French Philosopher, Jacques Ellul, wrote The Technological Bluff in 1990. His work contains insights that were before his time when it comes to technology, technique, and technological progress. In this post, I want us to think about Ellul’s words as it pertains to the impact of remote learning for children in grammar school. He wrote,

All technical progress has three kinds of effects: the desired, the foreseen, and the unforeseen…. We must distinguish between effects that are unforeseeable but expected and effects that are unforeseeable and unexpected…. This is a very hypothetical domain.

Jacques Ellul, The Technological Bluff, (pp. 61-62).

I want us to think in terms of the “hypothetical domain.” The question we ought to be asking as a society is, “What type of impact did/will remote learning have on our children?” By children, I have narrowed it down to children in grammar school because this age group is most susceptible to being molded for their future in society. The reason we must think in terms of a hypothesis is due to the fact that we do not know what the outcomes will be as grammar school children engage or have engaged in remote learning (i.e., learning at home on some form of electronic device).

Our perceived technological mastery made us look to technology as the only solution to educate our students during the pandemic when everyone was required to socially distance and stay home. Yet, we never thought about the future impact this type of learning environment could do to our children. As a society, we need to think about how we correct some of the problems that remote learning might have had on our children.

My goal is to provide three hypothetical insights that might be unforeseeable and unexpected for the future of grammar school children who engaged in remote learning for over a year. To be fair, this is a hypothesis and only time will tell if these consequences become a reality when our grammar school children become adults. Here are three areas that I think impacted the development of grammar school children:

  1. Social Skills – Elementary education is more than learning the foundations of knowledge such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. This developmental stage of life is when children learn social skills. In other words, how to interact with those around them. They learn how to interact with their peers like not to steal or kick or cut in line. They learn how to submit to authority such as listening when the teacher is talking, and obeying school rules. They learn what it means to be a contributing member of society because they realize the world is bigger than they had originally thought. Remote learning removed all social engagement by secluding children and teaching them on screens.
  2. Lack of Focus – Teaching grammar school children is a difficult task because all children have different capabilities and come from different backgrounds. Nevertheless, all young students have one thing in common: the ability to become easily distracted. The classroom setting is ideal for students to excel in self-discipline and personal fortitude. The classroom is a training ground where an educator has the ability to alleviate distraction and keep the class on task, which enhances focus and goal-setting. Remote learning removed pupils from a controlled environment because children were a) in different places, and b) only visible on a computer screen. Thus, removing students from a controlled and task-oriented environment.
  3. Decreased Comprehension – Teaching exists as a two way form of communication, and great teachers are able to read their students. This means that the best educators are those that watch their pupils to determine if they are retaining the information, intrigued by the content, or ignoring instruction. The classroom and in person instruction creates the best environment for a teacher to ensure that the entire classroom is comprehending what is being taught for that day’s lesson. Remote learning does not provide this type of two way interaction because the cameras can be turned off, the teacher cannot read visible clues of their students, and they are unable to ensure that all students are grasping what is being taught because of the selective Hollywood squares layout.

To conclude, I understand that COVID-19 can really harm people, and that as a society, we had to take some unprecedented steps to keep citizens safe. The reason I wrote this post was to address some possibly hypotheticals that could have happened while our grammar school children were sitting in a remote learning setting. Now that schools seem to be in operation, our educators should think about how to make up the ground that was lost during remote learning when it came to social skills, focus, and the comprehension of previous subject matter. As a society, we need to encourage our parents and educators to teach our children to recover these skills so that they will become productive members of society in the years to come.

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