News of schools closing all around the world has students, parents, and teachers seeking a stronghold while their lives and schedules are upended by the current pandemic. Millions of students may remain out of school for the rest of the academic year in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
In this difficult time, it is heart-warming to see people stepping up to help make the transition a little easier. Zoom is helping by lifting the 40-minute cap on paid accounts for schools affected by the coronavirus. In the same spirit, Amara is offering FREE private subtitling workspaces through June for K-12 schools. Upload your videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other video hosting sites in a private workspace and start using Amara’s award-winning editor to create and edit subtitles.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an account for your school!
Educators are expanding their teaching tool belts to meet the needs of students in their suddenly remote classrooms. While online classrooms have been available in many universities for years and K-12 schools have had to “go virtual” during natural disasters in the past, this pandemic is set to change what the remainder of this school year looks like entirely. In addition to the change of setting, teachers are also having to integrate new technology into their curriculum.
For some of us, “classroom technology” meant an overhead projector or VHS-based AV equipment brought in on special movie days. Now, these teachers and students have to master the virtual classroom together through video presentations, live online meetings, and sharing various files. Teachers are quickly and thoughtfully building new assessment processes, re-imagining their lesson plans, and maintaining student growth across several units of instruction. With no end date in sight for school closings, there is no sense of “getting by” until the next test. Teachers are facing many challenges, including creating new material for their adjusted lesson plans, maintaining rapport with students without sharing the same space, and ensuring that kids stay engaged with the valuable task of learning.
And it is quite an adjustment for educators. In physical classrooms, there is a lot of visual feedback (like eye contact) that teachers use to determine the attention level of their students. At universities, future teachers are told to use variation to refresh student attention: pacing from one end of the board to the other or changing the volume or tone of your own voice to jump-start fading student focus. But with nowhere to pace and student-end volume controls, these common tactics are no longer as useful.
The remote classroom has its own advantages, like asynchronous learning, immediate feedback, and additional online resources like lecture transcripts. For teachers uploading video lessons, adding subtitles to their videos can be a way to bridge the distance between themselves and their students and between the students and the material. Video lectures allow students to have more control. They can go back to repeat certain sections or skip around if they are curious for what is ahead. But every change presents a challenge. And a lot of information can get lost in the shuffle.
A great way to avoid issues of mishearing, misunderstanding, and other communication mistakes is to provide subtitles or transcripts for students. In instructional design, “dual-channel theory” says that providing two methods of sensory input (visual and verbal) during a lesson can increase information retention for students. If one “channel” is overwhelmed with sensory input, the redundancy can provide additional opportunity to convert new information to retained memory.
Mishearing just one word can result in confusion, frustration, and apathy. As a personal example, in my third grade year I stayed home sick on the day that everyone learned what a verb was. In our classroom, we used the cassette-tape based Shurley English Jingles to learn grammar. By the time I returned to school, everyone was singing “A verb, a verb. What is a verb? Haven’t you heard?” while I was trying to sing along. I was confused, stuck on my own questions: “Why is everyone singing about birds? What is an action bird? What is a linking bird?” Thankfully, the issue was cleared up before too much damage was done.
In her paper “Learning to read from television: The effects of using captions and narration” Nichols shows how the combination of auditory and visual stimulus prompted new growth for children watching television with same-language subtitles. The connection between what they could hear and what they could see created an efficient redundancy in their young minds. And through that redundancy, children were more able to recognize and spontaneously use new vocabulary. The association of the written word to the spoken word helped some students improve their oral reading rates.
Subtitles have been shown to help struggling readers increase their literacy through boosting reading speed, fluency, and comprehension. Studies have also shown that subtitled video content speeds up vocabulary recognition, oral reading rates, and decoding based on context clues. From children watching TV all the way to adults struggling with reading comprehension, subtitles provide a rich opportunity to learn and retain content compared with more traditional lecture-based lessons.
As we move indoors and away from one another, we are practicing social responsibility and acknowledging that the interconnectedness of our regular lives has dangerous consequences for vulnerable populations. And because we acknowledge how we are connected, we can choose to maintain that connection beyond sharing the same physical space. It might be an oxymoron, but maintaining social distance is an opportunity to grow closer to each other during this pandemic– to show love, respect, and care during isolation by reaching out in other ways.