Remote Learning – Challenges

Listening to the recording of inquiry by the fire webinar was one of the productive and inspiring activities I did on Good Friday.  As I listened to Kath Murdoch, Kimberly Mitchell and Trevor MacKenzie discussing and sharing thoughts about inquiry and remote learning, I took down some notes.  I paused a few times to let myself reflect on my own thoughts. I nodded many times.  I was saying ‘Yes, but…’ a few times. Eventually, I felt inspired after that and tried to see things from bigger perspectives. In such a situation, sometimes we easily struggle to stay positive and somehow our empathy and tolerance gradually decrease along with the increasing of struggling and frustration.  This is one of the takeaways from an hour and 10 minutes webinar – coping with challenges in remote learning.  I will share my other takeaways in another post.


Remote Learning – No/Low Tech


The discussion started with a topic of inquiry in an online learning environment.  ‘Not everyone is online,’ Kath Murdoch commented. It’s true.  Not everyone has access to technology, great internet connection, resources, time, etc.

Kath emphasised the importance of thinking about equity during remote learning.  That reflects on our roles as educators to ensure learning continues in this difficult time.  How do we support children (and parents) during remote/home learning?  What can we do from our end to ease their situation at home?  This reminds me of a talk on Global Educators Collective group on Facebook with Leah Montana (Facilitated by Kirsten Durward).


Screenshot 2020-04-12 at 07.32.53
Click here to watch the video

Leah shared about parent’s pressure and how to support learning in low tech outreach. What can we do to reach out and connect without technology?  Learning does not necessarily stop just because technology does not present.



Imagine if this pandemic happened in the era when the internet did not exist – How would we support learning at home? No email. No learning platforms. No search engines. No smartphone.  No laptop.  No online games.  No online videos.  No virtual trips. No… No… No…

‘… formal schooling is a relatively new human phenomenon and humans have learned well before schools were invented 300 years ago and learning is everywhere and teachers are everywhere …’

Kimberly Mitchell – #inquirybythefire

I believe many schools and educators are facing such a situation at the moment.  Equity seems to be the keyword to ensure that learning continues and everyone can participate at their own pace.  When talking about the equity issue during remote learning, it goes beyond the presence of technology.  Kath mentioned whether they have access to the garden, books, anything that supports the learning at home. This is a good reminder to myself as I plan for the home learning for the kids.  I can’t expect them to go and explore nature, if they can’t even go outside or if they don’t have access to it.  Somehow thinking about their home environment (how it looks like and how it can be utilized to support learning) is an essential aspect in this setting. I can’t expect them to use blocks to create something if they have limited toys (Keeping in mind the types of materials they have at home that they can use to explore, create and experiment with). I can’t ask the kids to do exercise with toilet paper rolls as the families may not have them.  The point is we have to think carefully and consider resources and their home environment when planning.  In addition to that, we also should be flexible with our own expectations for home learning.


Remote Learning – Families

When talking about the equity issue in remote learning, it also goes beyond technology and resources.  It’s about their home environment which means their family.

Trevor mentioned about putting on our ‘noticing hat’ as we talk to the children and the parents.  We are not only caring for the well-being of the children but also reaching out to the parents to understand their home situation.  He mentioned about encouraging teachers to help parents notice what’s happening with their children at home.

‘….Ask broad questions so we can get to know what it’s like at home and what it’s like for the learners at home, for the families, for the parents at home, what are the stresses and uncertainties of all being in the same place in the same time ….

Trevor MacKenzie – #inquirybythefire

Each family may have different needs/issues/challenges/etc.  Some families may need more support on how to deal with 3 (or more) kids at home, sharing devices, helping out with tech and juggling with their own personal/professional challenges and commitments.  Some others may need support on giving ideas on being with their kids at home and motivating their (young) kids to do the assigned work.  Some may have to deal with their own frustration (e.g. losing jobs due to the pandemic) and have no energy to support the (younger) kids at home.  Some may need support on how to juggle teaching their students and their own kids at home.  Some may need to think of surviving the lockdown.  Some may just need someone to listen to them.  This makes me realize that at this moment, the role of educators has been extended. Is this really our responsibility as educators right now?  Hmm… I guess it is as the environment that the kids use to support their learning is at HOME which means their family is a part of the environment.

‘…Are parents primed and ready for learning? I want to know more what’s happening at home.  Is learning on the list for that day?…’

Trevor MacKenzie – #inquirybythefire

I guess this really resonates to what Sonya Terborg shared about how we as educators should think about Child-Family-Environment-Learning as a pathway to learning. In this circumstance, families and home environments definitely affect the child and his learning.  For our early years and lower primary learners, parent’s role in supporting home learning is very crucial.  However, as educators, we do not want to turn parents into teachers at home.  This is something that we should think even before starting to plan the learning experiences.  At school, when planning on the lessons, we consider many aspects such as the child’s progress, resources, environment.  The same thing applies to plan remote learning.  Now we should include the family as a part of our plan.  Reach out to them regularly (e.g. emails, Seesaw announcement, phone call, parents survey, etc.)  Put our ‘noticing’ hat on as we listen to them.  Get the parents to learn to notice their children at home and share with you. Use the data from the parents to design home learning experience. Whilst we are thinking of the learning goals, keep these questions in mind as we plan. Is it realistic? Do they have access to the resources?  How much time does it require? What flexibility teachers can offer?  If this can’t be done at home, what alternatives can the kids (and the parents) do at home?  How much supports do parents have to provide?  Do we expect parents to teach? OR do we expect parents to facilitate the learning? 

I guess we should prepare our parents with clear guidelines on how they can support learning at home.  Particularly for young learners who need more support, we do not want to end up with getting submissions which seem to be done by the parents or with ‘big’ help from the parents.   The role of the parents needs to be made clear.

This is something that I would keep in mind as I (we) live in the uncertainty situation.  Are we going back to school after Easter break?  What happens next?  What can we learn from our home learning practice before the Easter break?  How can we improve learning if home learning is still going on?  I will definitely apply my takeaway from this discussion into my planning in the near future.

The visual below is a part of my takeaway from what Kimberly, Kath and Trevor shared about how they deal with the struggles and being inquirer in this remote learning context.  I know there are many more to add to this list.  Anything we can do to keep our sanity and continue being inquirers that support others (friends, students, parents, colleagues) to inquire…..without forgetting our own well-being!

Inquiry by the fire

‘…when the going gets tough, get curious!…’

Kimberly Mitchell – #inquirybythefire

Stay safe and healthy!


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