Schools could not have face to face learning for nearly 6 weeks since March, which is the first month for the year and it is almost similar in most of countries in the world. Online learning substituted regular classroom activities. During that time, without students in classrooms, what happened? Here is the story from Korea, mainly for k-12 education, from the perspectives of teachers, infrastructure preparation, students, parents, bureaucrats.
Teachers panicked at first, just waiting for guidelines from the higher administrative institutes such as educational provincial office or the ministry of education. Teachers tried to use ICT [Information & Communications Technology] for content delivery and communication gradually, but covid19 did not allow much time for teachers to prepare for the sudden change in the learning environment. They were busy keeping students online following the timetable which is similar to those used during the regular time.
They were just too busy to keep the business as usual and had no time to try out new innovations. Gradually, when they became comfortable with the new instruction methods and realized the potential of online learning (which can compliment off line learning), they became quite creative.
Infrastructure for online learning: content were provided from the database of instructional multimedia developed by KERIS and EBS. Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) invited a few very talented teachers to record teaching and open to the nationwide classrooms. Korea Educational Resources and Information System [KERIS] also provided content and software for online learning. But students wanted to see their own teacher on the video content. Also the ministry promotes the idea of developing content by the teacher, directly. Many teachers tried hard (spent many hours) learning how to design script and instructional design to create EBS-like quality content. But teachers realized that they cannot quickly match those professional video development skills.
WiFi school installation was accelerated. The original plans were to complete this work by 2023.
Three instructional models were provided: two way synchronous communication using video conferencing system, project based self guided instruction, and lastly, providing multimedia content. The first synchronous model requires more ICT resources than other two models but is a more familiar instruction to teachers and students as the model resembles what teachers do in the regular classroom. Two other models are asynchronous and they allow more flexibility to students and teachers. The instructional models propose many significant questions for education. Are those an extension of what we do in school? How can we include some innovative approaches? Why do students have to go to online classes for 5 days as if they were in classrooms? Can they choose what they want to learn and produce results for their own interests? Those instructional models can be (or will be) used when schools open for campus based learning? Or how can we implement the experience from online learning instructional model into the regular classroom instruction?
Students received instructional content and information from any form of learning platform. Students have to focus on screen for many hours a day, every day. It is very tiring and they could not be alert, doing time on task for that many hours. But students could communicate with teachers more aggressively than before. Teachers could recognize student presence by sending texts or questions, or even very simple responses. It all could make teachers pay attention to all students, which was not possible during the face to face learning situation. Students shared their IT knowledge with teachers and it created a more democratic culture in classrooms.
Students miss the interaction with friends, talking, giggling, hustle and bustle. They miss the time to learn social skills from the collaborative physical gathering.
Parents, particularly those who have young children, should stay home to support those little ones’ learning and support their time management. Also another big job on top of the extended babysitting time, was cooking three meals. All Korean students eat free warm food for lunch at school. Parents realized that the role of school is not for only learning but many other functions. Those who cannot share time with their children are usually from the low socio-economic background. It can generate the same class descent, by having not enough time to care of children, economic power to provide IT facilities, and knowledge to support children’s learning.
Given this new normal life in education, I would like to ask a few issues and try to find solutions with you.
Question1: equity issue
Students could previously obtain support from the school but during this online learning, how can we support students with their learning time management needs?
Careful use of IT (Use of background picture for Zoom use)
Students who do not have adults to help them
Students who are disabled physically
Question2: changed role for teachers and schools
What is the function of schools?
If knowledge delivery is done by star teachers and other professional institutes, what is the role for teachers?
New identity for teachers
Question3: golden opportunity to implement educational visions?
Customized individualized learning and self directed learning have been the educational goal for many years. Those skills should be emphasized more for the future when lifelong learning becomes essential for everyone. It has been only dream of big educational thinkers but the present educational system cannot allow students to practice self guided learning, or individualized learning effectively. Covid19 provides the opportunity to practice such vision? If we do not practice now, when can we do it?
Question4: post covid19 and education
When we go back to face to face education, will education go back to the same traditional one?