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Experts see even shorter attention span for children under online learning

Teachers and parents should brace for an even shorter attention span of kindergarten to middle school students under a new normal of online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a mental health expert said Monday.

Tucci Reyes, a trained teacher for Mindful Self-Compassion under Singapore Management University, noted that the absence of face-to-face learning marks a tremendous shift for school children, who could be easily distracted as it is.

She said the children will be even more distracted now that their teachers cannot physically supervise them.

“It is like taking a lollipop from a child, or whatever their definition of safe is. When that happens, there is always going to be a change in behavior that could be unpleasant or difficult to handle,” Reyes said in a news forum.

“Children today are digital natives, meaning they are so used to a situation when they can do so many things on the screen. Them [children] being in front of us [in a classroom], maikli na ang kanilang attention span, and that is going to be more evident in an online platform,” Reyes added.

Reyes said that in an online setting, teachers could not be sure if students are paying attention to the lesson.

“There is one screen, but there could also be another screen, I could read a notebook while others talk. This is unlike face-to-face learning  wherein if a child sees that there are a group of kids focusing on the task at hand, iyong mirror neurons, gumagana, and the kid would think, if other kids are focusing, I should be focusing, too,” Reyes said.

“So it is really harder to teach in an online platform because there are so many factors and intricacies we do not see, and so many factors are dependent on the attention span,” Reyes added.

Raymond Basilio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers agreed with Reyes, saying that South Korean educators, who have been implementing online learning for the past two months, told them that they are also having a hard time implementing the new normal.

“During our consultations with our South Korean counterparts,  they have been trying this out for several months, and they rated it at 3 out of 5, with 5 being the highest. Best case na nga  iyong 3,” Basilio said.

“Sinabi nila na mahirap talaga i-manage ang online classes, lalo na sa kinder to middle school level kasi ang behavior ng bata, may short attention span nga. Paano mo ihahandle iyon?” Basilio added.

Basilio then added that online education could also widen the disparity between the rich and poor households not only in terms of internet access but also of having a teaching assistant through their parents, guardian, or a tutor.

“Pag may kaya, siyempre, may teaching assistant who will be able to attend to the child. Paano pag mahirap at iyong magulang hindi rin nakapag-aral?” Basilio added.

Department of Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio responded by saying that parents and guardians will also be trained in assisting the students in an online classroom setting.

“We listen to the feedback, and this could also be an opportunity for the parents and guardians to learn,” San Antonio said.

The school year 2020-2021 will open on August 24 but there would not be face-to-face classes. Instead, online classes will be conducted to prevent COVID-19 transmission pending the availability of a vaccine.

DepEd is also preparing the publication of self-learning modules for distribution ahead of  the school opening under the new normal.

President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier said that classes should not resume pending a vaccine for COVID-19. —AOL, GMA News