Special STEM Section
Special STEM Section
When 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic erupted amid a burgeoning digital culture, many schools had to make quick adjustments from typical classroom instruction to remote teaching and learning. As some of the country’s governors mandated the closure of schools due to serious mounting health issues, crucial educational decisions were made and remote learning became the norm. Schools were free to choose the platform they used to communicate with their students (Zoom®, Google Classroom®, Google Hangout®, Schoology®, Big Blue Button®, Microsoft Teams®, etc.), and instructional time requirements were set at the discretion of each individual school district. In one state, the time requirement varied from two-and-a-half to six hours daily for elementary schools. A search for information on state departments of education websites revealed that some states did not suggest, let alone mandate, minimum or maximum amounts of instructional time via remote learning.
The purpose of this article is to highlight successes elementary teachers had during the pandemic’s remote learning situations and to create an awareness of non-efficient processes that educators should consider in a long-term remote learning situation. Issues regarding preparedness for remote learning and considerations for both educators and families are discussed. Examples of remote instructional lessons are provided as well.
During the pandemic, novice and experienced teachers with varied technology abilities created lessons for at-home responses and interactions of their students. The notion often arose during distance learning regarding which was more important: teachers’ pedagogical practices or their technological proficiency. It became quite apparent that teachers with years of experience with pedagogy and instructional practices were adept at handling the curriculum portion of what needed to be taught. Conversely, less experienced teachers may not have been as well versed with curriculum and instructional practices; however, they may have been more adept at using the technology more efficiently and productively.
Some school entities attempted to offer crash courses with the use of technology for distance learning and it often became a “trial by fire” situation. Because remote learning had to be put into action, there was a narrow window for schools’ professional development opportunities. Those learning opportunities seemed to be incidental in nature according to teachers’ perceived needs. However, the fire erupted when teachers’ specific technology needs required an immediate solution. When technology issues arose during planning time or during the actual remote instruction, colleagues relied on each other to troubleshoot. For example, if students were unable to open links during instruction, they relied on their teachers (or parents) to help quickly alleviate the problem so they could go on with their assignments. Early on, that type of problem was a disruption to instruction in the remote teaching process until teachers could determine how to permanently fix the problem.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction
Synchronous learning is a form of instruction in which students learn from teachers in real time, but not in the same place. Both students and teachers use a digital Internet format for synchronous learning and often interact throughout the instructional session. During asynchronous learning, Internet access is also required for users, however, the instruction does not occur in the same time or the same place. Students are able to attend their lessons at their own choosing of time and place, and therefore control their learning process independently (Offir, Lev, & Bezalel, 2008).