My unique perspective on distance learning, experienced both as a teacher as well as a parent (of more than one child in different grade levels), PLUS, my partner is also a teacher and I feel like during working remotely I got to know his staff as intimately as I know my own! LOL.
Anyways, I observed with my own children very quickly how miserable they were with certain requirements or teacher expectations. I also saw the teachers adapt quickly to the obvious. They started incorporating more fun or more social type of learning with the kids and I saw such a dramatic shift in their excitement or interest in school. I took notes.
I slowly tried to do some of the activities that could work (my kids are elementary age and I teach high school). The first was showing my advisory live cams of animals such as the San Diego Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They LOVED IT! High schoolers! High school teenagers loved watching the animals! LOL. It was great. So then I showed my “real” classes.
In my in-person classroom, group work and collaboration is a huge part of the work students do. So I started our year off with group texts in breakout rooms, requiring students to read and annotate together and discuss what they were reading. This lasted with relative success for 3-4 weeks but slowly students started to ask if we could end group work or start independent reading. I lucked out with the timing of starting with group work when students weren’t burned out by zoom or cameras yet.
Adapt to student needs
I allow and encourage student participation in all its forms. If a student wants to carry an entire conference through the chat box, as long as we can make progress, I’m cool with that. Again, I saw my own daughter (a 3rd grader) prefer the chat over speaking and absolutely HATED putting her camera on. So from the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to put pressure on students unecessarily. And that helped particpation and communication SOOOOOO much!
The chat box allowed for privacy, even multiple conversations at once, since typing takes time. And when there was less pressure on them, they were more receptive and open to communicating and even then being vulnerable with their learning.
Ok, we did some learning, some conferencing, now it’s time for something fun again!! Let’s play Kahoot! No teacher needs me to describe Kahoot to them at this point, but let’s just say play Kahoot or any other games with students. At first I was making sure to find content related Kahoots so that it was still learning, but over time seeing how much we all needed to loosen up, I tried some that were just silly or fun like “Would you rather?” or pop culture type games.
Most any literature or research you will look at today regarding student learning will confirm and reiterate the fact that students learn more when they have a choice in their learning as well as if they have their own interest in the topic. Coaches and experts offering guidance for remote instruction have promoted the importance of student choice to increase engagement. Luckily, our curriculum is already student-choice based so that didn’t require a shift for us. However, in observing comments and questions posed in online teacher groups, it was clear that by having a constrained, limited or controlled curriculum, the options and ability to integrate student choice was minimal.
and student thoughts
All our work and student analysis is student-driven. In conferencing, we ask, what did THEY notice when they were reading? What did THEY think of the character’s choices? Students already have thoughts and reactions as a starting point for analysis or critique. TRUST ME, if you know a teenager, you know they have opinions on things. 🙂
More Fun stuff
Don’t be surprised, do more fun stuff! I started playing music during the timers or work time. I incorporated more videos and visually stimulating activities into the class time. Keep in mind, in person, we are able to control and manage the potential distractions for students and minimize or eliminate them. Remotely, we have literally ZERO control over their distractions or environments. Even on the device they are in class on, they can with a small movement switch over to their texts, photos, email, videos i.e. literally ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET!! In the building we have so many sites blocked and now they are required to be on the internet but NOT LOOK at anything on the internet. LOL. You gotta make it fun enough that students are willing to choose you over their video game or youtube video.
flexible and innovative ways of assessments
You can’t give a test. You just can’t. Not if you want to know they took that test with no supports authorized by you. It’s impossible, let it go!
Based on online teacher forums, apparently students have finally also discovered teachers pay teachers and have started making purchases in order to get the answers! LOL. I’m sorry. I have to LOL at that. Kids are just too dang clever. For real. That’s why you can’t rely on any traditional assessment. Personally, I have always opted for open-ended and free-response type of questions to avoid this very issue. Obviously, with our curriculum where students are all reading their own texts, internal “sharing” is also not really a problem.
Either way, you have to find new ways to determine what they know, what they don’t, and then how to measure their progress. Find ways to use conferencing, conversations, work and practice they completed with you, They did the classwork but not the homework? NO PROBLEM! (P.S. Why are you still assigning “homework” during this time you monster?) Student did the essay but not the comprehension questions? You demonstrated learning, great job!
Now an important note on this topic, I see how schools already operating with mastery-based learning and grading structures had a much more simple process in their gradebook. Teachers with more traditional grade books based on averages may have to find ways to get creative with their gradebook.
yep… EVEN more fun stuff!
The unfortunate thing about fun stuff is it doesn’t stay fun but for so long. so you gotta switch it up. Most recently, I put up an image for students to color at the beginning of class when I’m taking attendance or solving any issues that need to be in order to start. Also, still playing the background music while they color. We all know by now how calming coloring is supposed to be as evidenced by the boom of adult coloring books over the past few years. Studies show […] So don’t feel bad about using class time to have the students color! It provides positive mental health benefits and we all know how necessary that is right now so use not only coloring, but any other stress relieving FUN things to bring joy to your students lives and build a sense of community in a time when we all feel so isolated.