Two teachers at Qatar Academy Al Khor (QAK) speak about the key challenges that distance learning presents for students and their families
Tamar Awadikian and Fedaa Al-Shoufi, two teachers at Qatar Academy Al Khor (QAK), part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, agree that the best way for the distance learning process that coronavirus has necessitated to succeed is for parents and teachers to cooperate and interact, particularly in the early stages of a child’s education.
This year is a big challenge for us, and we have had to adapt to new methods of teaching. We, as teachers, help each other and work together when planning and preparing lessons
According to Awadikian, who is an Early Years English Teacher at QAK: “This year is a big challenge for us, and we have had to adapt to new methods of teaching. We, as teachers, help each other and work together when planning and preparing lessons, because we are teaching the same students."
“One of the challenges we have faced through distance learning is accessing students. It is very difficult for parents to convince their children to sit in front of a laptop or any other device and interact with us as we used to. We use a lot of different strategies and activities, and we are doing our best to encourage them to participate. The family plays a big role in this, but some students still feel shy and do not participate in interactive activities confidently in front of their peers.
When you got used to a certain method of teaching and then suddenly it becomes virtual learning, it is not easy. So, I think adapting to all this is a skill in itself
“We are always keen to communicate with parents; we share our observations freely with them and encourage them to encourage their children to attend lessons and participate in the weekly lessons that we offer online. However, sometimes we hear them whispering to their child with the correct answer, and we advise them not to do this but rather give them the opportunity to think and answer on their own, even if their answers prove to be incorrect."
Awadikian believes that early years children can only focus on direct or recorded lessons for between three and five minutes, and so it is normal for their attention not to be held by a long video. “We have received many observations from parents that their child does not complete the videos to the end, so when we prepare the videos for the activities, we make sure that they are short and meet learning strategies and goals,” she said. “And we think of activities that children can enjoy at home with their parents, giving them sufficient flexibility to use the various resources available at home.
Distance learning is a new experience that we are living both as teachers and students, as we have become dependent on technology in the lessons and activities that we offer to students
"Through this experience, we have developed different skills; for example, I started applying a new method of teaching that I had not accepted at first, because when you got used to a certain method of teaching and then suddenly it becomes virtual learning, it is not easy. So I think adapting to all this is a skill in itself."
Al-Shoufi, an Early Years Arabic teacher at QAK, said: "Distance learning is a new experience that we are living both as teachers and students, as we have become dependent on technology in the lessons and activities that we offer to students.
"We are always in contact with parents to discuss the daily challenges we face with remote learning, especially for this young group age. Previously, the SEESAW digital learning program that we now use extensively was merely a link between us and parents, so we were not primarily dependent on it - it was simply a way of sharing some of the work that the children applied in the classroom.
We appreciate the challenges that parents face, so we are keen to encourage them to follow lessons and ensure their children's commitment to do homework, and we always assure them that we are here to cooperate with them to achieve the goal that we all aspire to, which is student learning
"We appreciate the challenges that parents face, so we are keen to encourage them to follow lessons and ensure their children's commitment to do homework, and we always assure them that we are here to cooperate with them to achieve the goal that we all aspire to, which is student learning."
In addition to the activities and assignments provided through the SEESAW program, QAK offers online lessons that seek to maintain direct communication between the teacher and the student, so that there is no learning gap when students return to school.
"In direct education, the teacher is able to cover any gaps with activities and exercises, but remote learning is different,” said Al-Shoufi.
“We send parents models that they can apply at home in a way that engages the child, and not only with recorded lessons. In fact, we receive many creative ideas from parents, and they are not only use the examples that we share, but they also share new and creative ideas with us.
“We appreciate the other responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of parents, so we are keen to send an appropriate amount of activities to students. A maximum of two activities are sent daily in Arabic and English, and students are allowed to submit their posts and do activities and assignments at any time, seven days a week.”
Al-Shoufi says it is understandable if parents are sometimes wary or uncertain of the new learning methods instigated as a response to COVID-19, but encourages them to allow their children to have “the opportunity to interact with the teacher spontaneously”, as this helps to identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and supports their personal development.
"I hope that parents will accept this way of learning without tension or fear,” she said. “As well as supporting their children, they should trust them, because they are creative and have wonderful capabilities. If there are some challenges that they face, we are always happy to cooperate with them to find solutions."