Transitioning to Distance Learning? Do This First!
Is your head spinning as you scramble to transition to distance learning? These five questions will help guide your thoughts and actions towards what matters most.
transitioning to distance learning
What we are being asked to do is Herculean, but that's par for the course these days.
As researches race to find a vaccine, manufacturers marshal to produce needed equipment, and doctors labor to discover effective treatment, teachers are mobilizing to continue education from afar.
Challenges (and emotions) abound as we're flooded with new resources, techniques, and technology we've never tried before. And in some cases we have only weeks - or even days - to figure it all out.
Add in the fact that now we are also quasi-homeschooling our own kids and you've got heads spinning so fast they're about to pop off!
But don't despair. The answers may be simpler than you think. But it's actually not time to look for answers yet.
In order to find the best solutions, you have to first ask the right questions.
So, to that end, here are five critical questions to ask yourself as you transition to distance learning.
These questions will focus your ingenuity, unleash your creativity, and drive you towards workable solutions for both yourself & your students.
1. What are the most important topics/skills my students need to focus on between now & the end of the year?
This is not the time to continue on with business as usual - teaching whatever lesson was next in your scope & sequence.
Instead, it's time to re-evaluate. Step back and ask yourself how you'd fill in this blank: "If my students would be able to _______ by the end of the year, I'd be pleased."
That's what you focus on.
2. How can my students learn these skills without it being overwhelming for them or me?
Life is upside down right now, and the last thing anyone needs is more stress & pressure. So ask yourself (as my friend Angela Watson puts it here), "What would it look like if it were easy?"
Often we lock ourselves in a box by assuming we have to do the same thing we've always done - or whatever so-and-so is doing. But we don't. In fact, you probably have more freedom now than ever to do what you believe is best for your students.
So unleash your creativity and find a solution that works for both you and them.
3. How can I best support them (realistically)?
Your students need your support now more than ever - both academically and emotionally. But depending on how many student you have (and how many of your own kids you're quarantined at home with), you may not have much time & energy to go around.
You might decide to have set officer hours over Zoom where students can pop in (virtually) and ask questions. You may conduct a weekly or daily class meeting to connect with your students & make sure they're doing okay. Maybe you have time to call kids on the phone, or maybe you can use a tool like FlipGrid to get kids to open up & then respond with a quick video to everyone.
There's no one right answer. So feel free to think outside the box.
4. How can I clearly communicate expectations with students & parents?
Now that you have a plan, it's time to get everyone on the same page. Communication will be key to success in the coming weeks, so it's worth taking a few moments to brainstorm what could work best.
I highly recommend keeping all assignments in one place that is easy for everyone to reference. If parents & students are trying to hunt down a million different assignments in their overflowing email inboxes, it's not going to go so well... (please tell me it's not just me 😬)
5. How can I evaluate what's working and what isn't?
Because we are figuring this out as we go, evaluating and adjust will be critical to our success. So before you get too far in, make a plan for how to evaluate and adjust.
This may involve daily intentional reflection, asking feedback from parents and students, talking with other teachers, etc.
The point is not to become too attached to our initial ideas but to instead be willing to seek out (and genuinely listen to) feedback and adjust as we go.
more support for distance learning
I pray these questions will get you thinking in the right direction, but if you'd like more help transition to distance learning, here's a few resources we recommend:
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