Another weekend morning having conversations on topics I'm curious on.  This time with me is Teacher Jess (my best friend) and Mdm Mok (my mom). They both have 8 years and 30 years of experience respectively, with about 100 students and 75 students to educate this year.

What has your experience been like in 2020 for your teaching and learning?

Mdm Mok was among the many who have been propelled into online learning.  Although she has experience using technology for creating and curating materials for her classroom, but using a virtual learning environment is something quite new for her and her students.  However, accessibility was the biggest issue among her students.  Teacher Jess is more familiar with online platforms for learning, but trainings were brief and setup of any platform was tedious and was expected to be self-initiated.  But her students also face the same challenge as Mdm Mok's, accessibility to internet and devices are scarce. So both prefer transitioning into remote learning via a simple mobile chatting space and found it easier to engage and interact with their learners that way too.

For students, they also definitely got slingshot into online learning and many are trying to figure out the ethics behind online learning as well.  We chatted about funny stories like seeing students still laying in bed while video calling into a group discussion.

Learning now (remotely) is definitely more time consuming.

Understanding the need to adapt alongside her students, asynchronous learning is Mdm Mok's go-to teaching and learning method.  She has to now provide more explicit instructions and try out different approaches in delivering her learning materials to her students.  She has also tried adding audio recording into her powerpoint slides to emulate her lesson in a classroom (which she mentioned as helpful for her students). What she noticed was how much more personalised feedback she can provide to each of her learners through remote & asynchronous learning.  Communication and rapport with her students has also increased due to the frequency of interactions within her classes' group chats.  As an English teacher, she actually found chatting to be beneficial for her students cos now they are forced to practise the language even more.  Furthermore, all of her students could participate in an online lesson/group chat compared to only allowing a few students to respond in class due to time constraint.

Life of a teacher: In her PJs, while ensuring her phone has charge, sending written notes to her students when she was on holiday.

Learners' behaviour and attitude play a huge part in ensuring learning continues well, as remote interaction is a two-way street. It ain't going to be easy, as students now have a choice of not responding.  Missing visual cues from what she can usually get in a physical classroom, Teacher Jess has to now put in extra effort in engaging her students, especially if she notices that some seem to be left behind or respond less in her chats.  Engaging students personally may reveal different challenges students are facing and enable her to adjust her approach to deliver learning for her students.  Sometimes, a 1-to-1 message is all a student need to feel confident in sharing more personal barriers in their coping to this unfamiliar way of learning.

Nothing can replace face-to-face teaching and learning. There are social elements and different pedagogical approaches that are cannot be done via online learning.  But perhaps we can do rotation of online and face-to-face learning!

Tracking of learning is crucial in ensuring each students are being given sufficient attention and also ensuring accountability of learning for both the teacher and the students.  For Mdm Mok, this tracking helps her ensure all students are constantly engaging in her lessons and enable her to provide intervention or 'a nudge' to students who may need it.  Teacher Jess also believes that data drives instruction. Her tracking has even enabled her students to self-review their own learning progress, gradually releasing learning responsibility to her learners. She also elicits feedback from her student for these information can be valuable to iterate and improve learning experiences for both her and her learners.  However, both of them thinks the reports required to be written up and submitted to higher management to prove their productivity are actually counter-productive.

Redundant reporting is unnecessary and shows mistrust of our educators.

Has perspective on what and how to educate changed?

Many thought that with remote, online, asynchronous learning what not, people's minds have changed in terms what is actually the value of education, what is being taught or learnt, and especially the value and implementation of assessment. However, our education system is still exam-centric.  Hence it is still hard to provide autonomy to the educators to be creative and develop globally competitive learners.  It may have evolved from summative to formative evaluation, but ultimately, because tertiary education still requires a summative result to gauge learners' competency for university intake, schools are still pushed to provide summative assessment reports of sort.  Even parents are requesting for "my child's results".  Nonetheless, there is still a lot of potential in how students can be assessed (and how a teacher is assessed too *wink).  That said, unless someone up top is courageous enough to change the end goal of education and how it is implemented, we still have a long way to go.

It requires a systemic change and someone courageous enough to change what education is for and how it is done.

So do you now have a preference on how you'd like to teach?

But by the end of the conversation, both agreed that it doesn't matter how they do it.  What matters are the learners.   So as educators, they just need to adapt and deliver what is necessary to ensure their students are ready for life.  Discovering the many ways to educate can be enlightening as well! So why not educate in school AND from home?!

There are 100 ways to learn and 100 ways to teach.

Takeaways and reminders:

You are not alone as educators.  Remember to take care of yourself. Take time to reset and ensure your response-ability is met. There's always a silver lining to things, so be positive and find ways to appreciate this "new normal".

Teachers think they should educate in school AND from home

Watch or listen to our rambles to get a feel of our thoughts, and comment if you can relate or think otherwise.

p/s: Any organisation or people named in this podcast are solely train of thoughts of the speakers and we mean no harm to anyone or anything associated with it. =P

Educate: in school or from home? Any preference?