Author: J. Marshall Beier
(MENAFN – The Conversation) The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked public debate about the value of online learning for elementary school students. Much of this dialogue has been negative, focusing on the experiences children miss by not attending in-person classes.
In an effort to learn more about distance education at the elementary level, we collected data from those with the most direct experiences – parents, students and teachers – in the form of a survey and ‘interviews.
As we suspected, we have found that the situation with online schooling is more complex than just ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – and public dialogue does not tell the whole story. We think it’s important to ask for whom and when online learning is a good fit.
Parent, student and teacher surveys
We are a team of multidisciplinary researchers interested in children’s rights and education who collaborate with community partners to better understand how to improve the equitable delivery of engaging educational experiences.
Through our program, McMaster Children and Youth University (MCYU), McMaster faculty and students from different faculties and departments deliver public lectures and community workshops designed to appeal to children, youth and families.
We recruited participants through email participation requests distributed in conjunction with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to those who experienced distance learning in the 2020-2021 school year.
It is important to consider: for whom and when is e-learning a good solution? (Pexels / Valéry) Before the pandemic
Online education existed in limited formats long before the pandemic and has been invaluable for some students and specific circumstances.
In 2010, research of national studies of school district administrators in the United States found that the majority of “Kindergarten to Grade 12 online learning is conducted at the high school level where students are older. and begin to flourish socially and emotionally ”. He also found that the “fundamental reason K-12 schools offer online and blended learning is to meet the unique needs of a variety of students” – and that online learning is useful for offering courses that are not otherwise available in schools and for reducing scheduling conflicts.
Students in remote areas, hospitalized students, incarcerated students, elite athletes, students with severe anxiety, and students who learn differently are also among those who have often benefited from distance learning.
What the students, the families said
While this year’s version of e-learning should be contextualized as “emergency distance education,” many have found benefits to the format nonetheless.
Specifically, some students found the lack of bullying, peer pressure, and social anxiety to be a welcome change that allowed them to focus more on learning.
Others mentioned the comfort of being at home, the reduction in stress around the morning rush hour, the extra time to sleep, the increased time spent with family, and the ability to eat and have fun. toilet breaks at will, all of which contribute to a more fruitful learning environment.
Fewer obstacles, a safer learning environment
A parent of a child with a physical disability mentioned that their child preferred online learning because “their physical disabilities are not as much of a barrier to inclusion as they are in person.” This student was already using a computer to learn, so he felt like he no longer stood out as “different”.
In fact, unlike in-person experience, they were able to take on a leadership role that was previously inaccessible to them. As explained by the parent:
In another example, a parent mentioned his relief knowing that his child will not face racism in school: “The racism is there, the bullying is there in the schools for brown children. So stay away from school and study[ing] de la maison has helped children to be safe and free from bullying and racism.
Read more: Battling racial prejudice, black homeschooled families
As a result, not all families are eager to return to in-person education, and many choose to pursue distance learning regardless of public health recommendations.
For some students, staying home meant being free from bullying and racism. (Shutterstock) Some missed social interactions
Of course, that’s not to say that the transition to virtual learning has been a perfect fit for everyone. Many parents, students and teachers spoke of the negative issues associated with online learning.
Most notably, participants highlighted the lack of social interaction, limited physical exercise, increased screen time, and technical issues, all of which contribute to an overall negative experience.
Variation of experiences is perhaps the very lesson that should emerge from this unique year: Learners need many strategies and opportunities to learn effectively, and we should be skeptical of any single model or even a unique model. – most models.
Include children in conversations
Additionally, it’s important to include kids in conversations about what’s best for them.
At the start of the pandemic, leaders like the Prime Ministers of Canada, Denmark and Norway made direct appeals to children in their countries recognizing the importance of their participation.
But as we can see from reviewing the debates over deciding to return to in-person learning, children’s voices have been largely overlooked.
Read more: World Children’s Day: Young people deserve to be heard during COVID-19
The failures of traditional classes
Based on our early findings, we caution against arguments that only support the need to quickly return to classrooms in person, as these arguments glorify traditional learning environments and reinforce the idea that they are. ideal for everyone. Our team continues to work on several articles related to equity and barriers to education that will be published based on this research.
Read more: Schools after the coronavirus: seize the ‘teachable moments’ on racism and inequalities
Rather than using this moment to make a definitive call for distance education for elementary school students, we should think about how we can be creative and reinvent classroom formats to better meet all students where they are. are found.
We are not advocating giving up efforts to be inclusive and address power dynamics in the classroom. Rather, we need to address the reality that witnessing a positive experience in this alternative format demonstrates the need for multiple approaches.
Conversations about what post-COVID schooling looks like must take into account that traditional learning formats often fail among marginalized students. We need to create opportunities to strengthen learning formats and processes that benefit students facing barriers to education through traditional schooling and teaching.
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