Coming into this new school year has been a mixed bag of emotions for everyone: anxiety, disappointment, frustration, excitement, sadness. Because many schools are starting the year with remote learning, add stress and hopelessness to the list especially for those juggling more than one child in school, work responsibilities, and maintaining some semblance of balance at home. There are quite a few social media posts of children trying hard to be excited for learning online but struggling (haven’t we all seen the little boy lying across his chair out of view of his teacher during a virtual session?!). Understandably, this leads to concerns of substantial learning loss for our students.
Schools are generally a place where students can feel valued and cared for, finding a comfortable stability in the routines established. Educators play a large part in cultivating these positive feelings, building relationships within the class family as part of the school community. But as more educators and students start the school year with remote learning, the absence of that in-person connection might cause many to struggle. The challenge becomes how to keep students connected, not just during virtual learning sessions but for as long as remote learning is in place. Besides the fact that education is vital for building critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help them thrive as adults, students need to ‘buy-in’ to regularly connecting and participating in their remote learning environment.
Building buy-in means that educators are cultivating virtual class environments that students are willingly supporting and participating in. Students are showing up for scheduled virtual sessions and engaging, making an effort to complete assignments fully and on time, and actively trying to make academic progress. Here are some ways educators successfully develop buy-in for students:
- Make sure that there is two-way, open, and honest communication with students. When educators are willing to listen to students’ needs, they are showing empathy and helping to build trust. Schedule weekly check-ins to see how students are handling the “new norm” and listen to their responses. There may be students who will thrive from daily check-ins in the beginning.
- Work with students in establishing expectations and norms for how to participate in remote learning. This includes how everyone participates in a live virtual session (attentively, respectfully), posting feedback on others’ work (have examples of positive and constructive comments), and even controlling facial expressions if someone makes a mistake.
- Have students share what makes/would make a live lesson engaging. They are digital natives and most likely their tech experiences and knowledge surpass what we know. Be receptive to their ideas and open to adapting as needed.
- Help students generate strategies that might help them focus on learning. This could include making a schedule with breaks, using a timer and working until it goes off, setting goals for each day, note-taking skills, or creating a checklist then starting from the easiest or hardest task and working down. Encourage them to try one or two strategies for a couple of weeks and modify to suit them.
- Provide as much choice as possible when planning assignments. For example, if students need to write a persuasive essay, let them select from three or four topics, or instead of completing a worksheet on identifying 3D shapes give them the choice of taking and posting pics of household examples. Help students feel a greater sense of responsibility with their learning progress and this might boost their desire to stay “tuned-in” week after week.
- Institute a class tradition that can help the class draw closer together. Traditions could be a simple 1-minute share of a life highlight at the start of a live session, a weekly show-and-tell (dogs are welcome!), or a biweekly interview of a “special guest” such as an older sibling, care giver, or even themselves.
- Include opportunities for collaborative projects as a whole class or in small groups. This can range from service projects that can help the community (food and clothing drive, meal delivery, recycling efforts) to smaller-scale art projects like writing/recording a short movie using props at home. Use questionnaires to get a feel for what students are interested in and live sessions for discussions around these projects.
Of course, this is not an absolute list of what can be done to help our students buy-in to remote learning. The ultimate goal is to instill in them a sense of confidence that educators are doing all that they can to meet their needs, including emotional. Educators, too, must feel confident that their actions will positively affect their students’ lives. It’s going to take hard work but not impossible to achieve. The outcome? Everyone eager and excited to take this new learning path.
Boxlight is working to meet the demand of creating collaborative virtual classrooms, including software and web applications, standards-driven digital curriculum, and quality teacher professional development. Learn more about what Boxlight has to offer by going to mimio.boxlight.com.