Growing up, my dad spent lots of time in the garage working on things — his 1972 Ford Pinto (understandably), my brother’s bikes, and making small items for our home. The garage was his makerspace and he used it to design, plan, and follow through on his creative ideas. Later, my brother used the garage as his makerspace. These days makerspaces are moving out of the garages of hobbyists to classrooms and schools for our students to engage in interactive experiences that spark creativity and imagination.
You’ve probably scrolled through quite a few social media posts of teachers and students engaging in remote learning. There are posts with teachers dressed up in costumes, really working to get their students engaged. There are posts of students in pyjamas, bodies contorted in different ways as they try to make it through a virtual lesson. Overall, a nice mix of the positive and negative experiences with remote learning. Although it seems that more schools and educators are prepared, it brings up another concern — remote teaching burnout. With remote learning a reality for many, it is important to recognise the warning signs of burnout for teachers and move towards its prevention. But first, what is burnout?
When I was beginning my learning adventure at 6 years old – back when teachers used blackboards and duplicators (Banda machines) – playing a game in class was the BEST! In Southern California where I’m from, it was unusual to have rainy days but when it happened our teacher would have us play Heads-Up, Seven Up during indoor break. I can remember hoping someone would put my thumb down so that I could guess the mystery person at the end of the round. We would play this game the entire time and groan aloud when break was over. Playing that game was a welcome respite from the months of circle time lessons and worksheets. Did I learn anything from playing Heads-Up? I didn’t think so at the time but looking back with my “teacher eye,” there was communication, engagement, and reasoning involved. Of course, I doubt learning those skills was intentional but it taught me two important things when I stepped into my teacher shoes: 1) children will remember the experience of a fun and engaging game, and 2) children can learn concepts and skills, solve problems, think critically, collaborate, follow rules, communicate thinking, etc. while playing a game!
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in many areas, a number of schools are opting for total remote learning when school starts. What does this mean for parents who have young ones starting school for the first time? If the anxiety about starting school in person during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t enough, the prospect of starting totally online can be overwhelming. Often, parents see entering school (Early Years to Key Stage 1) as an opportunity for their children to learn social skills, understand rules and routines, and set a foundation of basic skills that will prepare them for the next 12 years of learning.
It seems that in just a few months, anyone interested in or having to do with education is trying to understand the differences between distance learning, online learning, blended learning, flipped learning, virtual learning…you get the idea. Many of these terms have been used interchangeably with similar descriptions, but there are differences. For example, what’s the difference between a virtual learning environment and a virtual classroom? Then, once a difference has been identified…so what?
It’s doubtful that you haven’t already heard of the concept of blended learning, or possibly have already implemented a blended learning model. But, just in case, this approach combines face-to-face learning with online learning experiences. Basically, blended learning changes what has been traditionally ‘front-of-class’ style of lesson delivery to incorporating digital tools and features to create a more interactive and engaging experience. Blended learning used to be a novel idea that some teachers saw as an innovative opportunity to explore, but it has become more necessary as learners – digital natives – spend more time creating and viewing content on web-enabled devices (think Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok).