Is observation important with online learning?

Is observation still important?

Since opening my observation webinar this week, I have received several questions on how is it possible to observe children in this online learning environment.

One question: Is observation still relevant in these times of online / distance learning?

Observation of children is more important than ever because we are in unknown territory. 

We don’t understand how children’s efforts to interact with screens and people in online learning affects children’s development. 

With television usage we have data. 

With video games we have data. 

We have little to no data on online learning for children at any age. 

Anecdotally, I have consulted with parents whose usually calm and cooperative 8, 9 and 10-year-olds have had “melt-downs” refusing to sit another minute in front of a computer screen. 

Even though we may not be able to physically observe a child, we should be able to see how they engage in online lessons, or how they choose not to engage.

Some school districts are reporting that the attendance rate by school ranges from 90% daily attendance to less than 50%.  Sometimes attendance is counted if the student logged into the system that day, whether that was one minute or one hour.

With observation, which includes asking questions to understand what you are seeing, we can use the scientific method to form a hypothesis, which I show you how to do in the Becoming A Better Observer webinar.  

What would be some helpful observations to measure and test?

  • How can we tell if our students are “really” learning?
  • Is online learning working? 
  • Where is online learning working?
  • Where is it not working?

Being on the frontline of online teaching today requires a fresh way of connecting with children.

Perhaps we can begin our observations by asking the children and their parents essential questions and then listening carefully. 

We can begin with one-on-one conversations with each child, listening more than talking. 

In my Montessori elementary classroom, I used to do a 15-minute review each week with each child, going over their work journals. 

The questions I asked:

  • What did you do this week that you thought was fun?
  • What did you not want to do this week?
  • What would you like to learn?
  • What do you want to do next week? 
  • Do you have a project you’d like to work on?

In my experience, teaching time is well spent having short weekly individual conversations with each child, whatever online format you are using.

That way you could create a strong feedback loop, as well as data to test your hypothesis.

How To Become A Better Observer

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