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Posts Tagged ‘Art of teaching’

USA Today Article Describes Alice-in-Wonderland Reality of Remote Learning

June 29, 2020 Leave a comment

Given the mainstream media’s overriding narrative that public education is “failing” children, I am not surprised to see articles like the one Erin Richards wrote for USA Today beginning to emerge. The article describes the “hell” parents went through in the Spring when schools closed due to the COVID 19 outbreak and schools instituted remote learning. Had the article stuck to the heroic efforts parents made in response to the pandemic, it would have been fine. But the article seemed to insinuate that somehow this situation was the teachers’ fault and that they should be expected to ramp up their online skills so that parents can go back to their lives. The jabs are subtle put persistent.

After noting in one of the opening paragraphs that despite the best efforts of teachers, virtual learning didn’t work”, Ms Richards goes on to state that even though some kind of remote learning is likely to take place next year, teachers are not getting ready for it:

Many reopening plans rely on hybrid learning schedules, where students attend school on alternating days or weeks and learn from home on the other days, on a computer where feasible.

Yet America’s educators know little about how to improve the online learning experience – and they’re spending almost no time or energy trying to figure it out before the fall term starts.

This is a cheap shot at the teachers, most of whom were as weary as parents at the conclusion of the school year and many of whom had their own children to teach at home as well. Moreover, as Ms. Richards goes on to explain, the TEACHERS know little because research on virtual learning is virtually non-existent. And despite the fact that they have failed mightily, Ms. Richards looks to online charter schools for guidance on how to educate children remotely because, despite their abysmal track record, their business is booming!

Still, business is up at virtual charters since the pandemic began, said company leaders at Connections Academy and K12 Inc., which power a majority of virtual charters in America.

They attributed low achievement and graduation rates over the years to low-achieving students transferring in from traditional schools.

“Less than 20% of students who come to us are learning at the grade level they entered,” said Nate Davis, CEO of K12.

So if the charters on doing poorly because they can’t educate unmotivated students, why should we assume that they will do any better when they are educating ALL students? Well… the charter school leaders have the answer to that question:

For other students, particularly those with a committed parent in the home, virtual schooling can be highly tailored and effective, said Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections.

“There’s a critical role the family plays,”she said. “When kids are little you need that adult presence. And they need to be communicating with that child’s teacher on a regular basis.”

So we’ve come full circle: the parents wish they didn’t have to teach would do more; the media wishes the teachers would do more and look to charters; the charters claim they will work if parents are engaged. Somewhere there is a rabbit with a close who is late for a very important date!

After describing all of the personal and personnel challenges districts face with remote learning, which include the renegotiation of contracts and overworked administrators struggling with logistical issues, Ms. Richards describes another Alice-in-Wonderland reality: computer and internet access.

Even if teachers could be trained to do it better, virtual learning would still have a glaring accessibility problem. The households least likely to have the two things necessary for quality virtual learning to take place — a computer and high-speed internet — are low-income households. And those households are the places where children fell behind the most in spring 2020.

At least 15 million out of America’s more than 50 million schoolchildren live in homes without access to a computer, or without access to high-speed internet, according to a new national report released today that tries to quantify the extent of the so-called “homework gap.”

And about 300,000 to 400,000 teachers also lacked access to computers or high-speed Internet, the study estimated.

I couldn’t begin to describe the byzantine world of internet provision in a short paragraph… but suffice it to say I do not have access to high speed internet because the only cable company’s feed stops .4 miles from my home and I’ve been trying for eight years to get it connected and learned that the problems have to do with ownership of poles, the Public Utilities Board, and the lack of residences along the stretch of road I live on. I was heartened at the outset of the pandemic to see a truck from a cable provider moving methodically down our road only to learn that the last stretch of the connection was impossible because of the height of a pole owned by the electric company… or was it the phone company? To make a long story short, the electric company is now installing higher poles in strategic locations which MIGHT make it possible for me to gain access to high speed internet from a single provider. I haven’t been able to get a handle on the cost because the line isn’t installed yet. I offer this convoluted personal experience to illustrate that even IF Congress passed a bill to provide the estimated $6,000,000,000 needed for high speed internet it wouldn’t come our way any time soon. And while the current internet service providers and anti-government libertarians might cringe to read this, I think that the government might have been able to provide the service a lot faster and a lot cheaper.

Staff Development is Always the First to Go When Budgets are Cut… It Should Be Last

June 28, 2020 Leave a comment

MOOCs Not Measuring Up… A Bad Harbinger for ALL On Line Learning

June 22, 2020 Leave a comment

Forbes writer Derek Newton offered an overview of the most comprehensive study to date on Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, and the title summarizes the results: The “Depressing” and “Disheartening” News About MOOCs”. The early findings on MOOCs were depressing and disheartening. While enrollments in these online courses offered by prestigious professors from “brand” colleges were massive, the completion rates for the courses were embarrassingly low… sometimes in single digits and seldom, if ever, above 20%. The MOOC advocates, though, figured that the problem was the need to develop self-regulation through interventions, which struck me as a good way to improve completion rates. So, a team of nine researchers did a comprehensive study tracking 250,000 students over two years and, alas for advocates of online learning, that wasn’t the case:

In particular, the authors tried tactics such as self-regulation interventions, long-term planning prompts and social interventions – tactics that had been proven to impact social behaviors such as voting and keeping doctor’s appointments. The study tried five different interventions, none worked.

Oops! Derek Newton’s conclusion is that this study probably clouds the future for ALL remote learning, even though he did not see the findings applicable:

Throughout the survey, the authors conflate MOOCs with all online learning, which is likely misplaced. It appears they studied MOOCs exclusively, and they are different. But if it’s right that their findings apply more generically to “online learning environments,” the news is even worse.

Even as printed, the news pretty bad. As long as completion rates remain bad for MOOCs, they will retain their reputation as an education afterthought – something that’s not quite college, not going to be revolution it was promised to be.  And that, in turn, has long-term implications for those who want an education and those who invest in education like a business.

The study DID find one aspect of learning that COULD have a bearing on the future development of courses: “People who want to complete their MOOC class will. Those who don’t, won’t.” Because Forbes is primarily a business magazine, this was viewed as bad news for “for those who invested in or continue to promote MOOCs“.

But for those who still believe human beings are more effective than algorithms when it comes to inculcating a desire to learn and determining the topics that a student is passionate about, it is unequivocally good news. If it turns out that MOOCs are good for students who want to complete them then there is a clear role for remote learning in schools. If there is a clear incentive for completion, as there is for students seeking a driver’s license, then students will persist. Lacking such an incentive, however, students will lack a clear desire to finish a course and will fail.

The bottom line: the art of teaching is not the coverage of material or preparing students for a test that, in their estimate, is pointless. It is connecting with students on a deep level to gain an understanding of what the STUDENT wants to learn and then providing that student with the tools to do so…. because, in the words of Derek Newton and the researchers: People who want to complete their MOOC class will.