Many academic institutions, mostly private, have started online classes, and as expected, we’re seeing a lot of “hiccoughs” related to the opening. Last week I wrote about the blood, sweat, and tears surrounding faculty preparation of the materials — “course packs” was the term we used in UP. The work there isn’t over yet, but I get the feeling some faculty are now suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome from the work!
The other day, Jasmin Romero of ABS-CBN called, asking if I could discuss some of the problems parents have been voicing out. I thought I might as well share some of the “tips” I gave.
But let me start off, wearing my anthropology and linguistics hats, by pointing out again the problem with words used to refer to online learning. I don’t like the terms distance learning and, worse, remote learning for obvious reasons. This is why my column today is about connected learning. After all, even with face-to-face classes, there can be serious disconnects between students and teachers. Conversely, I want to argue that online classes can be more connected at times than the regular classes.
Although online learning is so new in the Philippines, I’ve actually had a headstart of several years. First, I have been homeschooling one of my children for seven years now, which has common characteristics with online learning. Second, I did my PhD with the University of Amsterdam in the 1990s and the European system had very little course work, presuming we were independent enough to study on our own.
The first step is to do some cognitive restructuring. Reconfigure your brain to look at online learning as connected learning. Recognize, too, that your reservations (resentments) are coming from the sense that is going to take up too much of your time, especially from work. But I’m going to try, in this very short column, to show you that online connected learning might actually save you and your children some time.
Second, you and your children need to have structure, with fixed schedules to study, as they would in school. Appreciate the greater flexibility with having your kids studying at home. For example, children who are night owls (common with teenagers) can start somewhat later in the day (but not at night, which would keep you up). Declaring study time is important, including a policy of no cellphones and other distractions during those periods.
The older children can learn to divide up their study time with goals in mind. For example, today, let’s finish chapter 3 in the math book. Or, let’s start an outline for the required term paper.
Notice I’m using “let’s,” but older children can be pretty much on their own. Set goals, and possibly learning objectives, together with them. Develop the habit of looking at the topic for the day’s lessons and asking “pre-questions”: What would I like to learn today? With older children, you can then leave them on their own.
Third, make sure good study habits are in place, and the most important one is this: Take notes. Even in the pre-pandemic era, young people tended to just sit and listen to the lecture, occasionally taking out their cameras to shoot what you have on the whiteboard, or to ask for your PowerPoint. Note-taking is important because by writing, you connect hand and brain and enhances the learning process, almost like depositing the learning materials in your head. It’s so effective you might find it unnecessary to go back to the book, the lecture, or even to your notes.
Fourth, focus—one task at a time. Don’t jump from one subject to another, or one unfinished chapter to another. Remind your children to connect the topics.
Fifth, maintain intellectual honesty. Jasmin said there’s a new term now, “distance cheating,” where parents think they’re saving time by answering the assignments for students. This is self-deception. In the long run, the student becomes dependent on you, unable to answer more difficult assignments. It’s all right to help the student, to offer tips on the answer, but let them discover the processes that lead to the answers. You might even find yourself learning, from your kids, new ways of getting to the answer.
Finally, keep working on motivation, parents and children encouraging each other. In UP Diliman’s website, you’ll find a guide for remote learning that includes a hashtag: “hindi ito forever.” That’s good motivation, too.
Appreciate the time you have together. When the time comes for the kids to go back to school, you might even miss them and the online classes!
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