With COVID-19 cases on the rise in many states, a number of districts are opting for total remote learning for the fall (for specific districts, click the link Education Week School Districts’ Reopening Plans). What does this mean for parents who have young ones starting school for the first time? If the anxiety about starting school in person during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t enough, the prospect of starting totally online can be overwhelming. Often, parents see entering school (PreK – K levels) as an opportunity for their children to learn social skills, understand rules and routines, and set a foundation of basic skills that will prepare them for the next 12 years of learning.
Do a quick search of the internet, and you are sure to find a variety of articles on using an interactive flat panel to boost student engagement. Really, flat panels are geared towards educators – large screen with touch technology that begs for interactivity to showcase its features. Most ‘Top 10 Teacher Tips’ will include increase classroom collaboration, take a virtual fieldtrip, prepare for assessments, and gamify for learning new concepts. But when schools closed in the spring, this awesome tech sat lonely in many classrooms. With the debate still going about the learning environment for the new school year (as of this writing, many districts have opted to start the Fall totally virtual), educators may ask, “But what about my panel?”
It’s doubtful that you haven’t already heard of the concept of blended learning, but just in case, this approach combines face-to-face learning with online learning experiences. Basically, blended learning changes what has been traditionally ‘front-of-class’ style of lesson delivery to incorporating digital tools and features to create a more interactive and engaging experience. Blended learning used to be a novel idea that some teachers saw as an innovative opportunity to explore, but it has become more necessary as learners – digital natives – spend more time creating and viewing content on web-enabled devices (think Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok).
When I was teaching, I really looked forward to parent conferences. Each of my students had a folder filled with assessments, writing samples, and other pertinent evidence of learning growth (or needs for improvement). Students facilitated their conferences, talking about what was in their folders, and gaining a sense of accountability and ownership of their learning. Afterwards, I’d talk with the parent(s), grandparent(s), or guardian and inevitably get to know about other family, their work, and family plans. Parent conferences gave me a sense of deeper connection to my students through their families. That connection would start a bit at Back to School Night, but a one-on-one, sit down convo was much better than the 30-minute “this is who I am and what I expect” show and mingle in the second week of school.
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.
Math questions and story problems have the unique reputation of being the focus of many memes on how confusing they can be (Question: If you have 3 pencils and 6 oranges, how many waffles will fit in a car? Answer: Blue because ducks quack.). Now imagine a teacher repeating, reviewing, restating terms and solution steps so that students finally understand. A scheduled one-hour lesson can easily take half a day! Now imagine that scenario in a virtual environment. (I can already hear the crying…from teachers, students, and parents!) Thankfully, G Suite for Education has tools that can support math teaching and learning, while making the experience engaging, interactive, and successful.
How many of you have watched videos featuring a popular chef whipping up a dessert, or a lost puppy being rescued? I know I’m not alone in saying that watching these types of compelling, engaging, and short videos has led to experimenting in the kitchen, sewing a simple face mask, learning a new dance move, and playing with the idea of adopting a new pet. Videos have made an impact on how we learn things for daily living and are essential for our young ones who tend to be more engaged and focused on short lessons via this medium. Why have more and more educators turned to video?