Distance learning represents a change and a challenge not only for students. Salem teacher Stefanie Grimm gives a report of her own experiences.
Once again, as in the last school year around Easter, we teachers have been called upon to change over to digital instruction during the school day. Since the school administrators already anticipated the need for this, students had taken all their school books and materials home with them over the Christmas holidays. Fortunately, I am able to make use of the emergency support system at my three-year old son’s kindergarten for nearly all my teaching hours, and on Saturday my husband is at home.
My digital class teaching is going quite well. We use the software platform of Microsoft Teams and have no problems communicating digitally. At the beginning of the class hour my students are given a kick-off task that pops up on their screens. I can see immediately who has opened the task and make inquiries if problems arise. We discuss the assignment and the rest of the topics for the class hour, set up teaching and practice phases, and then end our lesson punctually at breaktime. The opportunities of digital instruction are multifaceted: parallel to my camera, I can also give students access to my computer screen; in Maths I can draw, for example, a Pythagorean object very quickly in different colours; and at the close of the lesson I can send such images as pdf documents to all my students. By now, they are well-acquainted with the technical features of the programme. They can raise their hands digitally, divide up their computer screens, upload images of their answers, and work collaboratively on a word document in real-time.
Many of my fellow teachers have become used to this new way of instruction and see the digital media as a great opportunity. Salem’s middle school teacher Johannes Schweizer uses a particularly interesting kick-off for each class hour. He admits that he has to make more of an effort than in a regular classroom to keep his students on the ball. After all, it is not easy for them to sit in the same chair from 8 o’clock in the morning until, on some days, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, always staring at their screens. Clearly, we are expecting a very high degree of self-discipline from our students in these times. And we all agree that in-person classroom instruction is irreplaceable. I really miss speaking to real faces, rather than into a computer screen. And students feel the same way, for I get e-mails almost every day that end with the sentence “Hopefully we’ll see each other again soon in Salem!” I hope so, too.