Dive Brief:

  • Simone Kern, a former teacher, principal and district-level administrator who is now a Montessori-at-home parent, suggests in a piece for Edutopia that a school-like structure not be imposed on students’ time as they struggle to adjust to the impact of the novel coronavirus on their lives. Instead, she writes, students should be allowed to try more self-directed, and potentially deeper, activities.
  • Kern encourages educators and parents now facilitating that role to create more time for self-discovery, whether that’s running a science experiment with objects found around the home or encouraging students to craft a picture book based on what they learned from an assigned reading.
  • Even household chores can be an educational opportunity, Kern notes, as they can teach fine motor skills, problem-solving with tools and even work ethic.

Dive Insight:

The use of self-directed learning has certainly grown as school sites nationwide have physically closed during the novel coronavirus outbreak. But adopting this style of education is certainly not a simple transition. When used in a physical classroom, teachers and peers are available just inches away to offer support. Isolated online at home, students must operate more independently. Yes, they can text and video chat for help — but not all students have the same access to online tools.

Some students who are more self-directed by nature will likely have less of a learning curve than others as they transition to independent learning. But even they may need some breathing space as the traditional school day, in many cases, has now been upended. While some classrooms may be holding live sessions, others are having students log in to recorded classes. Families in many cases are being asked to create their own structure.

Students, then, not only need time to master online teaching tools, but the new approach to the school day. ISTE, for example, has made this point, recognizing that the shift to online is a big adjustment and suggesting students be asked to check in just twice a day, giving them, and their families, some flexibility on how to structure their time.

Even college campuses are suggesting professors give students breathing space to get used to this new learning mode, as Johns Hopkins University recently reported. And at the University of Texas at Austin, professors are encouraged to create peer groups online so students can find and work with each other more easily.

As educators need time to adjust to their new roles as online instructors, so too do their pupils. In the end, giving everyone the room to learn how to study online may be one of the best lessons teachers can offer right now.

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