The global pandemic due to COVID-19 put the virtual education as an opportunity for the education sector to continue operating. However, it revealed the gaps related to the need for technological resources and access and connection to the Internet, both for students and teachers.
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In Ecuador, 50% of the population does not have these resources. This forced 90,000 student to drop out of school and 200,000 teachers were turned over to use digital platforms without the proper prior training.
Educational experts assure that although virtual education came abruptly, it came to stay, and once the pandemic passes, it will remain as one of the priority educational tools, since it will be a hybrid with face-to-face and digital classes.
No country was prepared to implement a system like this operating from home.
Virtual education progresses slowly, but Will it be sustainable in the long term?. Yes, as long as the teacher is trained to teach it effectively and public and private educational institutions implement appropriate strategies to generate optimal learning in students.
Impact. About 17,000 schools closed their doors since March 13, 2020 to make way for non-face-to-face education.
Most schools are not implementing a virtual educational modality In a broad sense, it is only developing remote classes through the mediation of technologies.
For this reason, it is urgent to develop training courses for teachers not only in the application of ICTs, but also in new teaching strategies.
The teacher must be a digital manager of the platforms
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Virtual education will not replace face-to-face education, who seems to always feel threatened by her. Nor will it replace the teacher, who must develop digital skills to incorporate various tools and change the ways of producing knowledge, in order to encourage students to learn, be creative, nurture their self-esteem and be resilient.
“An effort is required from educational institutions so that the teacher, who is ultimately the one who accompanies the student, is supremely trained and has the resources to make their work a high quality one,” he suggests. Dolores Zambrano, coordinator of the Master of Technology and Educational Innovation at the Casa Grande University.
Process. Virtual education seems to advance, but slowly and fearfully. It is a mistake to pretend that this model is to transfer a face-to-face class to the computer, since the methodologies are different and the resources change their priority.
In his opinion, there is a paradigm shift where the teacher is no longer simply a teacher who brings knowledge or transmits it, now you must become a digital manager of the platforms where you interact with students, a manager of resources and planning of learning activities, among other things.
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With her coincides Isidro Fierro, dean of the Faculty of International Studies of the Espiritu Santo University of Specialties (UEES), who highlights that virtual education does not replace face-to-face education, but together with it it ensures opportunities for all.
“It is true that with the pandemic there was hardly time to react, but I believe that, at the end of the crisis, we must have the roadmap perfectly drawn and this is that each and every one of the country’s teachers knows how to handle virtual education environments. They should also be interested in the tastes of their students to create virtual contexts based on it, “he said.
At the moment, many teachers, without any didactic criteria, They use the platform and tool of virtual education; and they apply in an improvised way the games, programs, videos, etc., that they find on YouTube. Then, the virtual class is reduced to the projection of materials elaborated for other circumstances.
The educational gap and school dropouts widened
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The closure of the schools widened the educational gap between students from public and private schools, and between urban and rural areas of the country, marking a brake or a setback in their learning.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), 90,000 children and young people, especially from popular sectors who went to school with great effort, abandoned their studies because they do not have economic income, they do not have the service of electric light, they lack Internet, they do not have a computer, tablet, etc., to participate in virtual education. Although students can access information and connect with their teachers through cell phones, 60% live in places where the coverage of mobile networks does not reach.
Census. 20,000 meeting points will be implemented (sports venues, churches, schools, courtyards, etc.), where children are expected to arrive to learn about their reality and encourage them to return to the educational system.
In Guayas, the province to which Guayaquil belongs, only half of the households have access to a computer and barely 35% of the population has access to their own Internet, according to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC). And in this scenario, the use of WhatsApp arises, as a way for students to receive and deliver homework.
Sandra Solórzano, psychologist and educational expert, believes that this teaching model will leave learning gaps, especially for those who make up the fiscal education system who do not have the technological resources. “Private schools have advanced in 90% of the curriculum through the tools and virtual platforms they have, while the public lagged behind and their students only receive teaching through pedagogical cards that do not reach all places “, mentions.
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The Ministry of Education is still unclear on the number of school dropouts. Therefore prepares a national census to determine the actual number of dropouts and measure the level of student learning since the pandemic began.
The hybrid model displaces learning outside the classroom
The new normal and the progressive return of students to the classroom has taken into account more hybrid models, or what is called ‘hybrid classroom’, where they have remote and live students; or blended, a part in virtuality and a face-to-face part.
The hybrid model, which several schools in the country adopted since June 7, largely displaces study and learning outside the classroom as it was understood to date. Face-to-face education has not disappeared, but its rhythm has changed, at the same time that virtual education takes on a new impulse.
The challenge. The hybrid model has been a challenge and teachers have been able to adapt to this scheme. The important thing is that they can respond to the needs of the children who are in the classroom or at home.
Tomás Andino, educational analyst, believes that classrooms, as we knew them, will never be the same again. “The school has not lived up to the opportunities and possibilities offered by the digital system and therefore must reinvent itself, since the classrooms are still essential for the learning experience to be complete,” he says.
In Guayaquil, To achieve a hybrid education, several private schools have had to make a strong financial investment for a technological installation and a pedagogical strategy that encompasses the face-to-face and the virtual.
The poor state of the schools prevents a return with guarantees
The classroom integration works using 4k technology, which allows the teacher to move around the classroom and not be sitting in front of the computer. A camera follows the work in class, and in this way the students who are at home have the perception of being in the classroom.
This has led teachers to adopt new tactics in the planning of their classes to be able to attend to their students who are in front of them and behind the screen, he highlights Juan Carlos Rodríguez, rector of the La Moderna Educational Unit, entity that imparts this educational model, which is made to take care of teachers and students, by reducing at least half of attendance in person; as well as preserving, at least in part, the recognized educational and emotional benefits of face-to-face education.