Online learning is nothing new, and almost 7 million post-secondary students used remote learning to work toward their educational goals in 2018 alone. The recent pandemic, however, has prompted more and more K-12 classrooms to move to a similar virtual environment. What can teachers do to reach students in a time when face-to-face interaction isn't possible?
These six tips can help teachers create connection and understanding, even through the screen.
- Use existing infrastructure
Your school may already have access to classroom management software or learning platforms with which you are familiar. Even if you hear that this or that tool is the next best thing, consider expanding on the systems you know or those your students have used in the past. While it's OK to try out new tools, don't ditch what may already be working.
- Compare and contrast
Even if a lesson plan seems poised to work well through an online delivery method, you will need to adapt and make adjustments. Both taking questions from students and gauging their understanding of new concepts are typical classroom activities that will look different with remote learning. Consider how even the most common interactions will work through a computer screen or over email. What can stay the same? What will need adapting?
- Keep it simple
While kids use a variety of technology tools in their daily lives, most don't use them to learn. Even the most basic classroom processes, such as logging into new platforms or submitting assignments, will seem foreign to them at first and may have a learning curve. Limit how-to steps for any online process to just a few, and only require student mastery of the tool if needed. Avoid requiring multiple programs or resources for assignments. Do your best to minimize what students must know, download, or use for their daily workflows.
- Embrace self-paced videos
Live video can have its perks, especially when using it to check in on the well-being of your students. For everyday lessons, however, pre-recorded videos have their place. Creating even a week's worth of videos ahead of time ensures that students who can't get online during live sessions don't miss out on important content. More engaged students can work ahead and create "room" in the family schedule.
- Create an online homeroom
Where do your students go to find out about important test dates, receive updates to the curriculum, or check feedback on their work? If you don't have a single online portal for them to reference first, you may have a problem. A digital home base ensures that everyone knows where to go with problems or questions, even if this dashboard links to other necessary tools. Your online homeroom should be the first place students visit for new information; establish this location early and remind them of it often. Then, use it consistently.
- Touch base
Even though remote learning has amazing benefits, including flexibility and scalability, it's common for students to feel lost and alone during their first few months of online learning. Even if they are getting test results and assignment news, personal notes of encouragement and feedback will go a long way. Find a way to create touchpoints with every student in your classroom and set a schedule to connect regularly. Even small notes, like the ones you would write at the top of a paper, show you "see" them and that they matter. Use these to engage with your students and watch your classroom participation rates grow.
Preparation for the Future of Learning
No one knows what the future of learning will look like in the next couple of years, but distance learning is here to stay. Even when in-person learning resumes, remote instruction can continue to offer options for those who can't make it into the classroom. Learning professionals who know about the available tools and methods for remote learning success will be best prepared to meet the changing landscape and cater to student needs in a variety of settings.
Earning your MS in Curriculum & Instruction is one way to commit to the challenge and grow your skills for whatever the future of education requires.
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