Just one good thing brought about by emergency distance learning
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has never really been a focal point of the SEAS project, we’ve all had to reckon with the disturbances and outcomes of the waves of infections. Other research will most certainly dive deep into the lessons learned from it, specifically in education.
For now, one good thing that may have arisen from the long stretches of distance learning is the opportunity to practice and manage independent learning.
The open schooling intervetion planned in the Estonian local network of SEAS had originally been designed to be face-to-face and the teaching plan included many hands-on and in-person activities. As distance learning became the new norm, the local educators at Energy Discovery Centre (EDC) moved on to online applications, video calls, instant messaging etc to facilitate the meetings. “The methodology part gave us a headache,” remarked one educator. In 2020/2021 one of the educators was working both in school as well in EDC - from that connection we learned that teachers were ready and willing to share the best practices and tools for distance learning, and that quite a few of the methods could be applied to the open schooling intervention as well. EDC definitely gained new experiences and a new level of competency with working with students via online applications.
How did it go for the students? In a survey done by Tallinn University (1), 27% of Estonian students were worse off while learning from a distance. The teachers noted that they had to deal with learning difficulties twice as often as usual. On the other hand, a third of all students felt that distance learning suited them better than learning in a physical classroom did before.
Was (is?) distance learning a good thing? It can be, if all students have equal opportunities to participate.
Here’s what an EDC educator had to say about it: “In a way I really like this emergency distance learning that had to be adopted by the schools. Our students are very dependent on their teacher and going to school. They seldom do their homework or anything by themselves, actually. So there might be a certain day of the week or month even dedicated to independent learning. On the one hand, that learning is guided by the student herself, she can plan her learning day as she sees fit. On the other hand, she learns to learn by herself, how to manage her time and so on. I think that’s very important. Even if we’re finally back in schools, I think we should keep one day without classes, there doesn’t need to be a Zoom class that day either. Some schools have done that before the pandemic. I think it should start early on, perhaps from grade 4 (10-year-olds). They should be able to do things by themselves then, not overly rely on their parents or someone else.”
- Tammets, K. et al (2021). Eriolukorrast tingitud distantsõppe kogemused ja mõju Eesti üldharidussüsteemile. Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikool https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/tlu_raport_distantsope_yldharidus.pdf
The SEAS blog focuses on current research and activities in the intersection between scientific literacy, open schooling and sustainability challenges when students collaborate with families and stakeholders from civil society and industry in becoming agents of community well-being.