International press review on pedagogical continuity #2

Here is a second article on pedagogical continuity, as seen from several countries. The purpose here is to understand the similarities or differences regarding the reaction to the current crisis. And to start building collective intelligence around what is happening in the education world.

This international press review is part of a contributory watch, and a series of articles, that I have launched around the “pedagogical continuity” implemented in France and around the world.

The contributory table is accessible at this address. Do not hesitate to contribute, or to contact me!

Teachers are tired and worried, but they ensure pedagogical continuity.

There was a rather chaotic initial phase around the world. With some differences according to the countries that had given their teachers more or less time to prepare. Or who were already used to distance learning.

But overall, the beginnings were quite chaotic. The IT that does not work (the Internet in general warmed up pretty well, especially the sites too poorly developed to support the load), teachers who need to review their teaching scenarios as a matter of urgency. The multiple, contradictory injunctions.

After the crisis, a stabilization

Then we witnessed the wonderful sharing dynamics among teachers, on social networks (Facebook groups, Twitter accounts), blogs and through teachers’ collectives. The mobilization of public and private actors. The advice to panicked parents that multiplied. And things have, proportionally speaking, stabilized.

My advice is let your kids have a holiday and enjoy themselves until they get bored. Then they will want to get on to learning they have been set

Chris Dyson, headteacher (read article)

This Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to recall, once again, that teachers are professionals. That their job is highly complex and cannot be improvised. Parents have realized this, and the co-educational relationship seems to have already changed in many parts of the world. Something very positive to keep for the future, then!

“Its not easy, teaching. I was unable to correctly explain a complicated maths problem so we emailed his teacher for help and he called soon after, and Kayden completely understood.”

Faith Mkhonto, from Southampton, mother of a 7 years old child.

Another highly comforting aspect at a time when human relations are distorted is that students everywhere in the world miss their teachers terribly. Teachers around the world also miss their students terribly. And students miss their friends terribly. Humans are social animals. And the school is an essential place for this socialization.

There are concerns about the upcoming reopening of schools.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Around the world, the reopening of schools is causing anguish to teachers and parents. Concrete implementation is slow to come, and the various officials have difficulty communicating with each other. In France, teachers’ confidence in their ministry is particularly limited.

« Can public health experts explain why authorities said a month ago that schools and daycares should be closed because children could be a major carrier of the virus – even if visits to the elderly were banned – and that this would no longer be an issue? »

Véronique Hivon, Education and Family spokeperson in Quebec

It should be noted that Denmark is the first country to have reopened its schools, in an atmosphere of anxiety. A survey by the New York Times shows what the first hygiene measures put in place to avoid contagion are like.

To stop the spread of infection, parents weren’t allowed inside. Teachers couldn’t gather in the staff room. The children each now had their own desks, marooned two yards away from their nearest neighbor. During recess, they could play only in small groups. And by the time the school shut again at 2 p.m., they had all washed their hands at least once an hour for the past six hours.

Article from the New York Times : In Denmark, the Rarest of Sights: Classrooms Full of Students

Higher education news: distance education, evaluations, university costs

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

Distance learning in Higher ED is easier to achieve than in primary school. Students are autonomous, which makes all the difference. Many of them are equipped with their own computers, which also makes things simpler. This, of course, does not take into account all the social inequalities already mentioned in the previous article.

But even though the teaching is easier, the interactions are not the same. Teaching in front of the screen while students turn off their cameras to “preserve the flow” is not easy. Generating interaction, getting students to work in groups is not easy either. So we often find ourselves on “degraded” experiments.

What millions of students around the world are experiencing right now on Zoom and other conferencing platforms is not online learning, but rather remote learning. Susan Grajek of Educause, the association of education technologists, distinguishes remote learning from “well-considered, durable online learning.” Remote learning, she said, is a “quick, ad hoc, low-fidelity mitigation strategy.”

Ryan Craig, founding Managing Director of University Ventures

Assessments and entrance exams are a dilemma

The current situation poses a great many problems for evaluation in higher education, as well as for entrance examinations which have begun to take place, at a distance, for many institutions.

For example, many university professors feel that the exams should be cancelled. In France, as elsewhere, the organization of mid-term and entrance exams is a real headache. Choosing assessment methods, digital tools, limiting inequalities (differences in equipment, taking account of disability, etc.), problems are legion.

“We’ve spent our whole lives preparing for a very different type of exam,” he says. “The university [can’t] pretend this is going to be a real reflection of our abilities.”

Daniel Wittenberg, a languages student at the University of Cambridge

Students and many teachers are also concerned about the use of digital tools deemed intrusive for exam monitoring. Solutions that process highly personal data (webcam streaming, keyboard use and analysis by an AI). In Australia, for example, students want more transparency.

“I would be OK with it if I had full transparency,” Personeni said. “With actual information about where the data is being stored, who can access it, and whether it complies with the actual Australian regulations.”

Sasha Personeni, ANU student in Australia (read the article)

The current period is also an opportunity for some to bring back one of the oldest and greatest debates in education: the question of evaluation itself. A reflection to be integrated without any doubt in order to imagine “the school that comes next”?

It would be foolish not to take the opportunity to turn the page on decades of docimological disasters – docimology is the “science of examinations” – which have frustrated, discouraged, punished whole generations of kids who, as Michel Galabru said, “did not understand what was wanted of them” in the T-times of the imposed assessments when a different pace was set, better adapted, better equipped with a process of concerted evaluation, self-evaluation and sharing of advice enabling students to gradually master what they had not yet mastered at that famous time T, would have enabled them to write a completely different life story.

Opinion of Jean-François Horemans and Alain Schmidt (read the opinion – in French)

In the Anglo-Saxon world, university costs are a problem, universities are in financial crisis

Students are rebelling. They feel that distance education courses are not worth the face-to-face courses they paid for. In an Anglo-Saxon world where university fees can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars, the situation for students, who are in debt, is difficult.

As for the universities, they are themselves in very great financial difficulty and they anticipate huge losses due to the collapse of enrolments. In Australia, where the vast majority of universities are “not for profit” structures, they are not currently eligible for government aid. In the United States, the atmosphere is different for the richest universities, since Trump has lobbied directly for them to do without the support fund set up to help students in American universities.

This is a very different situation from the one we are in France, thanks to the public funding of our universities.

Some institutions are projecting $100 million losses for the spring, and many are now bracing for an even bigger financial hit in the fall, when some are planning for the possibility of having to continue remote classes. […] A higher education trade group has predicted a 15 percent drop in enrollment nationwide, amounting to a $23 billion revenue loss.

Article from The New York Time : After Coronavirus, Colleges Worry: Will Students Come Back?

Digital platforms are being put in place and Edtech is positioning itself

Screenshot of the Solidarité EdTech platform, from the association EdTech France

All over the world, many platforms have been set up to facilitate teachers’ distance learning work and make resources available. It should be noted that, depending on the country, the initiatives were either public, private, or a public/private partnership.

Several of these platforms consist, for Edtechs, in making their solution free, or partially free, for the time of containment. A few examples:

Some online teaching companies are offering their services for free during the outbreak. TAL Education announced on its official Weibo account free live-streaming courses for all grades to “minimise the influence on study due to the outbreak” while VIPKID, which specialises in teaching English online, said on Weibo it would offer 1.5 million free online courses to children aged from four to 12.

South China Media Post : China’s traditional schools embrace online learning as coronavirus forces students to stay at home
Screenshot of the L’école Ouverte platform, initiated by the Government of Quebec

These platforms must now prove their usefulness. In Canada, there has been mixed feedback on the Open School (L’école ouverte) platform. For example, Ninon Louise LePage wrote about the return of a teacher who wonders if it is “possible to believe that students who were unmotivated before the crisis are now self-regulating during it by going from one website to another, looking for learning exercises to keep themselves afloat? ».

UNESCO has also initiated a “Global Coalition for Education” (read more), and lists, among other things, distance learning solutions on its website. For some, this coalition raises questions: the presence among its members of large private companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Coursera, Zoom, KPMG, etc.) is a matter of debate, and the concrete operational objectives are not very clear.

Edtech is positioning itself…

All over the world, Edtech is positioning itself “in the best way possible” in the crisis, giving rise to many reactions of satisfaction and thanks, but also concern and mistrust.

On a macro scale, organizations such as the OECD and UNESCO are taking a position on the future of education and the role of Edtechs must play:

Education could have benefited from better and more digital education solutions during the coronavirus crisis – it’s time to reflect on the role digital technology should have in the future of education.

Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin, Senior Analyst and Deputy Head of Division, OECD

Containment certainly doesn’t prevent virtual summits, such as the aptly named GSV Virtual Summit, subtitled “The Dawn of the Age of Digital”. Many Edtech players had the opportunity to express their views on the current crisis.

[…] As Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education explained, moving forward, a “crisis is an awful thing to waste” and this crisis provides a huge opportunity for digital learning that can be “as personal”, if not more, “as engaging”, if not more as physical classes.

Article from Éducapital : GSV Virtual Summit Learning (1/2): The Dawn of the Age of Digital

Another example from WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), this time quoting Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills. His statement, much commented on on the networks, left many teachers dubious on Twitter.

…and encounters resistance

In contrast to Mr Schleicher’s optimistic view, a tweet from Tom Bennett (the founder of researchED, UK) also provoked a huge response.

Many teachers are concerned that the current situation can be seen as a “laboratory for the future of education. We must keep both feet on the ground and take the measure of what is being lost in distance education,” says Caroline Quesnel, president of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ-CSN).

Ben Williamson, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and author of Big Data in Education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice, also responds strongly to the generosity of Edtechs around the world today:

Emergency edtech eventually won’t be needed to help educators and students through the pandemic. But for the edtech industry, education has always been fabricated as a site of crisis and emergency anyway. An ‘education is broken, tech can fix it’ narrative can be traced back decades. The current pandemic is being used as an experimental opportunity for edtech to demonstrate its benefits not just in an emergency, but as a normal mode of education into the future.

Ben Williamson, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh

In the next international press review, I will address new topics: reopening of schools, situation in Africa and Latin America, etc. If you have any information, please do not hesitate to contact me!

My other articles regarding pedagogical continuity

Featured photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Author: Louis Derrac

Consultant and trainer specializing in the fields of education and digital culture

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