The COVID-19 pandemic dictated the closure of all schools in Portugal since March 16, but teachers and students continue to pursue their mission: to teach and learn. At this time, distance learning has become a reality and last week the Council of Ministers approved the extraordinary measures in the area of education to face the current pandemic situation, with a reinforcement of distance learning, which combines the TeleSchool model with contacts over the internet, with video conference, email or Whatsapp. SAPO TEK spoke with two experts to understand the possible impact of the new measures on teaching, both for teachers and for students and families.
With the third period starting this Tuesday, April 14th, the classroom teaching and training activities remain suspended in schools, and basic education will continue until the end of the school year in this register, with classes via television ( cable, satellite or DTT), in a TeleSchool model, such as 10 year. On the 11th and 12th year, they will be able to resume face-to-face classes in May, if the conditions of public health are met, ensuring social distance.
In an interview with SAPO TEK, Neuza Pedro, from the e-Learning Lab, from the University of Lisbon (ULisboa), considers that the TeleSchool model was presented as a means to combat inequalities and reach students. However, it highlights three problems that can arise with this strategy, which guarantees to be a false solution and only a palliative measure.
The means, effort and time now being mobilized to implement a tele-school, would be more efficient if mobilized to provide conditions for children to enjoy online education, says Neuza Pedro
According to the professor at the Institute of Education at ULisboa, this model will not guarantee the support and relationship that are fundamental in the pedagogical process. On the other hand, Neuza Pedro also highlights the fact that the strategy fails to ensure effective access to all children, by failing to guarantee the accessibility requirements necessary to reach even each and every child. This is the case for children with disabilities, as exemplified by the teacher. Finally, the professor states that TeleSchool does not minimize the inequality in which we place children who today do not have access to a computer and connectivity services.
J Luisa Aires, from the distance education and distance education department at Universidade Aberta, believes that this is a possible route and, in conjunction with others, can and should be interpreted as an excellent opportunity for the democratization of access to digital.
How can distance learning keep children up to 9 years motivated and attentive?
For Neuza Pedro, online education can in itself be a guarantee of greater motivation for children, due to the dimension of interactivity and the multimedia content. According to the specialist, the use of video content, the exploitation of simulations, virtual experiences or even access to remote laboratories through the internet can help in this regard.
In many of these cases, the user is called upon to act, to apply knowledge, to explore non-linear learning alternatives. For this reason, it is not just a passive attitude in the learning process, and Neuza Pedro guarantees that there is no reason for distance work to be demotivating.
Based on the experience with adults, Luisa Aires considers that distance learning can be a good option, as long as there are pedagogical competences and technological mediation equipment. But, in this specific case, the specialist clarifies that children will not learn on television or exclusively on the internet. They will learn from television and the internet, but they will learn mainly from parents, colleagues and teachers.
For the specialist at Universidade Aberta, there are no magic solutions in education and, therefore, in a unique format. However, if teachers are able to challenge children to solve problems, with parents at the rear, and if the younger ones feel an active part of the process, the younger ones will feel motivated and will do their best.
Inequalities for children in a new teaching reality
In mid-March, a study by Arlindo Ferreira, a specialist in Education Statistics, found that 20% of students surveyed do not have the means to access distance classes and do jobs that involve the need for a computer. When confronted with this issue, the specialists contacted by SAPO TEK consider that this reality can reinforce inequalities with regard to student learning.
For Neuza Pedro, the new teaching reality can promote and intensify inequalities. "Anyone who has access to better equipment and better connectivity services will be better equipped for the education that is being practiced," he says.