Most school districts have discussed making e-learning a more permanent part of their curriculum in the last ten years. From elementary to high school to college, e-learning has been a buzz word in education ever since people started realizing that the internet could be used for much more than just downloading music illegally.
Still, most districts never got out of the “discussion” phase and actually put e-learning into action.
Nevertheless, once COVID arrived and the quarantine was put into place restricting most schools from having students and teachers in an actual classroom, it was sink or swim time.
E-learning wasn’t just “an” option. It was the only option.
During these times of e-learning, Xello decided to bring together panelists to discuss how best to communicate with students and parents during these uncertain times.
We recently conducted our fourth remote roundtable to discuss ways for those in education to partner with parents during these troubling times of isolation to ensure that students are still receiving a quality education even though circumstances have changed dramatically over the last few months.
After all, unless the parents are on board with doing a bit of homeschooling while the educator takes the lead through video conferences, e-learning could fall apart before it even began.
The Roundtable Panelists
The remote roundtable was hosted by Filza Naveed of Xello and had guest panelists Will Dible, currently a Director of School Improvement for Spencer School in Iowa, and Rebekah Swaim, a school social worker from Grand Prairie Independent School in Texas, who serves as the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Therapist for her district.
They both offered their thoughts and expertise on how to make the best of the current situation in education by partnering with parents. Here are their key learnings and main takeaways.
Advice for Teachers Working with and Supporting Parents at the Moment
We all know that parents and educators are both experiencing overwhelming stress as they pivot towards remote learning.
There are teachers out there that have been teaching before the internet arrived on the scene.
Some avoid using technology in the classroom all together because they are not comfortable with their limited tech knowledge. There are many parents in the same boat.
On the other hand, there are parents and educators who are experts in technology, but that doesn’t mean the shift to remote learning will necessarily be easy for children.
In any case, there is a need for some quality advice at the moment to calm down any anxiety that teachers may be facing.
“This is one of those situations, and we all know this, that is so unique and never been done before,” Dible said. “But there are some definite common practices that you can utilize that is going to make it beneficial to both the teachers and the parents.”
Dible advises keeping lines of communication clear and open between parents and teachers & to avoid overwhelming parents through streams of emails.
After all, if there is a flow of constant emails being exchanged between the teacher and 25 parents, the teacher won’t have any time to do anything else except answer emails.
Also, teachers should make use of other free resources to communicate with parents that will limit the amount of emails received.
Seesaw is a free app that can help make e-learning more manageable as it opens the doors to communication and can keep the students’ work in one place if needed.
Google Docs is another great free app as it will collect all of the students’ work and keep it in the magical and mystical “cloud” as well.
Tips For Getting Parents On Board with Remote Learning
Without parents essentially providing back up for the teachers, e-learning cannot work.
Parents are on the front line at the moment as students can choose to tune out educators just by ignoring their attempts at communication, but with the parents being there physically in front of their children, they have the best opportunity to ensure that students toe the line. However, it all comes down to cooperation and collaboration with the students’ parents.
Swaim stressed that patience is the key for getting parents on board at the moment.
“Offering encouragement, I think, is a big piece,” she said.
Streamlining Communication Across the District
If the school district is not keeping the parents, students, and educators up to date on all pertinent information, it can quickly get frustrating. The last thing someone wants to feel at this moment is the experience of being out of the loop.
One quick way to communicate with the entire community at once is through making frequent updates to the school website.
This will cut down on the number of concerned calls and emails across the board. In a perfect world, the superintendent and principal will be the ones to keep the public apprised of the current news relating to the school through the lead page of the website.
How to Level the Playing Field for Families that Do Not Have Access to Technology
While there will be families in the district who have all the latest tech available at their fingertips to help them succeed with e-learning, there are others who do not have access to computers or the internet. When trying to teach students through curriculum that relies extensively on e-learning, this can be a problem.
“Our district is just under half for free and reduced lunch,” Dible said. “That does present a huge issue of equity.”
“Those families don’t have internet access,” Dible further stated.
Dible explained further that his district used some funds to purchase internet for a number of families and then challenged those in the community to do the same.
Flash forward, and the public rallied together to ensure that these kids had devices and the internet needed to complete their e-learning.
Tools and Resources for Educators to Help Parents Get Students Ready for Remote Learning
The panelists recommended the following resources for communicating with and engaging students during these tough times:
- Study Island
- Second Step COVID-19 Support
- SEL for Adults Gratitude module
- Free Mindfulness Sessions for K-5
- Family & Educator Child Abuse Prevention resources
- Podcast for families on SEL topics
- Second Step YouTube channel
- Bullying Prevention Resources for Families and Educators
- Sesame Street Resources
- BBC Article “The Reason Zoom Calls Drain Your Energy” by Manyu Jiang
- WiFi Resources: Governor Abbot PSA on WiFi Access
- EQ in your PJ’s from School Connect
- We Are Teachers: Read-a-Louds from Authors
Looking to unlock more in-depth insights from experts on partnering with parents during the COVID-19 disruption? Click on the link below to watch our remote roundtable on demand! 👇