By Michael Fisher and Allison Zmuda
Now that remote learning has been underway for a couple of weeks, we thought it would be a good time to turn down the volume a little and begin the process of focusing on quality over quantity. In our work with educators these last couple of weeks, we’ve observed a few things:
- Schedules and organization are still important. We want to continue to work on maintaining what we’ve built while being open to new ways of learning. At the same time, make peace with the reality that what you could have been accomplished in class for a given week probably needs to be cut by half (at least).
- Many of the structures that we depend on in the physical classroom don’t have a 1:1 correspondence in a remote classroom. We need to rethink the uses of places/spaces, instructional actions, demonstrations of learning, and engagement differently than we have before. Trial and error are an expected part of this process. There’s a lot to be learned when something doesn’t work.
- The social and emotional well being of our children is more important than ever before. Students need to feel connected to you, to understand that you know that school is not the most important worry on their list right now.
In the spirit of turning down the volume, this blog post focuses on three major ideas to help fine-tune what you put out in the next few weeks for remote learning.
- Be a filter rather than a dump truck. Providing resources increasingly creates opportunities to be overwhelmed by all that’s being shared. Be specific and thoughtful about the resources and how they impact the worth of the work.
- Reduce anxiety by providing essential and meaningful tasks with more feedback and less grading.
- Stick with tools, procedures and practices that make learning feel familiar and doable.
This should be in alignment with school or district level resources and parameters.
- What learning platform(s)? (Zoom, Google Classroom, Schoology, Microsoft Teams, Canvas)
- How long? (Daily/Weekly schedule?)
- Amount of time for learning?
- Grading / feedback expectations?
- Access / equity issues for individual learners?
- How to connect with families? (e.g., SignUp Genius, Class Dojo, Remind)
The teacher designs based on curriculum documents, a variety of pedagogical moves to promote engagement, and essential resources to support student expectations.
- What learning goals? (new goals and/or previous goals that need more attention)
- What task? (demonstration of learning)
- Pedagogical moves? (think about icon idea in Heidi and Allison’s post: Curriculum Triage)
- What resources? (online/offline)
The teacher defines instructional moments and interacts with the students to share ideas, practice together, and develop plans/next steps.
- Hook through demonstration, essential question, common text
- Frame a challenge to focus the day/week/project
- Right size instructional actions (e.g., office hours, small group instruction, feedback during the do part)
- Plan for breaks, movement, and processing time—needed to hook and hold learner attention (e.g., built-in moves like Brain Breaks, meditation time, breakout conversations)
Remote tools that may be helpful to demonstrate: Screencastify, Google Slides, Flip Grid, Padlet, via video upload, Glide, Thinglink
This is what students are working on based on your ENGAGE moves. Office hours and/or 1:1 conferences continue to demonstrate that you are here for them.
- Autonomy to make decisions about how they will learn, time management, and their deliverable
- Commitment to documenting and uploading their learning.
Remote tools that may be helpful to demonstrate: Screencastify, Padlet, PearDeck, SeeSaw
Teachers and students examine the learning as well as discoveries that happened along the way. This reflection helps shape the next learning plan, clarify growth on learning goals, and build connections.
- Self-evaluation and teacher feedback on student growth
- Peer and family comments on work
- Ask students how they felt about the aspects of their learning (platform, tools, deliverables, time, etc.)
Remote tools that may be helpful to demonstrate: Google Forms, Flip Grid, Socrative, SeeSaw
What might this look like in practice?
Here is an illustrative example to get you started:
Jackie Burzichelli and Chuck Poole’s Remote Classroom Website
Background context from Chuck Poole:
“It took me some time since I created and designed the site myself but I completed it in a weekend. The motivation – my students. Before we went to online school I sat with them and asked what they need to help transition smoothly. I then made what they asked for.
The reactions have been great. It is only for my classes but the students love it. I also do Live sessions with them each day as well but the site has given them a routine they can rely on which has been helpful during this time.”
In the spirit of discovery and exploration, our boiled down advice isn’t new but it bears repeating in this remote learning context: less is more. The depth of the experience matters more now than the breadth. The feedback matters more than the grade. The well-being of our students matters more than deadlines and perfection.