Covid Effect: Distance Learning

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Giuseppe Cafiso, Italy, World | 0 comments

Among the phrases and concepts that the Covid epidemic has made common, one certainly deserves a special place: “Distance Learning”, the DAD. The term DAD indicates the teaching (of every order and degree) conducted at a distance, using new digital technologies. The opinions of teachers and students on DAD are varied and often conflicting: there are those who always consider it harmful or, in any case, much less effective than teaching based on physical presence; on the other hand, there are those who maintain that it is useful and can constitute, especially in secondary schools and universities, a valid alternative to traditional teaching, so much so as to envisage a future in which DAD will be the norm and physical presence the exception.
One and a half billion students worldwide, according to UNESCO, were engaged in distance learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The number has shrunk, by a lot, about a year later .
Some students were able to access the internet to do this, but not all. Most students around the world, who have access to smartphones, are able to use them as learning devices. Others are luckier and have tablets, laptops. All this of course in industrialized or resource-rich countries. In poor countries, where economic realities are different, students have stopped going to school or continue with the traditional system, putting their health at risk.
Teachers, some with no previous online or distance teaching experience, have discovered new approaches to teaching and learning and imaginative work has been undertaken to overcome the real challenges this current reality poses. While they have found considerable success with attentive students who are helped by parents for others, among distracted students and those with learning problems, the challenge has been gigantic.
While some students have returned to school and face-to-face learning, the “return to something like normal” may not occur until some point in 2021 or later, most likely next fall. Teachers are exploring what it means for them the reality of online teaching.

What is the new pedagogy of large-scale online teaching really like? What does engaged learning look like in this new environment? How can online learning produce meaningful learning experiences?
Teachers sought help from colleagues with previous online teaching experience, looking for evidence of what worked in their subject. Some have discovered open educational resources, materials, workshops, videos, simulations, games, which have helped them find new ways to engage their students online.
But distance learning has also introduced other problems of a social and psychological nature. The lack of a physical presence of teachers and other students has created gaps in the intellectual, emotional and cultural support that children and young people receive by learning together with others. All this starts from the belief that physical presence is always essential from an educational point of view, precisely because human beings use multiple languages ​​at the same time, conveyed and captured by different sensory modalities.
Digital communication favors acoustic and visual communications and excludes all others. However, the other languages ​​(often defined as “corporeal”) are equally important and contribute, in a crucial, albeit subliminal, way to fixing concepts, information, ways of thinking, perspectives in the learner’s mind and informing the teacher of the degree of reception of the educational message. Teaching is not, if not minimally, the transmission of information (which, among other things, today can be easily traced online), but it is the communication of styles, ways of learning and above all of evaluating and judging with a critical spirit. the information received.
Of course, it is impossible to exclude that in the future augmented reality technologies may mimic all sensory modalities and reproduce the immersive experience of face-to-face communication. Today, however, we are still a long way from such a condition.
Giuseppe Cafiso