The 10 keys to surviving in school ‘online’


The pandemic that hits us has interrupted the normal functioning of schools and has caused more than 900 million students to have been affected by the closure of classrooms from March until now, when the return to classes is gradual but irregular.

A long period of time in which the centers, suddenly closed, and their teachers have had to organize their teaching remotely , through access to telematic platforms and, in the case of Latin America, for example, also through the radio and television.

Despite the effort and the undoubted and strong will of the teachers that the educational process of their students should not be interrupted, the truth is that this emergency situation, not only health, but also educational, has caused problems to emerge. those that the educational system must face, even some that it seemed that it had relatively controlled.

On the one hand, the necessary connection and device provisions that many families cannot yet have. Nothing that the Administration cannot resolve with will. On the other hand, it has been shown that the levels of digital competence of teachers in most parts of the world are not yet the necessary in this type of situation, and that citizen digital competence still has a long way to go.

Students were not used to this intensive use of technology to learn and have had to adapt as they could and without time; and families have often doubted what their role should be and whether teachers were fulfilling theirs, mainly because of their little experience in so-called online education or, in a situation of still distant normality, hybrid educational models .

Some in this process have discovered that non-face-to-face education does not only mean entering the students’ home through a videoconference. Others have realized that this much vilified as online teaching was something more complex and that it required more preparation and dedication to be able to do it well.

These problems cannot be solved immediately, but perhaps they can be alleviated with some recommendations. The partial confinements of students will happen in our schools throughout this academic year, but that does not mean that they should interrupt their training, or that they stop interacting with their peers.

Recommendations for teachers and families

The Edul @ b research group , made up of teachers who are experts in the use of technologies in education, has provided some recommendations that may be useful, both to teachers for their application, and to families to understand the fact that we are living, thus helping the common goal that is to continue with the education of boys and girls.

These are the ten recommendations that can help you move more smoothly to higher quality online education :

  1. Selection of the most suitable system and work tools. Appropriate to the ages of the students and usable in the devices they already use regularly. It is a good idea to provide tutorials so that everyone, including families, will find it easy to apply.
  2. Organization of the students . Help students to self-organize with advice on the workspace at home, to impose a routine that helps them or to establish mechanisms to identify the beginning and end of each of the activities. Families can help grow the personal autonomy of their sons and daughters, in proportion to their ages.
  3. Redesign the course. Generate clear work sequences that have a specific duration over several days, and in which students perceive the teaching accompaniment. For example, with an opening video, a short video conference at the end, and a couple of messages during the week.The permanent communication spaces (Telegram, WhatsApp, forum in the digital space) are also helpful, making sure to always respond to each student and to do so by name. It is important to note that not all activities must meet teachers and students at the same time, but the flexibility of asynchrony must be exploited.
  4. Develop a set of activities with teaching resources that help students to solve them. Use, where possible, images, diagrams or maps to capture their attention and surprise them. Divide them into short sub-activities (between 10 and 15 minutes) and encourage them to participate. The activities must be done by the students, and for this they can contact, speak, write to each other, interact with other classmates. This is not wasting time, it is building learning together.
  5. Associate a set of resources with activities. There is open content that is available in the different repositories available to teachers. They can also develop resources for their students, individually or with other colleagues, and disseminate them so that other colleagues can reuse them.
  6. Create dynamics of active interaction in the virtual environment to keep students connected and motivated. Offer tools that facilitate collaborative work (Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.). It is also a good idea to design some synchronous situations, the essential ones, if they are short and with very clear objectives. It is important to note that videoconference sessions should not last more than 25-30 minutes maximum, without focusing on “teaching the lesson”, but rather on solving doubts and clarifying concepts.
  7. Explain the model and the evaluation criteria. Continuous assessment facilitates monitoring of students and provides valuable information. It should be as diversified as possible: different types of evaluation activities, with different actors. In addition to the teacher, students can assess each other and self-assess. The important thing is that they have more information about what they already know how to do and, above all, what they still don’t know how to do well. The evaluation must have formative utility, and not be an end in itself.
  8. Generate social presence. So that students do not feel alone, they must be made to feel that they are part of a community. Spaces can be created for exchanging messages among the students themselves and even among families, and thus, involve them more.
  9. To develop the critical spirit of students regarding technology. It is important that they realize the benefits of using technologies, but also their risks. Analyzing fake news , for example, can help them in that regard.
  10. Take the opportunity to work collaboratively with the closest teachers. Sharing online teaching practices, resources, or creating a shared space that everyone has access to will help make online teaching more effective.

These recommendations have been published in a free and open access book, Decalogue for the improvement of online teaching. Proposals to educate in discontinuous face-to-face contexts .

Hopefully you can support the tremendous work of teachers who are doing their best to help the school overcome this situation.

Author Bio: Albert Sangra Morer is Professor of Education – Specialized in Digital Education at UOC – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya