week 5,” she said on Tuesday. “This is my 16th year teaching, and I feel like I’m a first-year teacher. The amount of work and new things that I’m encountering on a daily basis is astounding.”

Ms. Nicodemi and her teaching partner opted not to do live video teaching, but rather to post assignments online  at 7 a.m., and then ask students to turn in their work by 5 p.m.

They have made themselves available, with specific office hours, to respond to live questions. They have also set up smaller meetings for groups of five students for more personalized attention. But it has been frustrating that they can’t, say, pull a student out of class for a few minutes and go over something in the hallway.

“We had kids asking, ‘How do I draw on this document?’ and I was like, That’s a really good question,” she said. “I know what I would do, but I don’t think they have the same tools on their computers.”

Ms. Nicodemi said that doing live, scheduled video chats with her students would have been challenging because her own two children, in first and fourth grades, were doing remote learning as well in their two-bedroom apartment.

She also worried, as many teachers do, about the long-term effects of prolonged screen time on young people.

She created a schedule with Post-it notes for herself, her husband and their children, blocking off “Do Not Disturb” hours for herself so she could work with students or colleagues.

Lauri Posner, a longtime fifth-grade teacher at P.S. 87 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, also reported that the first few days were utterly exhausting.

“It was nonstop from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.,” she said. “There’s no way a human being can sustain this.”

After working all weekend, she did a trial run with students on Sunday, cognizant that many households had only one device, shared by parents or siblings.

When Ms. Posner tried to record herself reading a chapter of the book “Under the Egg” on Monday afternoon, the drumbeat of rain on her air-conditioner drowned out her voice.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • How have your first days or weeks of remote learning been? Did you encounter any obstacles in setting up your workspace or getting connected? If you had difficulties, who helped you? Do you feel that you now have everything you need to complete your assignments and learn online? Why or why not?

  • What does remote learning look like for you? Are you having online classes, where you can see and talk to the teacher and other students? How is the workload: too much, too little or just right? Are you able to follow along with what you’re supposed to be learning, or are the assignments too complicated to do at home?

  • Do you have a remote learning routine yet? Are you waking up on time for school days and getting enough sleep? Are you able to stay focused and get your work done, or are distractions causing you to fall behind?

  • School is more than just academics. What do you miss about school life? Do you miss the routines? Seeing your friends? Doing after-school sports and clubs?

  • In the first article, Ms. Goldstein discusses five concerns and warnings about remote learning. Which ones feel most relevant to you and your family?

  • What additional support do you need from your teachers, school, friends or family to make the most out of this shift to remote learning? What else, if anything, can you do to try to make remote learning more successful?

axle is a local Jamaican based virtual classroom platform designed to bring Jamaica and the Caribbean communities educational system online