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Welcome to The Virtual Classroom

Five ways to make the most of remote learning

Many of us around the globe have been or are currently living in various stages of "lockdown" or "quarantine" due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The pre-pandemic ways of learning and communicating, including in-person meetings and large scale workshops, have become less common and just plain unsafe due to concerns of person-to-person transmission. For this reason, the remote education (sometimes called distance learning) has quickly become standard. As much as many of us would like, it is unlikely that our education and ways of conducting business will ever return to "normal." The process of moving from the old in-person, brick-and-mortar school model to a new remote model may seem like sudden change to many learners, parents and guardians, and educators. However, this movement began years before this pandemic. As soon as the World Wide Web was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-LEe at CERN in Switzerland in 1989, the stones of the path towards remote learning were laid (1).

Changing from in-person, one-on-one lessons to FaceTime or from a 30-person class to Zoom may seem intimidating for everyone involved. If you are an educator, you may wonder how you can communicate effectively in the virtual space. And, if you are a learner, you may have a difficult time recalling material your teacher shared with you during an online lesson. Yet, remote learning does not to be scary or overwhelming. Remote learning technology (whether it's a multimedia lesson that includes an interactive activities such as games or quizzes, video and/or audio lectures, or in real-time virtual instruction) is an educational tool like a good method book (2), a marker board, or an ergonomic desk that when used well facilitates learning. In fact, many of the study habits that make for a successful traditional educational experience apply to remote learning as well. However, there are some differences to keep in mind as well. Let's consider five ways we can make the most our of our remote learning experiences.

Have specific goals.

Having goals is a crucial piece to any learning, whether it is online or in a brick-and-mortar classroom or studio. Goals usually start with a dream or aspiration. Since this is a music education site, we will focus on building goals that take us to accomplishing our musical aspirations. For example, maybe you imagine yourself singing a song you wrote while strumming an acoustic guitar at a local coffeeshop for an audience of 10 or playing a bass guitar solo in front of a 10,000 seat arena sometime in the future. Or, maybe you envision yourself scoring movies or video games professionally. Or, maybe you have always wanted to perform Chopin's touching Prélude in E minor for your own enjoyment. Dreams are often dismissed as frivolous fantasy, however, they are the first step to creating real-life goals.

If you have a vague idea where you want to go but are unclear on the specifics. You may want to write our your vision in a journal or create a vision board containing the unclear images and feelings that flash through your mind. I discussed the Power of Journaling for artists and students of the arts back in 2018 in this blog, and I offer some guidebooks for aspiring journals in my personal blog as well in my article, Ready, Set 2018.

Once you have a dream in mind. Your instructor will help you devise a step-by-step plan of specific mini-goals and activities that will help make your dreams come true in real life. It is important to always have goals as they direct your student and practice. But, it is important that they remain flexible. You may find that your goals change and how you reach them may end up being different than you initially planned. In fact, remaining flexible in your thinking is just as important as being physically flexible. According to noted psychologist and Freud contemporary Arthur Adler, mentally healthy people use goals to meet social needs, achieve personal significance in their lives, and overcome personal difficulties(3).

“No man can think, feel, will, nor even dream, without everything being defined, conditioned, limited, directed by a goal which floats before him.” –Arthur Adler