“I don’t know if it has anything to do with distance learning, but my son who is in sixth grade seems to forget everything he studies”: so writes a worried reader, in a letter sent to The Atlantic. And he is not the only one to have such perplexities. After months of trying to follow the lesson of the teacher on duty through a screen, it is legitimate to ask: how did Dad affect the learning process of the little ones? Are they ‘losing’ information and really having a hard time memorizing? We addressed these questions to Professor Daniela Traficante, professor of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan and expert in Specific Learning Disorders, who replied that the experts in the sector are concerned: “In order for it to be detained and last over time, information must be experienced in the round. This is not possible with Dad ”.
According to Traficante, there is a neurophysiological explanation: “Learning for the little ones passes not only through what they hear and see, but also through experience. And by experience we mean being located in a particular moment of life, being with others, feeling part of a learning community. Learning also passes, trivially, through the teacher’s mimicry: if the student does not follow, is distracted, has difficulty, he will be able to capture his attention with gestures, increasing emphasis, getting closer. All these situations improve and facilitate the learning process. And they are lacking in distance learning ”.
In The Atlantic article, the reader told of his son who remembered the most important NBA players from the 1980s to today and knew all of Drake’s songs, but, despite spending hours studying, he could not remember anything. of Mesopotamia or of the different types of existing clouds. “This situation is easily explained – says the professor -. In the first case, interest and involvement come into play, which help memory. In the second, however, these elements are absent. Despite the good will of the teachers, the remote mode is less effective from the point of view of student involvement. We see this too when we have online meetings and have a hard time following or concentrating. If the lesson taught in Dad is based only on the frontal teaching that one would have in class, the risk is that many students may ‘get lost’, especially those who do not have a strong motivation or a consolidated study method “.
The study method is another sore point. Students who are not well versed in this point of view or the very young primary students who have just begun to approach the different subjects suffer from the lack of an “accompaniment”, of someone to guide them on how to study. “Let’s ask ourselves: what do these kids see on the screen? The square with the teacher, those portraying the classmates and some slides, at best. The transfer of information is ‘aseptic’. Then you turn off the computer and go back to the books, where the young man is always alone, trying to learn and store what he reads. It is a ‘passivating’ mode that may be suitable for those who already know how to study, but the others inevitably lag behind ”.
To remain “behind” are mainly students with specific learning disabilities, but not only: even the most fragile, the most timid, may find it difficult to follow this type of distance learning because – as Professor Traficante says – “where Does their mind go when they’re in front of the screen? Before, the teacher could control them and intervene by involving them, now this is no longer possible ”. It would be possible if technology were fully exploited, “if the frontal lesson alternated with videos, if the students were encouraged to do group work, even remotely, presentations with Power Point, proposals for topics to be explored and so on”.
Notwithstanding that Dad is a type of “emergency” teaching and is the only solution in the era of lockdowns and red zones, what the teacher as well as many parents hope is a return to school, in the presence. “Only in this way can the learning process go back to being an all-round experience that takes place in the present moment and is integrated with past experiences – concludes Traficante -, only in this way can information be ‘handled’, stored. Of course, it will not be a simple process: it will take at least a year of adjustment, in which the teachers will have to accommodate the new difficulties of the students. But I am confident in the possibility of recovery ”.