Tuesday, June 23, 2020

More Questions on Hybrid Learning

Here's another photo of the hybrid Rav4 I bought from Toyota. It's supposed to run over 500 miles on a tank of gas, but the gas tank will not fill. Toyota says they're working on a fix, but they've been telling me that since September. I'm rapidly losing faith in hybrids, and I'm not well-disposed toward trying a new one at this juncture. 

I just had a column in the Daily News about how proposed hybrid learning is impractical and undesirable. My vision was giving a lesson while standing in one place. I figured some students would see me live while most would watch remotely. Even that, though, is hard to figure out.

In our sorely overcrowded school, for example, students would only come in once every five days. When we did our walkthrough yesterday, our principal had set up a model room with ten chairs. The idea would be the room could accommodate nine students and one paraprofessional at a time. Okay. Assuming every student and adult practiced social distancing and wore masks all the time, it was something we might be able to accomplish.

The think is, though, with five groups, I'd only see an average of seven students. That's not necessarily an issue in itself. Were I on camera, I'd still have a full class. But how exactly would we interact? All the students in the classroom would need devices to interact with the students who weren't in the room. I couldn't fairly focus on only those present, and I'd argue, in fact, that seven might be a too small a class size anyway. You need to have a mix of students, and in a group that small I could easily draw seven painfully shy kids who might follow each other's examples.

But let's say we did find a way for the entire class to communicate. It's possible that we could direct the stream to the screens we have in front of most of our classrooms. That way, the students attending the class could easily see those not attending, and we could interact. Of course, to do that, the students in the actual classroom would need to have their own devices so that those learning remotely could see them as well. Once we get to this point, I have to ask once more--What is the actual point of my students and colleagues coming to the building at all? Why couldn't they view laptops in their homes, or if that were not feasible, in safe locations provided by the city?

Another scenario I've heard described is the possibility that since students are coming only once weekly, their visits to actual classrooms could be tutoring sessions. That's a nice idea in a way. I teach language learners who need all the assistance we can muster. One issue, though, is the way we tutor. I don't know about you, but if I'm helping a student one on one, I'm right there next to the student. I'm looking at work and making suggestions. If I have to sit at a teacher desk and communicate from a distance, what's the point of any of us risking our lives to come to the same building?

Let's put that aside for the moment, though. Tutoring certainly suggests one on one. Now if I'm tutoring one student, what are the rest of the students supposed to do? Perhaps two of them have the same issue. Again, what about the rest of them? Of course, I could design a lesson for all of them, but then it's no longer tutoring. It's teaching.

Let's say we work out all those issues, though I frankly have no idea whatsoever how that could be done. So there I am, somehow successfully tutoring all those students who show up that one day a week. What on earth are the other 80% of my students supposed to be doing on those days? Is it enough for me to give one lesson, or even one-ninth of a lesson on a daily basis? What about all the students I don't reach?

If we're called  into the building to do five tutoring sessions a day, that's fine as far as workload goes. We work with what the students suggest. We don't have to give or grade group assessments. We'll grade far fewer assessments, and likely won't need to write formal ones.

The part I really can't follow is who's going to take care of the students who aren't present. Are they going to hire shadow teachers for each one of us while we tutor a handful of students daily? That would make our lives pretty easy. Like many teachers, I've spent quite a bit of time checking Google Classroom these last few months. (As borderline students try to pass by Thursday, I'm still doing it.)

It's disgraceful that the DOE sits back and asks us all to figure out what the hell it is we're going to do in September. Even if we were to negotiate in good faith with our principals, how do we know the DOE won't set guidelines that are outside the parameters of what we've negotiated? Worse, even if the DOE came up with something, it would likely be terrible. They've never done this before and have no idea what it entails. It was sheer hubris on their part to go through the posturing of "training" for remote learning, let alone calling us back to COVID-infested buildings to do so.

Really, we are the ones who should be training them. We've done this work and they haven't. There's no perfect system. While I understand those who say students need social interaction, I fail to see how that can be achieved under any hybrid scenario I've looked at. Just about the only way to make that happen would be for students to violate CDC guidelines.

Show me one safe way of going back. Show me one way that represents an improvement over remote learning. If you can't, and no one has thus far, I'm going to stick with my opinion. We ought not to open up a single school building until it's safe. I don't mean that we want it to be safe, that we hope it will be safe, or that we're depending upon the behavior of teenagers and young children to keep it that way.

While remote learning is far from ideal, thus far I've seen no hybrid model that improves upon it.  Safety first, and effective instruction as possible second. I've seen no model of hybrid learning that meets those criteria.
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