It was 3:30 in the afternoon of Friday, March 13, 2020. I was in my last hour class for the day. My students were helping me prepare for the speech meet we were to host the following day. That’s when my superintendent stepped into my classroom and told me there would be no speech meet. COVID-19 was shutting down our school.
We were soon told we would be out of school for the next week. We waited. Then we were told it would be longer and we needed to begin a distance learning plan. Somehow we adapted and moved forward.
One of the first moves I made was to begin looking online for helpful content to share with students. I knew I was unable to be next to them, but perhaps through the use of videos and articles online, we could piece together learning tools and salvage what had been a solid year of learning.
In studying this week, I found myself drawn to the idea of curation as an educator. My experience with distance learning has caused me to think much more about what I choose to use and what I choose to throw.
Sometimes we overload students with too much content and need to learn how to curate to make sure they are using the best of what we find. In her blog, Are You a Curator or a Dumper?, Jennifer Gonzalez (2018) explains some of the pitfalls of overloading students with content and how to avoid these. She suggests finding the best information and making it easily accessible. Too much information is a problem for students. It lead to too many choices and uncertainty about what is important.
Cognitive Load Theory
Cognitive Load Theory suggests a person’s working memory can only handle a certain amount of information at a given time. Too much information can make it difficult for the brain to move the information from the working memory to the long-term memory.
Teachers can help students learn by considering the three parts of cognitive load. The intrinsic load is the difficulty of the task or learning assigned. The extraneous load is the amount of information through images and audio that are used to teach the new information. Too much extraneous information can hinder learning by distracting the learner. When these loads are at the correct levels, the germane load, or moving of content from the working memory to the long term memory, happens.
Youtube became one of my favorite sites during distance learning. Students learn well when they see and hear information in a video. One problem I encountered was how to ensure students were not passively watching the videos with little thought about the content.
Video tools such as Edpuzzle could help teachers decrease the extraneous load by allowing teachers to edit video to smaller amounts of specific content and insert questions to focus a student’s attention to important elements.
Using video content can help students, but it is important for teachers to curate the learning experience. Dr. Peggy Semingson (2020) gives helpful advice in her Youtube series on microlearning. She suggest using very short videos no longer than five minutes in length to teach content.
Although I would not call myself proficient at distance teaching, the internet and various tools available to educators make learning possible. It gives me hope that even in a pandemic students (and teachers) can learn.