Teachers brave digital classes as coronavirus closes schools

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Limiting screen time and telling students to keep quiet is a thing of the past, as the coronavirus has many teachers changing notebook boards.

Ten days after going online, a French and Spanish teacher, Constance du Bois, says the current situation “has nothing to do with classroom instruction.”

The 37-year-old Franco-American teaches at the United Nations International School of New York, a private institution with 1,600 students, which is much better equipped than the city. comprehensive schools,

But even at a school that already uses many online communication tools and serves privileged families with easy Internet access, Du Bois says the transition to online learning has not gone without a problem.

Instructors have already begun planning online training in early April after spring break– but these plans sped up when the professor was diagnosed with COVID-19, which currently has infected nearly 5,000 people in the largest US city.

The school closed immediately after studying the positive test – before the online program was ready.

The first difficulties were technical, said Buap Du Bois through a video conference.

“We tested the program with several students, but in reality we were not familiar with the platform,” she said, having just finished a lesson with teenagers aged 14-15 in front of her computer at home in Brooklyn.

“The students had many technical problems, many accidents.”

Even when these foundations were resolved, other, more structural problems appeared.

Isolated students

At first, the platform, called BigBlueButton, did not allow students to see each other, only teacher,

“There was no atmosphere in the classroom,” said Bois. “They really lack the social side.”

"They want to go back to school, they’re tired of not seeing each other … they feel very isolated."

Also, preparing for lessons takes more time, and difficult students are harder to find.

To overcome these difficulties, she divides them into small groups– the platform allows her to break the class into "small virtual rooms."

According to her, this method allows two or three children to see each other and talk to each other.

The school also originally modeled its online timeline on a regular schedule, but teachers quickly realized that “students spend all day in front of the screen, and so do we,” Du Bois said.

Therefore, the school reduced each class from one hour to 40 minutes.

“This is a relief for us, and students suddenly become more focused,” Du Bois said.

Like thousands of teachers around the world, she has no idea how long her school will be closed.

She already knows what she will teach on the Internet, at least until April 20, when schools in New York plan to reopen.

However, some US cities have already announced that they will be closed before the end of the school year.

“There are many teachers who are very concerned that they cannot finish the curriculum,” Du Bois said. “We need to be more flexible early next school year on what students should have achieved by the end of this. "

However, not everything is so bad, as teachers learn to “adapt their methods” to manage online courses.

And she said that the students are doing their job: “Students are very conscientious, connect in time, do their work and participate.”

How to optimize online learning in the era of coronavirus

© AFP 2020

Teachers are brave digital classrooms as the coronavirus closes schools (2020, March 21)
retrieved March 21, 2020
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