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MEN: 92% schools already teach online. Reality: what should I press here?

Source: Pixabay

On Friday, March 20, the Minister of National Education Dariusz Piontkowski stated that in connection with the suspension of classes at schools, 92 percent schools have already switched to the remote teaching mode, and from Wednesday, after a short implementation of teachers, the schools will return to the core curriculum. It is a pity that this is just a wishful thinking of the minister and the government, which has nothing to do with reality.

Genre Scene

Monday, 9:00 - the first approach to online lessons

The teacher's face appears in the Microsoft Teams application, students are slowly joining the conference. Everyone intrigued by what it will be like now. The more students join the conference, the more chaos arises. Some turn on the microphones, others turn on the microphones and cameras. The headphones hear over 20 different voices that overlap, leading to real cacophony.

In the meantime, the quality of the teacher's webcam image is starting to resemble Minecraft graphics. The Internet connections, which have been heavily burdened in recent days, cut, die off and from time to time completely refuse to obey. Chaos is prolonged, every now and then someone joins the conversation, turns on their camera, displaying to all other users, the headphones hear the noise picked up by 30 different microphones in 30 different places.

After 45 minutes, the teacher refuses to try to embrace the whole class and explain to the students that so far she does not know what it is supposed to look like and maybe everything will be explained by Wednesday. Lesson finished today, students genuinely tired and amused. During the whole lesson, they commented on the whole situation in a group conversation on Messenger on the phones next to the computer.

I assume that this school was also included by the head of the Ministry of National Education in 92% schools that have switched to distance learning. I am afraid that similar chaos prevails in 92 percent. of these 92 percent

The above scene was not invented and does not come from some small village, to which the Internet has come in the last two years. This is an ordinary school in an average Polish town of several dozen thousand.

Recalling the idea of ​​switching to e-learning by schools, television news services show the headmaster of one of the private primary schools in Krakow, who indicates that at 8:00 the student is to be dressed in front of the computer, not in pajamas. As if that were the most important thing. I don't know if this is the reality from the perspective of a big city. However, I know that a private primary school in Krakow is not a proper representative of average schools in Poland.

Most schools in Poland are located in the villages and in small and medium-sized cities, and the situation looks very different there.

Brutal reality - teachers

For many, many years teachers have been complaining about the excessive bureaucracy in their work, which does not leave too much time for teaching alone. What's more, teachers are an outrageously low paid professional group, which, moreover, led to a long protest last year during which students did not go to school.

Recent years for primary and secondary school teachers are also a revolution related to the reform (read: deforma) of education carried out by Minister Anna Zalewska. Despite the votes of teachers and experts, the Ministry of National Education closed down junior high schools and returned to the division into 8-year primary schools and 4-year high schools. This led to a terrible chaos, closing one school and overcrowding the other, to a lack of teachers, to the uncertainty of students who, as in the case of 2004 and 2005, were crammed into one school year. New curricula were created quickly, on the knee, and at the beginning of the school year some textbooks were still at the concept stage.

In such a situation, it is difficult to require teachers - low paid and afraid of their work in the profession - to introduce innovations.

What's more, teachers have been working roughly the same for decades. Gradually, electronic dailies introduced in recent years are the only digital element of their work. They still have to use paper journals and write countless lesson plans, etc. Planting them all now, regardless of age, in front of the computer and expecting them to control the link, videoconferencing software, virtual board software and dozens of students at the same time, reminds me of planting bicycle drivers (equipped with a bicycle card) behind the wheel of an articulated bus on the maneuvering area. It can't end with anything good. It is known that one cyclist out of several thousand will also prove to be the holder of a category D driving license, but despite this, most would not even know how to get on the bus.

Brutal reality - students

The attempt to switch school to e-learning during a pandemic was doomed from the very beginning. Teachers try to run live classes by arranging with students that they will appear online at a certain time and join the conference. Already on the first day it turns out that some students have desktop computers that are not equipped with cameras, so they can communicate with the teacher only by voice.

What's more, after checking attendance, it turns out that some of the students in the lesson are not at all, because they do not have a computer at home that they could use. Sometimes it's just that parents simply can't afford to buy a computer, sometimes there is a computer, but there are two or three students at home who should be online and there is only one computer.

Should the current - indeed non-standard - situation lead to a situation in which the poorer part of the students will be deprived of the opportunity to continue their education and thus be left behind with the material, far behind their friends? What stigma can this situation lead to?

Brutal reality - methodology

Contrary to what many teachers put in a new situation - also for them - are trying to do, it is impossible to teach the same way online as in the classroom. The teacher cannot put a webcam in front of the blackboard and teach the lesson by writing something on the blackboard. The teacher himself will also only have a webcam in front of him. He will not be able to catch the student, after which it is clearly seen that he is not listening / does not understand / has a problem with understanding the content or solving the task. This on the screen can not be caught.

This means that the entire teaching mode should be changed. Perhaps teachers should record the whole class, add interactive quizzes to them that control the understanding of the material they learn. This is nothing new. For many years, students around the world can enjoy many free online courses. It is worth mentioning here at least the Khan Academy project, in which you can find a clear discussion of most of the school material from elementary school to the end of high school.

When I was preparing to study at the Faculty of Physics, Adam Mickiewicz University seven years ago, 13 years after graduating from high school, when I had no contact with mathematics or physics for over a decade, it was with the help of Khan Academy that I repeated all the material from high school mathematics. Suffice it to say that thanks to this, in my first year I did not deviate from knowledge from fresh high school graduates.

With Khan Academy you can learn everything from addition and subtraction to integral and differential calculus.

Colleges from around the world offer their free online courses. Just go to portals such as Coursera and check the range of courses offered there: from programming to astrobiology. Of course, these are not courses that Polish students can take during a pandemic. It's just to see how to do classes online. This can save a lot of time, frustration and nerves for many teachers and students. Thanks to such previously prepared materials, students could carry out tasks in their own time, and only arrange with teachers to put particular tasks on a specific day. Thanks to this, in a house with fewer computers than children, all of them could watch the classes, do exercises and send back homework.

It is worth noting here that the closing of people in homes has led to significant network congestion in recent days. The European Union has asked broadcasters such as Netflix , HBO, YouTube to limit the quality of streaming, just for the sake of bandwidth. This means that hopes for video conferencing with students, where suddenly hundreds of thousands of students across the country will want to join video conferences, are doomed to failure from the very beginning.

The current situation was forced by a force majeure that was beyond control.

For this reason, it cannot be said that the current problems are the fault of teachers, students or parents, and even the ministry. Whereas convincing that everything is OK and in a week already 100 percent. schools in Poland will come back to implementing the curriculum in the form of distance learning, it is only wishful thinking of the minister of national education, which unfortunately does not diverge from the brutal reality. Just as students will not return to school in a few days, so much water in the rivers will pass before teachers reasonably communicate any knowledge via the internet to students.

Instead of announcing success, someone in the ministry should get to work. Someone who has some insight into modern methods of remote teaching. Is there any hope for this? Hard to say. On the one hand, the ministry has access to experts from all over the country, so it has the greatest opportunities to reach the right people. On the other hand, it is not easy to be optimistic, seeing that the team responsible for the shape of education are people who are able to write things about other people, such as Małopolska education curator Barbara Nowak. Below are just a few of her most recent entries.

MEN: 92% schools already teach online. Reality: what should I press here?


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