Part III- Distance Learning Strategies for Teachers
How do we prepare for the upcoming school year? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot as a parent and a teacher. Last week, we discussed how parents could help their child prepare for the upcoming school year. The topic this week is strategies to help teachers prepare for distance learning.
I think we have realized that effective online teaching is not just about giving teachers and students access to all of the needed technology. In order to teach online, teachers must learn all new tools. The teacher is still the content expert, but they are suddenly unable to deliver that content in the same way. This requires teachers to dive into the huge undertaking of reworking all of their lessons in order to make them compatible with distance learning.
What Does it Mean for Teachers to Prepare for Distance Learning?
At Parrish Learning Zone, this had been a constant consideration as we began implementing online tutoring. For schools who serve many more students, often with diverse needs, quite a few considerations have to be taken at a system level. Once a consistent plan is implemented, teachers are the “frontline” of distance learning.
We all realize that distance learning may not be exactly like in person learning. However, with preparation time, it is possible to make it as effective. It is important to note that online learning should follow the same high-quality and effective structure as in-person learning. There needs to be instruction, modeling, ungraded practice and collaboration, and then an opportunity to demonstrate what has been learned through a relevant project or assignment.This means that distance learning is not just moving the assignments that you would be doing in-person online instead. Online learning should never feel like a student is teaching themselves.
We must instead figure out how to make online instruction collaborative so that it involves interaction with other students and the instructor. Online learning is not sufficient when it is simply slides or worksheets assigned online. Just like with effective in-person instruction, students must be presented with choice and a variety of ways to learn a concept. Games, live videos, sorts, simulations, and discussions can all be implemented in an online format.Teachers can:
- Use tools like Flipgrid or Seesaw to have students explain what they have learned, present, or show their work.
- Bring speakers or authors into our classrooms that would not normally be able to visit in person using video conferencing.
- Engage students in project-based learning online by doing things such as creating a blog or a photo essay.
- Break students into groups and subgroups and meet with them using video conferencing. Use subgroups to focus on equity and providing additional attention and instruction to English language learners and students with special learning needs.
- Have a consistent routine so that students know what to expect and how to complete and turn in assignments.
- Have a game day where the class meets online to interact with each other socially but also to review something they have learned in a game format.
- Give kids time to chat with each other or have unstructured social time at the beginning and end of online class like they could do if they met in person. This gives them something to look forward to and provides a way to ease into the lesson and process what is going on around them.
Two Really Great Resources for Teachers
Here are two resources to help you continue your effort to become more proficient at using technology to teach students who may not be right in front of you:
Google For Educators-Teach from Anywhere
Many schools have adopted Google Suite for Education. This site shows educators how to use Google tools to teach from anywhere. This site contains very specific step-by-step tutorials on how to do things like:
- Have a video call with your class
- Record lessons for students to watch later
- Livestream your video lessons for students with weaker internet connections
- Create an assignment in Google Classroom
- Use Google Slides
- Collaborate with Google Docs
- Use Google Sites to create a class website
The site also contains information on how to use Google tools to modify lessons and make them accessible as well as to keep students engaged. This includes information on how to:
- Use a screen reader
- Set up live captions for students who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Use the accessibility features built into the G Suite and Chromebooks
- Create a quiz using Google Forms
- Ways to encourage student discussion
- Provide feedback in Google Docs
Learning Keeps Going
ISTE and EdSurge have created a website to support educators who are transitioning to distance and online learning. This website contains free and low cost ($8) training for teachers on a variety of topics such as how to use Flip Grid, Zoom, Google Tools, Quizlet, Kahoot, and screencasting. It also contains a searchable database of multimedia classroom resources and professional development for K-12 educators in multiple subject areas. In addition, it serves as a hub of information from many other websites and sources with links to various organizations that provide educational technology resources, lesson plans, videos, apps, or curriculum that could help support educators in their endeavor to teach students from home. There is something here for every type of teacher, school counselors, social workers, special educators, and administrators at the school and district level.
We need to remember that although teachers did an amazing job of transferring learning online with no notice in March and April, that was more of an emergency response than the implementation of genuine distance learning. For this year, it is our job to figure out how to make online learning engaging, collaborative, and supportive for a wide variety of learners. It is a big task, but if anyone can do it, teachers can.
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Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
Co-Owner and Director of Education
Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.
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