Whatever our opinions are on in-class vs remote learning, the unpredictability of coronavirus has necessitated that many schools opt for the latter to ensure the safety of teachers, school staff, and students. That being the case, the following are helpful tips for teachers, parents, and students.
- Dig into the ISTE Standards for education to help you explore different approaches to teaching with the goal of empowering your students.
- Embrace the idea that using digital tools and applications can help you teach more efficiently. For example, make short videos that teach one concept or skill that can be (re)viewed by students any time.
- Keep yourself and your students organised by setting one central hub for assigning work and assessments, posting messages and updates, and housing videos you’ve created for them.
- Provide timely feedback on students’ work. This not only helps keep your tasks manageable but also provides a glimpse of what content is being understood.
- Schedule weekly virtual learning sessions and record the sessions so that they are available for students who were unable to join.
- Set clear expectations for participating and interacting in virtual sessions, as well as how to turn in assignments.
- Be available for students by scheduling ‘office hours’ and setting up one-on-one virtual sessions. Also set office hours for parents/caregivers who have questions about their children’s progress.
- Create and maintain class community by making time for small-group work and team-building activities. Break up the monotony of staring at a screen by incorporating games in virtual sessions. Give students something to look forward to!
- At the beginning and end of each virtual session, give students time to socialise (reminding them to keep conversations class-appropriate). This may encourage more students to ‘show up’ for regularly scheduled sessions.
- Like what would be done in the physical classroom, engage students by asking questions. With digital tools, these questions can come in the form of polls wherein results are viewed immediately.
- Use a variety of media to keep virtual lessons dynamic such as video, exploring websites, and screen-sharing.
- Rethink assessments, especially if there is a concern about students using the internet to find all of the answers. For example, instead of a multiple choice or short answer quiz, present a solution with a mistake that students need to correct. Or have students screen record how they solve a problem for you to review.
- Be willing to adapt (although this seems obvious considering what you’ve already had to do since last spring. Kudos to you!) and be flexible. There are special circumstances that need to be accounted for (ex. if a student has challenges with tech availability at home) and be ready to work with that.
- Remember why you wanted to teach in the first place. Hold on to that belief, and truth, that you are affecting many lives positively through your positive attitude and perseverance.
- Set a schedule for your children, understanding that this will vary depending on age. Older children can sit for longer periods of time in front of a screen compared to younger ones. Expect that children will spend 2 to 5 hours a day in front of a device, again depending on age.
- Know that your younger children will need more help and monitoring than your older ones. Figure out a schedule where you or another person (caregiver, grandparent, older sibling) can help with classwork.
- Find a dedicated learning space where all materials are within reach and away from any distractions (ex. not in front of/near a television, away from high traffic areas). Opt for having your children sit at a desk/table versus the sofa or bed. The space should be comfortable but not so much that naps are sure to occur!
- Create a daily To-Do list for assignments. This means keeping up-to-date with teacher assignments and announcements. Regularly check in with teachers to stay in the loop.
- Check in with your children about their plan for completing learning assignments each day, as well as asking for accomplishments at the end of the day. For example, What assignments are you working on today? Do you have any quizzes to complete? What do you need help with?
- If you do not have the devices needed for accessing classwork and virtual learning sessions, reach out to the school for what can be made available (loaner laptops, tablets). If you have a device but more than one child, create a schedule for using the device.
- Encourage breaks and physical exercise. There is a lot of sitting looking at a screen and your children need to take breaks and move! Yes, they have assignments to get done but their physical, and social-emotional, health is important. Breaks are refreshing!
- Commend your children when they have met daily, weekly, monthly goals and/or when you’ve observed them focusing on lessons instead of getting distracted. They are accustomed to encouragement and praise from their teachers which can boost their confidence.
- Use a calendar or planner to keep track of assignments, virtual learning sessions, quizzes, and teacher office hours. Revisit this planner daily to make sure you’re moving at a good pace.
- Have a dedicated space for doing class work. Try to avoid the couch or your bed (for obvious reasons). Oh, and turn off devices not being used for school. Save yourself time and headache by trying to stay focused.
- Regularly check teacher messages for any updates on assignments or feedback on work you’ve turned in.
- Ask questions! If you’re unsure about an assignment or confused about a concept/skill, reach out to your teacher and set up a virtual meeting. Don’t leave this off until another time. If you don’t get your questions answered, keep asking!
- Show up for and participate in virtual learning sessions. Make the most of remote learning by staying engaged and focused. Even if this was a struggle in a physical class environment, take advantage of this opportunity to participate in discussions without feeling like ‘all eyes are on you’.
- Take breaks to stretch or take a short walk. The breaks will help you stay motivated and focused as you work through assignments.
- Try to stay positive. You miss your friends, your teachers, being in a classroom…all of this is understandable. But this is, in all likelihood, a temporary situation and for everyone’s safety. Do what you can to make the best of it.
- For more tips, check out this student’s advice – Distance Learning Tips: Advice from Students Who’ve Been There.
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