I have two boys enrolled in York Regional District School Board (YRDSB). Both are in high school, Kalen is in grade 9 and Jason is in grade 11. As with their peers both had to accommodate their learning habits in the new age of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both have recorded their experience during this crisis, and you can read their perspectives:
As an observer of their new habits during the pandemic I noticed the following things:
- We have to impose a strict schedule that mirrors a regular school day. For example, they have to wake up no later than 9am, and must conduct their studies from 9am to 3pm. They have a lunch break which last between 30 minutes to an hour, and they can use their own discretion to take 15 minute breaks throughout this period. However, if we notice the breaks are being abused, then they are persuaded to continue with their assigned curriculum. This was followed for about 6 weeks, but since Ontario has decided to cancel the remaining school year, the start time of this schedule is slowly creeping to 10am instead of 9am. Without this imposed schedule discipline, they will continue to sleep in until the afternoon.
- In subject areas where they are challenged and find the online learning medium to be insufficient of their needs, we hired tutors from Superprof.ca. Even though the tutoring sessions are still remote, the technology employed by the tutors offer a more one on one and real-time access to the material and help. In contrast, all most all the remote learning from YRDSB is based on material delegation. Students are expected to check for online updates and materials, and follow reference links to other self-learning materials, such as power points and PDF documents. Assistance can be obtained through commenting systems or online forums. Although both of my sons are dealing with the situation I think for most students, this is simply woefully inadequate. A live video conferencing medium I think will go a long way here.
- The technology employed is under-utilized or insufficient and on the whole subpar to the contemporary online tools that today’s businesses are employing to assist telecommuting. Most teachers are simply inexperienced on how to manage a remote group atmosphere. Students may have the impression that the teachers themselves are being cavalier, so they adopt the attitude of, “Why should I care?”
- Group cohesion that is typically experienced within a classroom has disappeared entirely, because no one has access to standardized technology to get together in a live fashion.
- The learning motivation has disappeared, since most students feel a lack of recognition for the work that they do put in. Positive enforcements are hard to convey when it is not live.
Like all of us, the Covid-19 situation has caught all of us off guard and many find ourselves unprepared for the crisis. Therefore, it is understandable that our education system falls short in trying to attain the same level of education with the students in a remote setting. In hindsight, it was a good effort, but the goal is simply too ambitious and not enough resources, training, and support to achieve it.
I am not complaining, but simply taking this opportunity to note the observations that were experienced by both Jason and Kalen. I hope by articulating our experiences here, we can help the movers and shakers at YRDSB to formulate an enhanced strategy for the Fall of 2020, as I fear the current situation will continue to persist until a vaccine is widely available.