The Unexpected Benefits of E-Learning
By Sharon Cho, sponsored by QuaverEd
COVID-19 has presented the first real test of e-learning systems to school districts across the nation. While much has been written about the “How?” of distance teaching and learning—introducing teachers to the best practices of e-learning—not much has been written about the “Why?”
This particular interruption has introduced unexpected benefits, as it relates to relationships and inclusive education. In this way, “Why embrace e-learning?” now includes these three truths:
- Digitalization offers new opportunities for relationship-building and connections like never before.
- E-learning systems are providing opportunities for inclusion in the classroom and equity in access for students and teachers to benefit personally and academically.
- The arts are thriving and remain important more than ever, offering comfort and inspiration to people during this difficult time.
Let’s explore these opportunities for connection, equity and inclusion, and comfort.
Connecting to Our Students
What we’re experiencing in this shift is known as digitalization, or the use of technology to engage people in new ways. The dependence on video conferencing and e-learning resources have dramatically transformed instruction, and technology—what was once an escape—has become an essential learning tool. In this way, digitalization has offered us a chance to connect to our students in new and innovative ways.
One advantage teachers are experiencing is the chance to gain new insight into their students’ lives. Digital platforms give us the opportunity to collect what I like to call “invisible data.” From this restructured classroom environment, we can learn:
- What access to technology does each student have from home?
- What support systems exist at home?
- What are the learning advantages and gaps that are revealed by this environment?
- What distractions impact their learning?
This information gives a different lens into the student’s life—one the teacher may not have had a chance to learn in the physical classroom. In this manner, distance learning allows the teacher to connect with their students on an individualized platform.
Bringing the classroom into the homes of students is strangely intimate. However, distance teaching sends a strong message to our students that we deeply care about them. That despite the considerable barriers, we will continue to be a champion for them and their learning.
The relationship between the teacher and student impacts learning this way. In truth, most students find it difficult to learn from teachers they dislike. Rita Pierson’s Every Kid Needs a Champion TedTalk shines a light on this reality. Accordingly, teachers have an opportunity to forge positive relationships and establish themselves as a safe and trusted champion in their students’ lives.
Inclusive Education and Learning Systems
Every crisis presents new challenges and offers new opportunities for innovation. For many communities, this crisis has called attention to the gap in accessibility to technology and Internet connectivity in students’ homes. Many districts have risen to the challenge and have put new systems in place to close this digital gap, permanently upgrading the resources and tools available to their school systems. In this way, the urgency for digital equity has forced a hyper-growth in districts.
Like the systems around them, teachers and students are finding unexpected opportunities to grow while learning at home:
- Teachers can receive more professional developments and find training tailored to their needs.
- Teachers are finding time for self-reflection. It has given us a chance to know ourselves, choose ourselves, and give more to ourselves so that we, in turn, are better able to deliver meaningful instruction.
- Digital equity provides students with learning resources in an easier and less expensive way. Regardless of economic status, students can check out a device to access content at school, or at home.
- The asynchronous learning model supports self-paced learning. As a by-product, students become task-oriented and learn to identify and manage their own goals.
- Easier tracking of data allows for personalized learning and properly differentiated instruction.
- Gamification opportunities for students help retain attention and engagement.
- A flipped classroom model allows for deeper discussion and learning. In fact, teachers can answer more questions while sustaining and encouraging curiosity.
Comfort in the Arts
Which brings us to my final observation: The arts have been a steadfast comfort to us all during this time of uncertainty. Whether you are binging on a new TV show, listening to your favorite album, or finally getting to that DIY project, the arts have been our source of retreat, relief, and revival—now more than ever.
It’s also important to recognize the ways music strengthens social bonds. I was especially moved by the viral video from Italy, where residents sang from their balconies, using music to connect to each other through their grief and isolation. Their voices echoed through the canals and lifted the spirits of people all over the world.
In this way, music provides comfort and stability as it connects people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences in communities, large and small. The cultural cohesion of coming together to sing or to listen to a song is not just healing, but also reflective of what makes us innately human. It’s a wonderful time to be a music educator, and to share the comfort of music with our students and their families.
Digital teaching and learning offer a powerful opportunity to connect and respond to our students and their emotions. So, how are you connecting with your students during isolation? Are we making the most of digital teaching and learning tools at our disposal? How can you leverage the platforms available to you to get to know your students better, to show them how much you care for them, and to help them build the skills necessary to manage emotions, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Social pain, like physical pain, needs attention. All this to say, it just takes one—one teacher to disrupt isolation and bring joy and connection to students. We may not be able to change the world for every student, but we can help each student navigate the world around them.
About the author:
Sharon Cho is an Instructional Coach, Clinician, and Social-Emotional Learning training lead at QuaverEd. Cho focuses her research on Music and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and works with educators of all subjects to introduce the impact and opportunities within music, as it relates to cultural competence and social-emotional learning. In addition, Cho works to protect diversity, equity, and inclusion in school systems. Her presentations on cultural competence have been shared and presented nationally at education conferences. With a Bachelors in Music Education (K–12) from the University of Illinois- Urbana/Champaign and a Masters of Education from Lipscomb University in Diversity & Inclusion/ Instructional Coaching, she is well equipped to merge these subjects. Sharon is also a vocalist and Grammy certificate recipient.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
June 3, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)