5 Tips to Improve Remote Learning

Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School Psychologist

According to EdWeek “school districts in urban areas and those that serve the most children in poverty are the most likely to be offering full-time remote instruction,” related to the COVID-19. Not to be brushed aside, students living in rural, sparsely populated communities, says PBS, are “profoundly isolated — cut off from direct human contact and, in many cases, unconnected to the grid.”

These conditions pose dire straits for the nation’s children. Why is meant by that, you might ask?

Negative Impacts

  1. EdTrust found, based upon a recent survey that 9 out of 10 parents are concerned that their child may fall behind academically.
  2. Eight out of ten parents in this same study reported parent observations of their children experiencing elevated levels of stress.
  3. The National Institutes of Health: NIH, presented results of a recent study showing that during March- April 2020, “the actual number of reported allegations [of child maltreatment] was approximately 15,000 lower (27%) than expected for these two months.
  4. A separate NIH study found that adults leading families impacted by job loss causes frustration and feelings of helplessness. In turn, these anxious parents might by more included to act violently toward their own children making the “child more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and suicide.” (See Jia, et al, 2020)

But, I guess if you are reading this article, you know these statistics already. You probably want to know how you can lessen the negative impacts of COVID-19 school closures, remote learning and home schooling in your family? Please see a few suggestions from a school psychologist.

Suggestions for Mitigation

  1. Increase play time. This is counterintuitive you might say. Even odd. But, according to a Harvard study, “especially in an overscheduled, anxious environment, and even when work schedules are tight or when safety concerns” are paramount, play time is vital for intellectual, socio-emotional, and physical development. Play time they posit can be categorized into three separate groups based on situational focus: a) social play, b)independent play, and c) guided play.
  2. Schedule time for family play. Probably non unbiased of course, but a recent survey by the Hasbro found that “91% of those polled said playing games gives their family’s mood a positive boost. And 96% of families who play games together say that they feel close!” There is no need to spend lots of money to partake in family play. Head to your attic, basement or garage and dust off your old Checkers, Chess, Dice, Deck of Cards, Marbles. One can even play tic-tac toe using only sheet of paper and pencils.
  3. Release stress through music. Now that parents, children, college aged and young adults are involuntarily spending more time at home due to COVID-19 state and local mandates, this might be an excellent time to start the habit of listening to relaxing music. the University of Nevada- Reno referenced research showing that “music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious.” They found that these types of rhythms were most prevalent among “Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes.” Additionally, the “sounds of rain, thunder, and nature may also be relaxing particularly when mixed with other music, such as light jazz, classical (the “largo” movement), and easy listening music,” they add.
  4. Enjoy nature. Positive psychology argues that “nature heals.” They cite research published in the journal Environmental Psychology demonstrating that a mere “walk in the woods or a stroll by the beach on a sunny morning can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.” Even if one lives in a highly populated, urban area furbished with lots of concrete, black top and high rises; looking up to the sky to decipher shapes of the clouds or geometric designs of the alignment of stars ma provide similar benefits.
  5. Find time to partake in physical activity. According to Harvard Health, physical movement is a great way to relax! They write, “exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workout.”

So while one may feel a loss of control and a sense of dreaded learned helplessness related to COVID-19 remote learning schedules and closure mandates; solace could be gained by adopting one or all of these tips at your convenience and the level at which you and your family feel most comfortable.

Circle back to Remote Learning

But, ha, you say! I clicked this article to find out how to increase learning, whether by remote, distance education or online; not how to reduce stress. Please be patient. Research published in the Nature Publishing Group: NPJ Science shows that “stress markedly impairs memory retrieval, bearing, for instance, the risk of underachieving at exams. Recent evidence further indicates that stress may hamper the updating of memories in the light of new information and induce a shift from a flexible, ‘cognitive’ form of learning towards rather rigid, ‘habit’-like behavior. Together, these stress-induced changes may explain some of the difficulties of learning and remembering under stress in the classroom.”

Personal Experiences

Personally, I can say without evocation that taking a brisk 10 minute walk outside, breathing the fresh air and watching the squirrels scamper by, have produced miracles for my mood and helped me to learn and practice patience and tolerance. The side by-product of a more fit physique is great too! Additionally, while completing work on the computer, I don headphones and click on one of the free apps for meditative, spiritual and new age music. Which I truly believe helps me get through the day and helps to open the recesses of my mind for increased productivity and enhanced learning.

Regarding my family, they are slowly adopting these habits as they see that I am less outwardly impacted by the negative stressors of COVID-19 and wish to emulate. I hope you will try these too!

Please have a great day! May you be continually blessed.

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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya dot ishareknowledge dot com

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