Another dot in the blogosphere?

Asynchronous and inclusive learning, anyone?

Posted on: May 13, 2020

The comic and video below is funny because they are true to teachers. In those truths come hidden lessons if we bother to look.
 


Video source

No, I am not talking about learning how to mute everyone in Zoom or how to improvise camera stands for sharing written work.

The comic and video capture attempts to replicate classroom practices. When pushed online, we call these synchronous teaching and learning activities. Such activities are the focus of the comic and video because that is what most people seem to think teaching looks like online. This is only half the picture.

The hidden lesson is about designing for asynchronous and more inclusive learning. The design and facilitation of such learning are not obvious or glamorous. It is neither easy nor interesting to capture the process of combining educational psychology, content knowledge, pedagogical savvy, technical skills, learner empathy, and evaluation principles.

The design of asynchronous learning is about teaching that ensures learning without the constant and immediate presence of the teacher. This is NOT about taking the teacher out from the teaching-learning equation. It is about a shift in focus and effort — understanding the processes of learning and meeting the needs of learners asynchronously.

Inclusive education, be it online or offline, is about including the quieter learners so that they express themselves (there are other types of disadvantaged learners, but this group is easily overlooked). Reticent students are already reluctant to speak up in class. Instead of replicating such conditions online, we might design and facilitate experiences that focus on deeper, nuanced, or reflective thinking.

Is designing for asynchronous and more inclusive learning more difficult? Definitely. This is why teachers and educators who only know how to teach in classrooms, labs, and studios need new mind and skill sets if emergency remote teaching is to actually become meaningful and powerful online learning.

The good news is that teachers do not have to start from scratch. They might be able to transfer some skills and practices (e.g., active listening and wait time) to the design of online experiences. However, the same skills might have to be tweaked or revised to account for the lack of immediate social cues and a shared physical environment. Using the examples, active listening might be replaced by anticipatory scaffolds from the teacher and active reflection for the learner; wait time might be translated to longer or negotiated deadlines.

The bad news is that teachers might not see the point of adopting new mindsets and learning new skills. If the lockdown now and possibly ones in the future are relatively short and transient, why should they change? They might consider this: The applications online of psychology, pedagogy, technology, and evaluation can make them better teachers overall. If that is not relevant and continuous professional development, I do not know what is.

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