With schools closed until at least April 6, parents/caregivers are surely wondering how they can support teachers and help keep their students engaged and learning for the next few weeks at home. Luckily, there are online resources to help keep students on track during this critical time.
Shake Up Learning shared an interview with an American teacher in China, Jennifer Pearson, where she discussed learning tips for teachers, schools , and families that can be extremely helpful during this time.
15 Online Learning Tips for Teachers and Schools
By Jennifer Pearson
1. Online Learning Doctrine
In this new frontier of online learning, everyone will need a little guidance as to how things should work when schools are closed for long periods of time. Our school created an online learning doctrine very quickly in reaction to the coronavirus closures.
A document outlining some basic guidelines for teachers from your school’s administration will clear up any gray areas. A document informing parents what they can expect from the school during online learning would also be comforting to parents.
2. Get Comfortable
Take a pic of your workspace, post it, and ask students to show you theirs. Show students what makes a good workspace, and how to create their own.
3. Choose a Platform and Stick with It
This platform should be one that students have used before, and one which they are comfortable. Google Classroom, Seesaw, OneNote, or Microsoft Teams are all useful.
4. This Is Not the Time For New Tech Tools
Students need routine and structure during this time. Their way of learning has been changed; their environment has been changed, their routine has been changed, do NOT introduce new tech tools, and expect students to use them for learning during the first month of Online Learning. You can have new content or new tech, not both. Go for the content at this difficult time in students’ lives.
5. Use a Checklist
Post a checklist every day to help students make sure they do all of their work for the day. In a long feed of posts, it is easy for students to lose track and become unsure of what they’ve accomplished and have yet to accomplish. Checklists can look different depending on the platform.
Here’s an Idea to Use in Google Classroom: Make a topic with the day of the week and everything that will be posted for the day. Specialists can access the Google Classroom and add to the topic. You can schedule the topic for the week and allow Specialists access to schedule all of their assignments for the week ahead of time.
6. Video, Video, Video!
Your presence as a teacher and trusted adult in students’ lives is important to the daily routine. Your students miss you! You know your students are accustomed to your way of instructing, it helps them construct meaning. Your voice and presence is important for your students. They need to see and hear you every day. This does not mean a video conference with them every day. It means you record yourself saying, “Good Morning,” every day and recording video instructions every day. Keep it short, light, and cheery. No one needs a fifteen minute lecture video. Screencastify, Flipgrid, and even your iPhone screen recorder will work for this.
7. Reduce the Workload by Half
I know this is not a popular idea. I don’t mean less Reading and less Math; I mean choose three subjects for the day. Monday may be Reading, Math, and P.E. Tuesday can be Science, Math, and Music. Wednesday is Social Studies, Art, and Reading. What you will soon come to find out about online learning is that it takes twice as long to do half as much. There are many reasons for this, but I challenge you as an adult to stay focused on the internet for three hours and see how many times you get distracted. Minds wander, comprehension breaks down, and it isn’t hard to get a digital hangover.
8. Consolidate Work
Consolidate work as much as possible for students. Fewer clicks, fewer distractions. Try not to send them to tons of websites, sort through different databases, no WebQuests. Put everything you can into a Slide deck or a Nearpod lesson. Every time students have to go search for something, there’s a chance they will get distracted.
9. Capture Kids’ Hearts
Capturing kids’ hearts is essential during a time like this! Respond to their assignments with voice or video whenever possible. Teach them where to look for your response. If you want students to redo something, teach them the procedure for this too.
10. No Hard Deadlines
Everyone’s situation is unique and different during home learning. Johnny may not be able to do his assignment until mom gets home from work, while Susie has to do her assignment in the morning before her dad leaves for work. No two homes will be the same. Technology can also make it difficult for students to complete work on time. As the Technology Coordinator of a school, I’ve run into many tech problems in my own home during online learning that interrupted my work and my children’s schooling. The deadlines are not as important as the relationship you are saving by giving students grace.
11. Do Not Assign Partner Work
Again, everyone’s situation is unique and different. Stress levels will be raised if students not only have to worry about their own situation but also their partner’s home situation.
12. Get Away from the Computer as Much as Possible
All that screen time is bad for you and your students. Be creative with your assignments and incorporate their physical, living space. We have the opportunity to show the learner how to apply their knowledge to their everyday environment. For ideas, see my blogpost on Unplugging Home Learning.
13. Send Home a Weekly Email to Parents
In most home situations, parents will be trying to support their children in their learning. Especially for younger students, parents want to know what their child will be doing each week. An overview of their assignments or a simple check-in will assist parents who are trying to make home learning work.
14. Give Students Choice
Choice boards and learning menus work great for this! Not only will offering choice engage students more, but it will also give options to parents who may not understand an assigned lesson.
15. Use a Video Conferencing Tool
Use a video conferencing tool to keep in touch with your students. Publish a weekly meeting schedule that gives students a daily option to join a meeting and send the schedule to parents in their weekly email. Leave this meeting as an option that anyone in class can join and have fifteen minutes of face time with their teacher and peers. You can use this time to clear up some misconceptions about an assignment or allow students to chat so they don’t feel so alone. Some students will never join a meeting, and some will choose to meet every day.
Grace and patience is the name of the game. Treat the entire situation with an open mind and heaps of grace and patience.