Psychological effects of e-learning during lockdown
Families across the UK and around the world are having to change and adapt their daily lives in order to overcome the challenges imposed by the pandemic. With the virus SARS-Cov-2 causing the disease COVID-19 to spread far and wide the importance of keeping children occupied and safe is being keenly felt by parents and guardians everywhere.
What does this mean for students?
Lockdown means that many schools are closed to all but key workers and the task of delivering a curriculum is more difficult now than ever before. The majority of students will have to learn from the safety of their homes. With differing abilities, multiple locations and varying year groups, how we educate our children is changing and adapting to this unique situation. Trying to keep students busy while making sure they feel safe on top of attempting to keep up with schoolwork in a timely manner is a challenge that the UK’s education system is rising to.
Reassuring children that following the appropriate guidelines will keep them safe and that this situation will gradually improve and eventually get better may seem like an endless task. It is vitally important we remind children, and ourselves, that this isolation is only temporary. This is key to ensuring minimal psychological effects throughout this challenging period.
What does this mean for lessons?
Distance learning has often been unfairly pigeonholed as a poor alternative to face to face learning. However, with the sudden need for social distancing and self-isolation during lockdown, this otherwise resisted educational approach is being whole heartedly embraced. Video conferencing platforms are being used for teaching to ensure that content is delivered appropriately and importantly, that there is some human interaction and feedback.
With the advent of digital sharing and video conferencing products being available for free, many lessons can be carried out through these media. Many of the individuals responsible for delivering educational content will not have had extensive training of these platforms or the technology to provide this service effectively. It is up to schools and educators to make decisions on what platforms work best for them and their students.
Using social sharing apps and even social platforms such as Facebook can provide places to add content whilst providing a sharing of feedback and can also engage the larger social groups of the learner. Most social media platforms will have age limits for users and educators will need to be careful to adapt their privacy settings on profiles to not disclose more information to students than they would in a real classroom. For the most part we have seen our education experts have to become experts across multiple digital platforms.
What does this mean for educators?
Having this opportunity to work from home seems like a good thing at first, but even the most resilient of us struggle without the interactions we need in daily life to sustain social and mental wellbeing. Teachers should make use of social platforms to keep in touch with one another and share best practice from their digital classrooms. Teachers, please try to remind yourself that while you have a huge impact on your students’ wellbeing, you are not solely responsible for their mental health.
It is important for parents and guardians to realise that many children will respond to the current situation in much the same manner as those around them. It is important that we portray a controlled and calm approach to education at home with a keen focus on time management, regular breaks and stimulating activities. This takes the onus off teachers and school leaders to stay calm as well as to educate students.
With a united learning approach, we have an opportunity to change the way we share learning and it will help us to address the feeling of being disconnected from one another. One school that I have spoken to has set up homework groups on the messaging freeware WhatsApp. They share ideas and notes and then this chat is monitored by a parent to ensure it stays on topic. This provides a clear structure to learning and keeps the learning process formalised.
Together educators, parents and guardians can ensure education at home is as a calm and even enjoyable experience. Ensuring that there is time to socialise online with friends and classmates within and beyond the learning arena is also hugely beneficial.
How can we address feelings of isolation and disconnection?
The internet is connecting friendship groups and alleviating some of the stress brought on by boredom and isolation. This feeling of being physically disconnected is one of the biggest psychological strains on all ages during the pandemic. Digital platforms will change how learners connect and engage with content and with each other.
The pandemic won’t last forever but the relationships you build up in these strange times may do. Stay home, stay safe and if you can, stay in touch with friends, colleagues and loved ones online.