Monday, April 13, 2020

4 Considerations For #RemoteLearning

Odds are your students (and if you are like me, your own children) are learning at home currently due to the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe. Every state in the U.S. and countless other countries have closed schools to help flatten the curve of infection.

According to Education Week:

21 states and 3 U.S. territories have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year. School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students. There are at least 98,000 public schools and at least 34,000 private schools in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Those schools educate almost 50.8 million public school students and 5.8 million private school students.

These closures have put enormous pressure on leaders, educators, students and parents to take the traditional academic year and attempt to finish completely remotely, in many cases online.

In this rush to get devices to students, curriculums digitized and schedules adjusted there are wildly different practices in place for remote learning along with a plethora of ideas (good and not so good) circulating on social media.

Recently I spent looking at tweets, reading Facebook posts and blog posts and came to the conclusion that there is a great deal out there that tells educators what not to do. But very little in what to do that is based in sound pedagogy and decisions that serve the best interests of kids and teachers alike.

Take a breath. Everyone. Educators. Leaders. Teachers. Students. Parents. We all just need to remember this is new for all of us. This amount of remote learning hasn't been tried on this scale at all, perhaps ever. So many are doing the best can with what they have. There is no one singular way to ensure that kids are learning (sustainably) in a remote learning environment. Much of the research has been done at the HigherEd level and while comparisons can be made, there aren't a set of standards or rules that can guide K12 effectively.

That said there are some considerations that need to be made in these Remote Learning circumstances.

Here are 4 Considerations For Remote Learning

1) Keep The Focus On Equity-Many schools, including my own kids, rushed to get devices and hotspots into the hands of students as soon as they could because the plan is to use digital tools, online resources and LMS' to keep the learning going. While this is a valiant effort, the reality is that in many places this isn't possible. The move to remote learning has not erased decades of inequality issues that plague much of the U.S.

The first thing to recognize is that each one of us is living out this pandemic differently. Some are struggling with the disease itself while others are coping with unemployment, empty shelves of food or a lack of child care. The last thing we need to do is rush to replicate the school day online and punish students who can not meet there.

It's time to be creative with how student and parents are going to navigate this new reality of remote learning. It doesn't mean give up. It doesn't mean to pile on either. It means to be selective in the policies that are put in place and always keep equity at the top of the list.

2) Remote Learning Doesn't Equal Online Learning-With this push to try and "level the playing field" much of the content delivered today is being put online, or technology is being used to ease the burden of trying to create virtual or remote learning lessons. What is playing out in many parts of the U.S. is a an attempt to replicate the school day online.

Imagine sitting in a 6 hour virtual meeting with colleagues. (Just the thought gives me anxiety.) This is what is happening to some students. We have to be selective in the the learning that we give to students more than ever before. And the learning doesn't have to be all digitally based. Kids now have a great deal more time to explore their world. PBL and Design Thinking activities require very little, if any technology and can help students dig deeper into concepts than completing a digitized worksheet ever would.

3) Flexibility-With schedules thrown into chaos, and our understanding that we are all living this pandemic differently, flexibility needs to be the name of this game. As we've said before nothing is standard about this remote learning. With many parents working from home, and some households with more than one child and not enough technology to go around we have to be flexible in how remote learning takes place.

While attempts should be made to get students together for brief (no more than 15 minutes just to do check ins, not actual teaching) we have to realize some will be able to make it an others won't. This extends to the work that students do as well. Work can be assigned at the beginning of the week and due at the end of the week or the beginning of the next. The expectation that this non-traditional learning will suddenly make expectations realistic is ludicrous. Maintain flexibility in what students do and learn and educators themselves need to be flexible to adapt and change.

4) Remote Learning Doesn't Mean Staying At A Distance-If I never hear the term "social distancing" again it won't be too soon. In many places there are rules and regulations about how far people need to stay away from each other so we all don't spread the disease. It should be called physical distancing because we still need to remain social, and that goes for learning too.

There are so many tools that educators and kids can use to stay in touch. I laid out in previous post about how to communicate and stay in touch during remote learning. The takeaway is, if you can do face-to-face time, do it. But don't use all of it for direct instruction. Use it for personal check ins and staying positive. If you can't do face-to-face time, use the phone, email, any other way and reach out and stay connected to students and other colleagues as well. 
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