Letters & Opinion

Focus on Education — Parental Support: Encouraging Appropriate Behaviours in Online Classrooms

By Hannah Felix

September heralded the commencement of a new academic year (2021/2022), and the Ministry of Education, proposed a distributed approach to instruction which, according to researchers, incorporates a blend of multimedia instructional methods.

School commenced in earnest on September 13, 2021 and students, parents and teachers anticipated yet another challenging year. Many schools scheduled virtual assemblies to reorient students to the procedures of online learning. However, at the conclusion of these sessions, teachers, students, parents and the general public, expressed utter consternation at the appalling and despicable behaviour of some attendees. For participants, it was a traumatizing experience having to endure blatant vulgarity, language with sensual undertones and cyberbullying, at the hands of perpetrators. Administrators did not mince words as they swiftly denounced such unprecedented levels of impertinence which were equally meted out to students and teachers.

It is quite obvious that online instruction has become a prominent feature of our education system therefore, it is inevitable that adjustments be made to enhance its delivery in order to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Furthermore, it is incumbent on participants to adhere to online decorum; to ensure a seamless transition from the physical classroom environment, to a virtual one.  As stakeholders in academia, parents are encouraged to attend assiduously to the regulations of online learning. Moreover, to guarantee that children adhere to appropriate classroom netiquette, the following measures can be employed:

1. Ensure that children are suitably attired: In a physical setting, students are required to observe the school’s dress code. Some schools have requested that students engage in their virtual sessions in school uniform, however, if school uniforms are not mandated, children should be appropriately clad. School is a formal institution and whether it is conducted in a physical or virtual environment, children should display some level of professionalism.

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2. Monitor the use of audiovisuals aids: These are technological features such as microphones and cameras which are used during the instructional process. To avoid distractions caused by background noise, upon entry into each session (Zoom, Google Meet), microphones and cameras should be muted unless otherwise permitted by the teacher.

3. Reinforce positive behaviours: It is possible to make meaningful contributions without being disrespectful to teachers and colleagues. In the physical environment, children interact in a cordial manner. For instance, they are encouraged to raise their hands to seek the teacher’s attention. One symbolic feature of Google Meet is the hand, a raised hand indicates that a participant wishes to make a contribution to the lesson. To avoid chaos and confusion, reinforce the rule that they await their turn to speak.

4. Encourage participation. It is the teacher’s implicit expectation that students engage in discussions. Encourage children to respond to the teacher and their peers, when they are called upon to do so.

5. Enforce appropriate identification. Identification is crucial because it allows the teacher to take an account of  students’ attendance. For this reason, when children log on to the platform, they should be encouraged to sign in with the names that they use at school, (nick names and household names should be strictly prohibited), and utilize the email addresses that were issued by the school.

6. Emphasize the importance of attendance. It is imperative to highlight the importance of regular attendance and its positive impact on education. Some children might be reluctant to attend school for various reasons (bullying, incomplete homework, academic problems). In such situations, administrative intervention is recommended. Children should also be encouraged to log on a few minutes before commencement, to ensure that they are punctual for their classes.

7. Submit completed exercises to the teacher for feedback.  Feedback is essential in the learning and assessment process. It provides opportunities for remediation, motivates children to excel and ultimately increases their proficiency levels. Thus, the onus is on the parent to ensure that all completed exercises and assignments are submitted to the teacher.

Create contingency plans: In the virtual environment, children need access to technological devices and a reliable internet connection. In the event that there is a disruption in connectivity at home, allocations can be made for children to access WiFi, compliments of the GiNet Project, which provides free internet access to various communities around the island. This ensures the continuity of learning, which is essential to children’s academic development. It is also critical to inform the school of the unavailability of devices at home and arrangements be made for the retrieval of supplemental packages.

Evidently, education is at the core of this nation’s human resource development and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its global decimation, stakeholders have to contend with its consequential impact on the education system. Online instruction has proven to be a challenging enterprise for both parents and children. However, parents are encouraged to continue to engage in the learning process to make this undertaking a less daunting one.

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