COVID-19 has metaphorically put us in self-driving cars traveling at the speed of light on superhighways. It goes without saying that the road has been a bit bumpy for many of us. Advancements in online learning have helped us manage the chaos and keep learning going, but at what cost?
Education has hurtled forward with the aim of equipping students and classrooms with the latest ed-tech gadgets and services.
Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, has been studying how students use technology and how technology affects the self and our ability to learn and communicate socially. In her research, Sherry says that “technology has become like a phantom limb, it is so much a part of them(students). These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them.”
Her research points out that as students use more technology, they have fewer social interactions and connections. This, she argues, is happening even before isolation and online learning are spurred from COVID-19.
Fewer face-to-face interactions could have potentially devastating effects on a person’s ability to hold meaningful conversations and deepen social relationships.
Sherry explains that texting, instant messaging, and email are forms of communication that you can turn on or off at will. But in contrast, “life is a conversation, and you need places to have it. The virtual provides us with more spaces for these conversations, and these are enriching. But what makes the physical so precious is that it supports continuity differently; it doesn’t come and go and binds people to it. You can’t just log off or drop out.”
Online learning and digital communication aren’t going anywhere soon. So how do we find balance with the use of digital communication and maintain essential connections away from the screen?
The past two years of learning online have certainly brought up many challenges. Still, it has also brought us many new opportunities to connect in ways that we hadn’t previously imagined. For example, how else could we have seen Yo-yo Ma deliver cello performances from his living room or watch Patrick Stewart read sonnets from his porch?
Like most things in life, striking a balance is vital. In a recent survey, 165 college-level students were asked their preference for face-to-face classes going into the new school year. Overall, 29% of these students reported a strong preference for face-to-face attendance. 25% of the students stated they would prefer “some face-to-face” courses, and 46% said they would not attend face-to-face classes until the COVID-19 pandemic resolves.
These results don’t represent all opinions, but it will require a balanced approach between face-to-face classes and online classes in the future.
One solution considered by schools is Blended Learning, which combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. While this is a viable solution, it presents unique challenges, especially when providing support and training for teachers.
Blended Learning Researchers cite several basic requirements for implementing a thriving blended learning environment:
- Well trained teachers
- Technological support
- Flexibility in the system
- Teachers with a wider outlook and positive approach towards change
BSD Education understands the need for balanced approaches to technology learning and provides solutions for schools. These include face-to-face learning, online or blended environments. So if you are looking for a comprehensive Digital Skills curriculum and platform, let us know how we can help.