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Bad eLearning - The Kids Are Not Okay!

I have a problem with my son…he is bored. He has gone from playing competitive soccer 7 days a week and to having school 5 days a week, to doing almost nothing. Although school technically runs until the end of June, given the pandemic (and the labour strike before that), he has had almost no quality schooling this year.

His teachers are now putting some course work on Google Classroom (worksheets that are supposed to be filled-in), but there is little accountability for them being completed and there is almost no feedback when the work is turned in. The online learning is not engaging and he is only getting about 30 minutes of work to do each week. As parents we are left to worry about what happens if this continues into September, will our children lose another year of learning and what (if anything), should we do about this?

In fairness to teachers, they were given little time to plan for an online curriculum and many teachers are/were not familiar with the technology (refer to my previous blog on the “panicology” to move to eLearning given COVID-19). Some teachers were also concerned with the possible privacy issues of offering live synchronous eLearning. Concerns being cited included, fears their teaching sessions were being inadvertently recorded and then posted online, without their knowledge and of course exposing their students names and faces without consent.

Juxtapose these experiences against the private schools that have embraced distance learning and synchronous eLearning, with students attending programming from 9am-1pm every day; with the afternoons devoted to completing assignments. Although private schools have high admission fees and some argue when privileged children are placed together, the resulting output lacks an appropriate amount of 'diversity of thought' (as cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink), it doesn’t change the fact that there is a stunning difference in the amount of hours of education these children are receiving versus the public school system. This article from the New York Times (albeit based on American schools), shows the growing divide in terms of the quality of education and amount of hours of eLearning being provided to children in private versus public schools (and as I've indicated, this divide is similarly being experienced in Canada).

Then of course there is the worry of mental health. What happens to a child’s mental health when there is nothing to do and nothing to look forward to? As children age, no longer can smiley faces and cute incentives be used to get them to do things. They know when there is no accountability or implication for doing something, especially in the teen years. As the summer looms and a possibility of a dreaded 'second COVID-19 wave' remains possible, I am fearful of another wasted school year, as teachers struggle with the technology and a desire to embrace a curriculum facilitated fully online. As a parent, I have agonized with what I should do to keep my child engaged, given his lethargy and my increasing worry about his apathy to do anything.

So this week, I am going to ask him to redesign what the online learning experience should look like for kids of his age. I am going to ask him to share his views of what an ideal distance learning environment would look like, including elements of gamification, virtual reality and the eLearning he has seen. I am even going to see if we can code it together using Storyline, Vyond and gaming engines to actually bring the learning to life.

As parents increasingly suffer with what to do to keep kids engaged during the summer months (given some of the recent cancellations of camps due to COVID), more innovative distance learning is going to be required to keep kids engaged. As eLearning projects steadily rise and the demand for eLearning from colleges, universities, government agencies and not-for-profits continues, teachers will be required to keep pace and to innovate to keep kids engaged.

Teachers must adapt to the reality of this new eLearning world, or I am fearful we risk having an even wider divide between education and skill level of kids coming out of private schools versus public schools. In future blogs, I will share both my thoughts and tips for teachers based on what corporations are doing with eLearning and what new technologies and tools exist to support that learning.

This already happens in corporate environments; so distance and eLearning for children must adapt too, or we risk more than the short term impact to our children's education, we risk the long term impact to their ability to learn. #ElearingToronto, #DevelopingOnlineLearning, #eLearningCompanyToronto

“being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after long and rigorous education and experience” ― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking


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