We’re approaching the one-year mark of distance teaching and learning for most of our country’s schools. Last spring when schools closed, teachers had to quickly navigate new and unfamiliar technology so that they could maintain some degree of educational normalcy for their students. Many education-focused companies and organizations developed and facilitated a variety of teacher training courses that centered on software and platforms that districts invested in to deliver lessons to the millions of students now having to school remotely. Courses included learning the basic tools of GSuite for Education or Microsoft Office 365, creating and delivering lessons using specific software and applications (think Zoom), and maneuvering the complexity of all these apps, platforms, and software to deliver lessons that would engage students so that they would show up to live lessons when scheduled. Our nation’s teachers handled what they could (with blood, sweat, and tears) and came out of this unprecedented situation with more education technology knowledge than they had before this.
Today, you’re facilitating your weekly online lesson and the focus is transition words. As usual, your ‘regulars’ are doing what they do best – answering questions, participating in discussion, and sharing examples. Your quieter ones are sending you chat messages when they have questions or are confused. Who you’re not hearing much from are your English Language Learners, or ELLs. They are on camera, smiling through the lessons, even raising a ‘thumbs up’ when you ask the class if everyone understands. But you’re having doubts about how well they are comprehending. You can’t easily stand next to their desks and check work. Your aide isn’t there to do a double-check or ask a question in the native language to ensure understanding. What can you do to help your ELLs in a virtual classroom?
Assessment isn’t a new idea or one limited to teaching. We assess daily – What is it that I like about this TV show and should I watch it again? What criteria will I look for in my next sofa purchase? What is my diet goal and how will I check my progress in meeting that goal? Learners of all ages are regularly assessing things like clothes, games, movies, even social media platforms according to a set of criteria.