Volume 17: National Teachers' Month Edition
Remote Learning and Teaching in the New Normal
Teachers need to open themselves to all possibilities that will contribute to and impact the lives of their learners.
— LEANDRO BONDAD
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected many communities, livelihoods, and industries. Education, for one, has taken its fair share of unprecedented hits. Schools, teachers, and students alike are all reeling from the difficulties and challenges that the pandemic has caused.
The education sector may be constantly evolving with the times, but rarely does it experience a major shake-up of its structures. Most recently, a pandemic caused schools worldwide to reimagine the teaching and learning process so that the education of millions of students around the globe can continue despite challenges. It ushered in a “new normal” that involves shifting to remote learning and teaching methods.
For Leandro L. Bondad, curriculum director and teacher from Sano International School, this new normal is about “making education happen by utilizing all the available resources within the reach of the teachers that will leave a huge impact on the lives of the learners.” A Filipino educator based in Japan, Bondad teaches multi-level Science, Math, Computer, and Geography classes, and advocates for flexible learning by facilitating webinars for hundreds of teachers on the topic.
When did you first encounter remote learning and how was your first experience teaching remotely?
I first enrolled for a leadership course in our church, which uses an online platform on a weekly basis. When the pandemic struck this year, the Japanese government declared a state of emergency for two months. We had a week to brainstorm and conduct remote learning as most schools, especially public schools were closed and not ready for online education.
When our school was closed for two months from April to May 2020, we shifted to remote learning right away. Using online classrooms as the improvised learning management system and video conferencing platform, we were able to carry out day-to-day lessons. We still continued with the curriculum we set and utilized blended learning by using both online resources and traditional textbooks for instruction.
IN THIS ISSUE
In your experience, how different is the teaching and learning environment now in this "new normal" compared to before?
The teaching and learning environment in this new normal is far more different compared to the way we do face-to-face classes. In this new normal, both teachers and students need to be more flexible. We cannot follow a regular schedule like before but we still need to maintain the quality of education we provide. Students cannot be exposed to computers the whole day, so they now have rest or independent learning in between subjects (non-computer activity). Class management is easier when you can see the students during face-to-face classroom discussions. In the new normal, it is a challenge for teachers to manage classes because of some technical aspects, like students turning off their cameras, muting their microphones, coming to online classes late, eating while attending the class, and other forms of distractions at home. Assessment was also a great challenge especially for younger students that need a lot of guidance in remote learning, unlike before where you can just give a test on hand.
How did you overcome these challenges that came with remote learning?
A strong partnership between the school and parents was one of the major keys in overcoming the challenges that come with remote learning. There was a constant and open communication between the school and home to address issues right away. Our school provided all means of communication to reach out to each parent and student that needed assistance and guidance. This also cultivated a culture of trust that helped give way for the teachers to do assessment and evaluation with the most authentic scores that the students can achieve. All in all, building a good system and trust with the students and parents helped a lot for remote learning to become successful.
What then for you are the benefits of remote learning?
One of the advantages of remote learning is the training of 21st century skills both for teachers and students. We teachers were able to hone our students in alignment with our school mission and vision, which is to raise leaders to impact nations. Because of the varied resources, we were able to incorporate more literacy skills in media, and information and technology. As for life skills, teachers were able to give students activities promoting flexibility, leadership, productivity, and social skills. The 4C’s of learning, namely critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication, were still implemented in the new normal made possible by different learning platforms.
Another advantage of remote learning is the endless access to different resources online which is limited in the traditional learning set-up. Education continues despite the pandemic so our students’ progress were not hampered by the global situation. Above all, remote learning opened new avenues for students and teachers to explore new opportunities and thrive in the ever-changing world of education.
Building a good system and trust with the students and parents helped a lot for remote learning to become successful.
— LEANDRO BONDAD
What has been the impact of all these changes in the education industry to our learners?
A major impact is that our learners now experience self-paced learning and develop skills that can propel them in life. These changes provide options for flexibility in terms of process (how students will continue learning), place (where they will continue learning), period (how they will organize their time for learning), pace (how they can proceed with their studies), and product (how they will complete their requirements). In this manner, students can learn something at any instance and this learning experience leaves a huge impression on their lives.
Teachers also function as role models for students, and have a huge influence in shaping their young minds. How do you ensure that this side of being a teacher can still be fulfilled in a remote learning setup?
In a remote learning setup, the role of a teacher as an adviser, guidance counselor, and a role model does not end. In my experience, consistency played an important part in the success of our remote learning journey. We made sure that we deliver our academic program in line with the vision and mission of our school. This meant intentionally including values formation in our curriculum even if the modality of learning is remote. Homeroom time, where teachers meet their homeroom classes on a daily basis to address any issues that students have, was still an essential part of the learning process. Because our students are digital natives, we teachers ensured that students made use of technology responsibly. We always remind the students to respect and use their resources wisely.
What advice would you give teachers who are currently implementing remote learning in this new normal?
Teachers who are currently dealing or will deal with remote learning should have the attitude of openness. They should start unlearning the “old normal”, which might only become a hindrance to the success of this new education setup. Instead, teachers need to embrace the new normal, and open themselves to all possibilities that will contribute to and impact the lives of their learners.