Remote Instruction vs Online Learning

Do the words really matter? As we all scramble to reach our students, as we leave behind our classrooms, and enter their homes through small screens, does it matter what we call this thing we are doing?

I think it does. I think, if we clarify that we are providing Remote Instruction, it is clear to the students, the parents, the administration, and even ourselves the purpose of our actions. I have facilitated “online distance learning” with high school students, and there is no way to replace a human teacher in the room. So then why are we calling this educational experiment, distance learning? We cannot provide learning – only students can do that.

What we are doing is teaching! Remote instruction, is an effective teacher using all the tools available to motivate, engage, and teach students outside of the classroom. Some of my peers would add the word “Emergency” to the title. This is emergency remote instruction, we did not spend professional development hours learning how to do this. No one covered this in the last faculty meeting. As we ran through the school grabbing supplies and saying socially distant good byes, we were not handed a best practices guide.

So – let’s build a best practices guide! Our kids deserve our best efforts. But don’t be misled about your purpose – to teach from a distance in a new space and time. And please don’t compare what we are doing now to what we did in our classrooms in March. They have as much in common as cherry tomatoes do with and peaches, they are distant cousins found in little green pint baskets at the farmers market.

I think the most important part of remote teaching is getting and maintaining two way communication. I added a small “Room 112 Quick Check” to my weekly assignments. For this moment, I am less interested in the quality of their at home work and more focused on how they are handling this transition. This week, I learned that thankfully my students have reliable access to food and clean clothing but NOT personal space. Teenagers need personal space, so I am going to spend some time writing an assignment that gets them walking around the block or in the courtyard while we stay at home. On a scale of 1-5 they rated their #covidstaycation experience for the day as a 2 – “I am not have a very good day today”.

In their desks, in their homes, no matter their location. My ducks can’t learn until that number is at least a 3.5. So my job this week is to find a way to improve that number through remote instruction. Are you out there? Are you ok?


Published by MaryClair Wright

High School Computer Science Teacher in Alabama.

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