On March 18, 2020 we started a two month period of distance learning in Finland. Our government’s decision to go this route was announced only two days earlier. During those two days we all organised our teaching differently according to our different styles.
There were few requirements from our Head of Education. 1. Using video conference at the beginning of every lesson and 2. organising subject teaching for grades 7-9 according to our normal daily schedule every day. We quickly learned to use suitable programs and started to make digital exercises for pupils and search for new ideas to solve problems we faced . Only pupils with strong special needs and pupils at the age of 7-10 were allowed to go to school and study in contact with a teacher.
All of us were teaching from home. We started every lesson via video connection and guided our pupils with their exercises. After lessons we planned our next lessons to come. We also had to think new ways for assessment. Because we didn’t know how long our distance learning period was about to last, we had to evaluate pupils work and learning process constantly. Co-operation between teachers through different social media channels was priceless.
Our special education teachers and school assistants were helping us with pupils who had challenges with distance learning. Pupils who dropped out of lines or didn’t return their exercises were called by us. Every now and then we also had to call parents and ask for their help. At first pupils and parents were stressed about the differences in communication methods between teachers, but soon the situation stabilised.
Via internet we were able to have teaching discussions, organise group works and projects, make pupils keep presentations, give tasks and exercises, play digital learning games, make and supervise digital exams, give individual guidance and feedback and have small group conversations, to name a few.
According to our experiences during this two month period there are five key elements for a teacher to succeed online. Autonomy gives us a possibility to try and develop ideas and teach the way we feel comfortable. Co-operation improves our know-how effectively. Creating digital materials make it possible to check and follow pupils learning process constantly. Various teaching methods keep pupil’s interest alive. Individual guiding is an important element to help each pupil learn better.
We don’t know what kind of learning environments are waiting for us in August. It is relieving to be a bit more experienced if distance learning will continue. We also gained confidence in our ability to survive in unexpected situations and acquired new digital tools to teach.