The Paradox is / is Not Online Pedagogy - The First Part

When everyone claims something, but they act as if it does not exist

There are some beliefs in society that no one individually believes in. Žižek often cites the example of "believing" in Santa Claus - although no one believes in Santa Claus, neither parents nor children (except very young ones), Santa Claus is and will be there in the squares of our cities and on the facades of buildings and shopping malls (often his "living" replica). Society, therefore, accepts something; we say that there is such a belief in society, although no one individually (must) believe in it.

I claim that a similar but seemingly reversed paradox exists when we think about online teaching, i.e. its theoretical basis - online psychology and pedagogy. Namely, there is no parent, teacher, professional associate in the school or ministry who will not (re) claim that teaching in a real classroom and distance learning are fundamentally different, qualitatively ("living word" of the teacher and physical contact, communication with the teacher face to face - body language and voice tone, as opposed to learning that is primarily based on reading and writing); however, when the school year begins on September 1, either in a real classroom or at a distance, all participants will continue with "their" pedagogy and psychology as well. so far, without looking at the form of teaching imposed by the pandemic situation. What is this paradox - that everyone "believes" (claims) that the forms of teaching are qualitatively different, implicitly suggesting that the theoretical scientific basis of these forms of teaching is different, and in practice apply "their pedagogy and psychology", regardless of whether teaching is being held in a real classroom or remotely. The paradox is / is not online pedagogy (hereinafter: Paradox) is a paradox par excellence, not tu quoque or some other logical error.

The negative effects of Paradox make the work of a teacher who is "in the plant, in the field" especially difficult. A professional teacher who is an expert in his field (I am a professional economist and statistician) very often needs the help of professional associates, but now, it seems, it is harder for him to ask for it. The teacher is afraid of the answer: "we work as we have always done", "as before", "we have always had such an attitude".

Principles of online pedagogy

Theoretically, I came across online teaching shortly after 2004 in an article by Bill Pelc published in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks.While preparing this article, I’ve noticed that even after sixteen years, this paper is still gladly quoted. 

Pelz sets out three principles of online pedagogy that a teacher should adhere to in teaching based on science and profession. Pelc's principles are the starting point in our analysis of the effects of distance learning during a pandemic, and they were chosen because of their popularity and simplicity.

Before I move on to the analysis of my own experience in the application of distance learning, here are two important remarks. First, Pelc's principles refer to a hybrid model of teaching, which means that asynchronous distance learning is combined with planned classes in a real classroom. For that reason, I had to partially modify the originally set principles. Secondly, Pelc's principles are necessarily viewed, analyzed and checked holistically, as an indivisible whole. All three principles are personified in the institution of teacher leadership, entrepreneurial leadership. The teacher is the motivator, the team leader and the organizer.

I principle - to involve students as much as possible

The role of teachers in online teaching is quite clear: it sets the framework, guides, clarifies, encourages and motivates, empowers, provokes discussion and establishes standards and norms of behavior (especially ethical and moral), creates a favorable climate for critical thinking in every step of the teaching processbrainstorming, critical thinking, tenth man ruleand, of course, gives short, concise and clear feedback. The material is presented in such a way to encourage students to research and create additional teaching content, for students to help each otherpeer assistanceto self evaluateself and/or peer Assesment), analiziraju studije slučajeva (case studies analysispresents their creative ideas (forum discussion). 

I sincerely recommend all these methods if you have not already used them - do not just expect to get a realistic quantitative grade in self-assessment or peer assessment (anonymous or not), but you will certainly get a plenty of supporting explanations that students are required to submit according to pre-prepared and accessible section. In my experience, forum discussion can be a problem because of the risk of plagiarism.

Namely, during the first semester, Forum - Exchange of Products and Ideaswhich was open for first and second grade as a whole, and not just for the formal group / class, in a short time became something most interesting and valuable in my work at school so far; unfortunately Forum , I had to close the Forum after two or three weeks of distance learning because the discussions, ideas and their descriptions were presented, copied with unbearable ease and without any hesitation. Forum was so "real" that students had the impression that they were on the free internet, that they could freely download materials from them as if they were free to download (collaborative commons; creative commons; common goods), regardless of the known fact that all these discussions are someone's intellectual property Foruma and that the teacher himself is behind the Forum. One technique that gave excellent results in a real classroom became a black hole in distance learning (more detailed in the analysis of Principle II).

Closing Forum - Exchange of Products and Ideas was a red alarm for the teacher that the motivation of students to work in a group is in free fall. In the weekly analysis of my work, I tried to answer the question of what happened so that the motivation in the groups disappeared as if someone on command had suddenly turned off the light.

In the explanation of this moment, two answers imposed themselves. 

The first answer requires a more detailed analysis of the broader context. Our education exists in a society that is in some chronic, comatose superposition; the economic system is at the same time the best in the world and so ruined that many more years of rehabilitation are needed. The economics to which I belong claim that shock therapy is one of the last therapies that can save a comatose patient. This is the reason why, in the shocking interruption of classes due to the pandemic, I saw an opportunity for the "revival" to cause radical and sustainable effects on education as a whole; and indeed, in the beginning, distance learning, in my experience, went (un) expectedly well. Except for a couple of students, who were not engaged until the end of the school year, the vast majority of students regularly performed their duties, there were no delays, the work was correct, there was no transcription, oral communication or consultations went normally without any spectacular changes. students who started in a real classroom were completed and defended orally, individually or in pairs as planned (via Google Hangouts).

As life around our virtual classroom "slowly began to return to normal", and distance learning became routine, so did motivation decline, bringing negative side effects: cognitive presence of studentscognitive presenceenergy forcritical thinking) nestali su naglo (izuzetak su časovi sekcije na kojima su analizirane studije slučajeva iz oblasti primenjene poslovne etike). Početni entuzijazam nastave na daljinu sveo se na dobro poznatu rutinu iz realne učionice.  Radovi i poruke koji su stizali sve više su ličili na radove i poruke iz realne učionice „samo fizički prisutnih učenika“! Kognitivna odsutnost je bila očigledna u asinhronoj komunikaciji u kojoj su pojedini učenici bili potpuno nesvesni činjenice da „internet sve pamti“. Momentum izazvan šok terapijom prekida nastave nije iskorišćen baš kao i u društvu. 

Second, it seems that the initial period of "formative assessment" according to the instruction that came from outside lasted too long. To be honest, I hoped that this instruction was just the beginning of the application of a new, online pedagogy in practice, but it did not materialize. I literally carried out the mentioned instruction, but now, from this time perspective, I am convinced that it was a mistake. The instruction on formative assessment was intended for some imaginary average teacher, and in that sense I have no doubt that it was well thought out and gave results; however, in my case - and that is that all the material, all the presentations, exercises, tests and other checks were already online and before the break - the decision to take some stand by status, waiting to "move on", was wrong , and its consequences are irreversible.

When, after a series of "smilies" that I recorded weekly in both the e-Diary and the electronic portfolio of students that was available to parents, with explanations that most students and parents did not even read, finally came the instruction to enter summative, quantitative grades it was already too late to make a reversal in the trend of declining motivation (if I'm not mistaken, it was the middle or end of May).

To be continued...

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