With the 2020 school year looming, educators across the country are faced with answering questions that have never been asked before. Questions like…
How do we effectively teach children in a pandemic? What learning structure will work best for students and teachers this year as schools and districts balance the need for safety with the need for effective teaching? What can I do to prepare for mandates that require my school to shift to remote learning?
Do these questions sound like some questions you’ve heard or need help answering? Well, you’re not alone. Here are five steps you can take to help with the uncertainty school administrators, and others responsible for local school districts, currently face.
As administrators make plans that include contingencies for virtual and hybrid schooling models, these are five ways you can set your teachers, and therefore their students, up for success.
1. Support Teachers to Make the Most out of In-Person Instruction Times
One of the challenges of a hybrid schooling model, where students have some days of in-class instruction and some days of virtual learning, is making the most out of shorter in-person learning times. To help, administrators can instruct their teachers to use the in-person class days to tackle those activities and instruction processes that don’t translate well into virtual learning. Some examples may include:
- Group discussions or question-and-answer times
- Hands-on experiments and activities
- Group projects
While planning in-person instruction activities is important, teachers can add flexibility by incorporating activities that work particularly well in a virtual learning environment. Some effective remote activities might include:
- Digital journaling
- Creating classroom blogs or wikis
- Writing research papers
- Reading or watching, then responding to an assignment
- Self-paced instruction
Teachers should be encouraged to change up their syllabi to reflect different modes of instruction and use the right type of activity based on the way the instruction is delivered. By balancing activities that warrant face-to-face instruction with activities that work well in a remote setting, teachers have much greater flexibility and adaptability needed to adapt to a hybrid or remote education framework.
2. Determine How to Deliver Student Supports
In a classroom setting, students who require scaffolding can easily get it by utilizing the resources the teacher or using the support of resource or aid professionals, but providing these resources becomes difficult in a remote context. Administrators need to structure their virtual learning plans so that students have access to the resources and support they need. Support professionals who are not working in the classroom can get pulled in to help answer these questions and support students, freeing teachers to spend their time crafting lessons and interacting with their classes through the online and in-person formats.
This may require some training for parents, as well. Young children are going to need parental help to access support and help available when using an online platform. Hosting a virtual parenting meeting can provide that training.
3. Evaluate Student Access
Before launching a virtual or hybrid schooling platform, administrators must evaluate student access to technology. For many school systems, this might require involving County and State officials. Regardless, understanding its importance and highlighting it with major stakeholders will go a long way in helping make the necessary amount of evaluation possible.
Many districts are providing tablets or computers for students to use, but students also need Internet connections to make use of these pieces of tech. District-wide surveys can identify areas where students may lack access, giving the administration the chance to plan for the needs of these students.
4. Watch for Learning or Engagement Loss
One of the challenges of a virtual learning environment is the challenge of motivating students. Teachers will need to find ways to evaluate learning and engagement loss and have a plan for getting students back on track when it happens. This may mean phone calls to parents or even directly to the student when it appears engagement is lagging.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the learning loss and engagement problem found with virtual learning, one tool that can help is video-based interaction. Students who must use video when interacting with the teacher are less likely to get distracted because their teacher can see what they are doing.
Having a system in place with multiple communication touchpoints is also important. Emails, texts, phone calls, and message boards can all be utilized to keep students in touch with what is happening in the virtual classroom.
5. Offer Diverse Modes of Virtual Learning
To keep students engaged, administrators should encourage teachers to think creatively when planning the modes of instruction. While the teacher on video lecturing the class may have its place, so does slide show presentations, polls, reflection activities, videos, and simulations. Pulling out all of the stops to diversify the modes of instruction will drive better engagement with students on virtual learning days. Plan to switch the mode of instruction every 20 minutes during virtual learning sessions, if possible. The right virtual learning software will make it easier for teachers to implement these different modes of instruction.
This school year is going to bring challenges as teachers and students adapt to changing delivery models. Whether you’re starting the year in person, fully virtual, or a combination of the two, give your staff the help they need to succeed with these practical steps.