Dr. Ainat Guberman is the head of the Mofet Institute Research Authority, and a lecturer at the David Yellin College of Education - Israel.
Her research topics include early childhood cognitive development and professional teacher development.
It is said that when a person falls into the water for the first time, there is a reasonable chance that he will not drown, but it is difficult to attain good style in this swim…
The Covid-19 pandemic has caught us all unprepared.
Now that the school year is over, we have the opportunity to polish our “swimming style”; to get our heads out of the turbulent water, to look sideways, to our peers around the world, and to see
(1) What common difficulties we faced?
(2) What solutions were found?
(3) What can we learn for the future, in order to work better even in routine days?
During MOFET's study day, “A Corner Stone: Building Education and Teacher Education Systems in Times of Crises and Change” that took place online on June 30, 2020, we addressed these questions.
Lecturers from England, Ireland, USA, Hong Kong, Portugal, Finland, and of course, from Israel, participated in this day of collaborative learning.
They spoke about their lessons, learned as teachers, teacher educators, administrators, education ministry officials and third sector members.
(1) The main difficulties
The Corona crisis revealed weaknesses that existed in education systems before the covid-19 pandemic and added new challenges.
The transition to online teaching has revealed that not all students have proper conditions for home learning, accessibility to computers (and even electricity), and a quiet and suitable place for learning.
These children were at risk of low achievement even before the crisis, and the crisis only deepened these gaps.
Economic and health pressures, crowded homes, and traffic restrictions have created emotional distress.
Teachers around the world endeavored to provide solutions for these students.
As a result, the boundaries between the workspace and the private space were breached, and the emotional load that teachers experienced was great.
All this, at a time when personal and family life required teachers to address and deal with multiple difficulties.
Online teaching is not suitable for most preschool children, nor for some children with special needs.
In recent decades, traditional teaching has come under severe scrutiny: it is not suitable for the modern age where knowledge is widely accessible.
It does not respect the differences between students, suppresses their motivation and makes them passive and bored.
All these drawbacks are amplified when trying to copy traditional learning into the online world.
Given the severity of the difficulties and the necessity to act immediately, the variety of solutions found is impressive.
Governments and other organizations have joined forces to provide online learning materials for teachers and students.
In some places, television and radio have also been used, which has partly compensated for the inaccessibility of computers.
Teachers underwent expedited professional training that dealt with both the technical and pedagogical aspects of online teaching.
(3) Sustainable Changes
Some of the solutions that succeeded in the emergency will remain with us, hopefully, in the future as well:
Hybrid Instruction allows students to use online and broadcast learning materials and encourages independent learning, choice of topics and study materials, as well as working in small groups.
Some of the time students meet with teachers (face-to-face or online) for individual conversations or in small groups.
Teaching becomes more personal, interpersonal relationships between teachers and students are tightened, and teachers' ability to provide each student with learning and emotional support increases.
Hybrid instruction therefore also addresses the overcrowded classrooms and allows moving away from traditional instruction.
Using videos, games, and virtual reality makes teaching a more engaging and varied experience.
The shift to online teaching has expanded the use of the Internet as a cross-border tool and encourages multicultural collaboration.
Dr. Antonio Calderon spoke about collaboration between Limerick University, Ireland and Wingate College and Kibbutzim Seminar, Israel.
The TEC Center at The MOFET Institute has developed over the years collaboration between students, teachers, student teachers, and teacher educators from the three independent government educational systems in Israel: The Arabic educational system, the Hebrew educational system and the Hebrew religious educational system.
The participants get to know, respect and love each other, and work together.
Reflection and professional judgment:
The transition to online teaching requires teachers to rethink their goals in teaching, teaching and assessment methods, motivation, finding a balance between supporting cognitive, social, and physical and emotional development, as well as collaboration with parents.
The need to find new solutions, as Prof. Libman noted, brings innovation, autonomy, grows teacher "heroes" and encourages teacher collaboration.
Hopefully, the crisis will make teachers more reliant on professional literature as they design their teaching, and not only on their close colleagues, and encourage them study their actual teaching.
Challenges for the future
The study day was rich and interesting, but some questions still require further attention, e.g. How can we provide quality education for students who do not have the conditions for learning at home? How can we support home learning for students with special needs?
Maybe another study day, devoted solely to these issues, will set this in motion…
All presentations and videos of this study day can be watched on its official website.