“Language shapes the way we think and determines what we think about.” – Benjamin Lee Whorf
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in many areas, a number of schools are opting for total remote learning when school starts. What does this mean for parents who have young ones starting school for the first time? If the anxiety about starting school in person during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t enough, the prospect of starting totally online can be overwhelming. Often, parents see entering school (Early Years to Key Stage 1) as an opportunity for their children to learn social skills, understand rules and routines, and set a foundation of basic skills that will prepare them for the next 12 years of learning.
Do a quick search of the internet, and you are sure to find a variety of articles on using an interactive flat panel to boost student engagement. Really, flat panels are geared towards educators – large screen with touch technology that begs for interactivity to showcase its features. Most ‘Top 10 Teacher Tips’ will include increase classroom collaboration, take a virtual fieldtrip, prepare for assessments, and gamify for learning new concepts. But when schools closed in the spring, this awesome tech sat lonely in many classrooms. With the debate still going about the learning environment for the new school year (as of this writing, many districts have opted to start with remote learning), educators may ask, “But what about my flat panel?”
When I was teaching, I really looked forward to parent conferences. Each of my students had a folder filled with assessments, writing samples, and other pertinent evidence of learning growth (or needs for improvement). Students facilitated their conferences, talking about what was in their folders, thus gaining a sense of accountability and ownership of their learning. Afterwards, I would talk with the parent(s), grandparent(s), or guardian and inevitably get to know about other family, their work, and family plans. Parent conferences gave me a sense of deeper connection to my students through their families. That connection would start a bit at the beginning of the school year introduction, but a one-on-one, sit down conversation was much better than the 30-minute “this is who I am and what I expect” presentation.
How many of us have heard the terms “distance teaching,” “online learning,” “virtual classroom,” “blended learning”, or “hybrid learning” more in the past few months than they have in the past few years? Teachers, how many of you had to use multiple sites, systems, and platforms to close out the year? Besides the challenges of teaching from home, many teachers also had to deal with the online programs that had been implemented at the beginning of the school year and “flip the switch” for the rest of the school year. Not to mention the difficulties of helping their students virtually, or through other means when remote learning was not possible (due to lack of internet access and/or web-enabled devices). I’m sure we can all agree that the end of the school year couldn’t have come soon enough.
It’s doubtful that you haven’t already heard of the concept of blended learning, or possibly have already implemented a blended learning model. But, just in case, this approach combines face-to-face learning with online learning experiences. Basically, blended learning changes what has been traditionally ‘front-of-class’ style of lesson delivery to incorporating digital tools and features to create a more interactive and engaging experience. Blended learning used to be a novel idea that some teachers saw as an innovative opportunity to explore, but it has become more necessary as learners – digital natives – spend more time creating and viewing content on web-enabled devices (think Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok).