So, in a recent webinar, where I knew I would need to be reusing both words repeatedly, I renamed them real-time and flex-time. Phew, four similar, slippery syllables down to just two. Yes, I've forgone a teachable moment on greek roots, in favor of language that will make much more sense to parents and students.
I didn't invent these terms, at least I hope I didn't. I'm really just advocating for their use. I'm thinking of the parents and students who have English as their second or third language. I am thinking about making sure my plans and expectations make sense to everyone.
Real-Time: Should mean in the moment, happening live. The most obvious example would be a video conference, but it could be a phone call, or a text chat between teacher and student when both are active participants. It could also mean being on the same shared document at the same time for immediate feedback. Students can and should have real time collaboration and communication with each other too if at all possible.
Flex-Time: Students and teachers can have different schedules. Students watch prerecorded lessons, or do assignments and then turn in work for the teacher to see and respond to. They don't have to be present in the same virtual space at the same time. Students can collaborate with each other on a flexible schedule also.
Which should I be using?
It depends on your teaching context and your students' level of access. I am conscious that a real-time call requires a lot of access and privilege. I know right now that some of my students have to provide childcare for younger siblings, have to share a space with lots of family members, have limited internet access etc. In that context I don't feel like it is fair for me to expect them all to be on a call so that I can deliver a lesson.
Instead, I will record that lesson as a screencast. Students can watch it when it works best for them. They can do assignments for my class over several days. I will rely more heavily on flex-time solutions. I am grateful to my district for giving me the flexibility to make the choice that I think is most equitable for my students.