Distance learning is cool; classrooms are so 1900s


[Photo from CNN Ph]

Analysis and opinion

By Joe America

This blog article is being written by dictation. This is a skill I learned from my son who is undertaking distance learning. It seems to me that distance learning is the future. The classroom is so 1900s. Technology is the way of the world today. We should use it.

What are some of the strategic advantages of an education system based on technology instead of classrooms?

  1. Tens of thousands of cars are taken off the road every day.
  2. Learning is more dynamic and engaging; it’s also more intense.
  3. Budgets can be shifted from building classrooms to buying computers and bandwidth.
  4. Kids learn more and they learn new disciplines that are important today.
  5. Teachers can be used better; the best teachers can teach the most kids.

What is required today is a bold vision that steps away from the classroom model. Classroom size is dynamic with distance learning. It can be 300 students or it can be three students, and it can change in a minute. Without scrambling to another building.

One of the most satisfying achievements that I see my son experiencing is the ability to engage and if necessary lead a small group discussion to plan a presentation on a given subject for the teacher. The students decide who will do what, who will prepare slides to assist in the presentation, and what the arguments will be. In 20 minutes, three students prepare a presentation that takes three minutes to give. The skills they learn are extraordinarily valuable and hard to learn in the classroom. When to speak. Went to listen. How to help. The subject-knowledge gained is a bonus.

My son has learned how to manage his time to keep up with an intense day that involves several classes, work assignments, communications with classmates by direct messaging, and homework assignments. He has to do this by himself. He can’t ride along with other students or hide in the back of the room. The teacher deals with him face-to-face via the computer screen. It is incredibly personal.

The bold vision has to consider new elements of instruction: the quality of the home classroom, the demands on teachers, how to take examinations, and dealing with technology.

My son’s classroom is one end of the dining room table with a wall behind him. We have established an invisible wall between him and the rest of the house. During the day he rarely leaves his classroom. And we don’t intrude into his space with noise or comments.

Some kids don’t have that opportunity. They have brothers and sisters and very small, noisy spaces at home. Some schools will need to dedicate classroom space to computers that kids can use as if they were in a homeschool environment. But many kids will be able to establish a satisfactory home learning classroom. It will be up to the schools to provide them with laptops or tablets, internet connections, and teaching materials such as workbooks.

Change requires change.

  • As kids have to adjust, so do teachers. And they can.
  • There are many tools available for examinations. Google forms, PDF, off-the-shelf applications for quizzes and exams, or even school classrooms as a part of a hybrid school/home program.
  • Kids age 10 and above can generally handle the technology aspects of distance-learning by themselves with counseling from teachers. Younger kids need an adult partner at home, a paper-based curriculum, or ‘homeschool’ in a classroom.

I imagine a well-developed model would use physical facilities for certain activities . . . assemblies, exams, face-to-face activities, and learning spaces for those with crowded homes . . . while most of students’ time would be spent in distance learning.

The upside for distance-learning is huge. More knowledge. More skills. Fewer cars. Higher quality instruction.

All that is missing is a vision of the future that is not tied down by the past.


32 Responses to “Distance learning is cool; classrooms are so 1900s”
  1. Joey Ledesma says:

    I have two daughters grade 4 and 5 at the private OB Montessori School in Greenhills, San Juan. The school hired d private orange apps to operationalize the online learning for us. We are one hundred percent online including the submission of homework through pictures, etc. Our physical education is online zumba classes where the students dance in front of cameras. We are greatly enjoying our online classes. No need to bring kidz to school. Every sfternoon, our homes become big classrooms

    • Yes indeed, Joey. Time for a casual breakfast, even. Your kids’ process is exactly like Joe Jr’s.

      • kasambahay says:

        susmaryosep, joeam! they have gotten rid of classroom bullies and abusive teachers. online, all have to be civil and apparently cordial. no more teachers yelling at sleepy students, students bullying another students; fighting, stealing lunchboxes, copying assignments, gossiping, etc.

        less street traffic now too, less school kids clogging public transport, students running amok at traffic lights, littering, spitting, mindlessly checking phones and facebooking. they must have foregone gala too, no more wagging school and playing truant, and meeting friends in secret locations.

        what some students dont like about online learning is that nothing is eased really, only location has shifted from classroom to home. criteria still have to be satisfied, met and addressed and online presentation can be nighmarish! keywords still have to be identified, their salient points discussed, big markers those are. miss them and god forbid. contents make for around 80% of grading, visuals a poor 10-5%.

        online private tutors are kept busy. not all students can keep pace.

  2. This is of course easy to implement for the middle class and no issue at all for the upper class – but imagine distance learning among the urban poor or in isolated rural areas where there often isn’t even an adequate Internet connection. I also have seen an interview on socmed with a poor man who only finished Grade 5 and said he will have a hard time helping his kids with stuff he never took in school. Then think of the many kids the poor often have in a cramped space – even if one were able to give all of them tablets and an Internet connection.

    Karl has mentioned on FB the danger of hacking and incedents of indecent exposure to kids via the Internet – these matters have to be considered as well.

    Germany is better geared for distance learning of course, but given the perfectionism here the online course materials aren’t seen as good enough yet. Pupils go to school in masks but schools are a hive of new infections, unfortunately. We may be forced to go distance learning pretty soon.

    • Nevertheless, it IS a good thing to do distance learning. It is a chance to upgrade connectivity and help digitalize. Bavaria has reserved funds for tablets etc. for teachers and pupils, though I haven’t followed up on where that is going, probably it is for the event that schools have to close and go back to distance learning – or a mix of alternate presence schooling and distance learning which was what was practiced during the (partial) lockdown here. Graduating classes were made to go to school though, socially distanced as they had enough rooms to do that, because it was seen as important to be able to finish the full curriculum.

      The principle of as much as possible leaving no one behind is practiced over here. In the Philippines the pandemic will probably widen the gap between public and private schools as well as rich+middle class vs. poor even more.

      • Online classes also tend to be more exhausting (just like telcos can be even more) as one lacks the usual cues of body language that one has in a presence setting. Corporate trainings over here that take two days @ 8 hours are spread out over 2×6 hours plus 4 hours for that reason, for instance. Possibly an adaptation of that for online learning would be a mix of teacher via video and some hours of self-study using online materials that usually have mini-quizzes (to make sure people pay attention and to check if basics are understood) and quizzes at the end of each section (you can’t proceed without passing them) similar to what many highly digitalized international firms use these days.

        • Our school had problems with kids being tired and getting eye strain and headaches. They adjusted the schedule to have more workbook exercises, time off the machine, and exercises during the day. True, the instruction is intense and demanding and, Good Lord, the students learn a lot! My kid can type fast, dictate searches, perform as a debate whiz in small groups and competitions, and do geography in ways you just can’t get from a textbook. He’s not an exhausted, floppy sadsack. He’s a vibrant, competitive, inspired learning machine.

          • Yep, modern possibilities allow for more learning than before if used properly. Without Google and Wikipedia I wouldn’t have caught up on my missing knowledge in history, my smattering from just SOME of my father’s 10 thousand books I scanned as a kid. Though having classic linear reading skills is an advantage in today’s zapping and clicking words – an antidote to the ADHD I most probably always had, though “age” has mildened it somewhat.

            Modern self-learning software has enormous power. Many corporations use it to full effect.

    • True. That’s the starting point. How are those kids doing today, hiking miles along the national highway with a banana leaf to keep the rain off, packed 45 to a classroom with a discouraged teacher? I think these kids are the biggest promise if given a tablet, a modem, mandated bandwidth, and a start that focuses several months on how to use the gadget with proper classroom etiquette. Finallty, finally, finally they are on the same footing as the richer kids.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    Printed self learning modules is still the preferred choice by majority?
    Buy it says here gradually they will shift to digital that does not rely on the internet.
    Good luck with that, they still have not distributed the modules, why do they have fake addresses?


    • kasambahay says:

      ang alam ko po ay balik uli sa publisher ang ibang modules, not been proofread kasi and need editing and revision, contained malaswa words kasi. characters as malou wang, tina moran, etc. errors traced back to a teacher kuno.

      • karlgarcia says:

        ibang problema na dagdag perwisyo pa yan kb.
        Yung mga opisyal at proofread na nakatiwang wang pa din.

        • kasambahay says:

          if ched’s briones is not playing damsel in distress, she can full well tap the armed forces and dilg to help keep online learning safe and secure for children, instead of the armed forces wasting manpower and resources running fallacious web advocacies meant to mislead and misinformed the public.

          there really are best and brightest in the military, graduates of top military colleges here and abroad at sayang naman if they use their knowledge to do bad when they can do a lot of good.

          methink, threat to national security those online pests that target chidlren, and some of these children are children of the military.

          kaso, some lay families dont want military presence in their living rooms.

      • karlgarcia says:

        If this is censored stuff please delete.

        Just having these two characters is horrible enough: Ping Guerrero and Pining Garcia.
        We Filipinos have our own urban dictionary.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    Because of zoom bombers and hackers, which can affect even kinder kids, Zoom and others must be scrutinized fully


    • Adobe Presenter is way better than Zoom.

      Of course if Filipino software houses can create a product with similar features, you hit two birds with one stone – help Filipino education and create an internationally marketable software. Of course this would mean jumping over the neoliberal (c) Micha shadow the Philippines of today sometimes has and remember that emerging countries need to focus and promote development of key industries first before facing the rough winds of global competition.

      Indian international software firms have high-level own training software and modules, I know, to get their staff up to speed on nearly everything. A bit of that spirit would do the Philippines well.

  5. From over here, Joe, it looks as though teachers like airline employees and mani-/pedi- folks are becoming obsolete.

    Elementary and jr. high teachers for sure,

    since everything they teach or are teaching are readily available online, in youtube mostly. High school teachers , it varies, since there are high school teachers who teach subjects like ethics and philosophy, fine arts and higher physics and science, that do require a personal touch– mainly done thru discussions.

    So my point, teachers that have relied on regurgitation type curriculum are obsolete, the teachers who teach by way of Socratic or symposium method (discussions, debate, etc.) will be gold.

    The trick now is how to go to college w/out a high school degree (or get started on a career w/out some degree), because like that movie “Goodwill Hunting”, you can get everything from Google. So become a Phd in Google, here are my secrets please forward to Joe jr.

    for extra credit have Joe jr. read this:

    Click to access entropy.pdf

    • Joe,

      I think giving elementary students projects, either assigned or their choice, is more superior than Zoom everyday (they use Zoom more here than any platform), and grind as if in the classroom.

      For example Google everything about Claude Shannon and what he worked on, especially his “0110100001100101011011000110110001101111”, then apply said ideas to whatever interests them, The Theory of Information is pretty vast.

      My point, give them something general and they’ll whittle it down, math and language skills will improve incidentally via the research.

      Because I’m still seeing elementary teachers teach as if they are back in a classroom. Have Google do the rest. I hope Joe jr.’s playing “Among Us” its quite the rage among kids and adults these days, since i’m a fan of deduction, great game.

      • Joe Jr. does play, and has become quite conniving, and argumentative.

        • I’ve been re-reading “the Assessment of Men” by the OSS lately vis a vis “Among Us” (and other social deduction games, like ‘Mafia’) and I’m pretty sure this is what was meant by Propaganda Skills.

          This book/monograph is available online, just Google, and gives context to Joe jr.’s improvement in said facets you’ve noted. I’m pretty sure, games like this, will improve a whole nation’s ability to discern as well as propagate propaganda.

          A double edge sword I’m sure, Hahaha…

  6. Karl Garcia says:

    Classes only started last week for the public schools, and many challenges were presented, others shifted from online classes to other modes like modules because of poor internet connectivity.
    Other challenges ate presented like missinhg your friends and playmates, no allowance given.
    Single patents could not work, etc.



    link 2


  7. Karl Garcia says:

    Mobile Learning
    Another good practice to emulate , because it gives jobs to jeepney drivers and private schook teachers who lost their jobs.

  8. Karl Garcia says:

    Romania’s internet speed is the envy of developed nations.



    First, they have a small population.
    We often see new Internet service provider claim faster speed, sure until the customers come ride the bandwagon then all the hyped speed will be speed bagal.

    Even the third telco, it will be fast at first because it will have very few customers, but intil every frustrated cudtomer moves to them, they will be as slow.

    So I suggest more competition from very small players,
    The lemonade stand model can be the best business model for small players.

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