Pedagogy in the Virtual World
Without question teaching and learning has changed dramatically over the last century. Advents in new technologies, changes in the way time is used and managed, and the widespread availability of wifi and internet access have all altered and shaped the way in which adults and children live, work and play. One thing no-one could have imagined is the way in which humans would come to rely so heavily on these systems in times of adversity.
Towards the end of the 20th century educationalists began to talk about the need for change in the way we should learn. Rachel Bolstad, a Senior Researcher of New Zealand Council for Educational Research believed the need for change was a necessity brought about by “massive and ongoing social, economic and technological changes, and also the exponentially increasing amount of human knowledge being generated as a result”. The introduction of the internet has changed the face of education in terms of its delivery and content, forcing educators to re-think their approach to teaching and learning. New technologies have supported a progressive curriculum where children are able to access learning while in the comfort of their own homes, a significant shift which has been fundamental and of great benefit to children and families during the current pandemic.
Through the provision and availability of technology for some families, many children have been able to remain connected to educators and peers, and maintain a continuity of learning during a time of disruption and change.
Despite the advantages, however, the heavy reliance on digital connectivity during this unprecedented time may have an unintended consequence whereby educators undergo a permanent shift in pedagogical practices, with a greater reliance on technology and remote learning.
Currently while grateful for the virtual world, and while learning more about online pedagogies and virtual learning, some educators are asking “are we distancing ourselves away from the true nature of teaching and learning?”
A landscape of change
Many of the socio-cultural aspects of the classroom environment have been temporarily replaced, with children learning alone or alongside parents in a home environment.
The casual and spontaneous “to and fro” of human interactions within an early learning setting are fundamental elements of the teaching and learning process, and while remote learning is essential right now, it should not undermine the power of relationships when it comes to education. Important life skills such as collaboration, empathy, leadership, resilience, social, problem solving and cultural understanding are extremely hard to teach digitally.
The need to be able to learn in a virtual world is not in question, however the need to consider the disadvantaged in the fluidity of teaching and learning right now is more important than ever.
Accessibility and linguistic barriers are just a few reasons as to why children may be disadvantaged when trying to navigate remote learning, but this can also be said of teachers who themselves can be seen as vulnerable.
As the pandemic continues, virtual teaching and learning has become the norm, meaning educators are having to be innovative in the way they teach and communicate with their learners.
For some, this may be problematic. Educators may lack experience or understanding of digital technologies and platforms, may not have the financial means to purchase the tools required to facilitate digital learning, or may be in an area where connectivity is an issue, hampering their capacity to deliver a full and complete program of learning to children.
Some may say that children are not the only learners during the pandemic, and that educators should embrace the opportunity to learn new ways to teach, including the use of online platforms.
When viewing this statement equitably, the added pressures to deliver a virtual curriculum for those who are disadvantaged should be a consideration. We need to raise our gaze from what is expected, and see teaching and learning through a rights based lens.
The success of remote learning will no doubt have implications in how teachers will deliver their curriculum in the future. We can only hope that political leaders and educational scholars will consider equality and accessibility, using their wisdom to ensure no child or teacher is disadvantaged in the virtual world.