How can you create online learning programs for students during COVID-19? How can schools, districts and educators work together to craft remote curriculum that effectively engages students & ensures they continue to become future ready? During our most recent Remote Roundtable session, our expert panelists gave advice on how to create engaging remote learning programs for students. Here’s our Remote Roundtable recap.
We know this is an uncertain time for educators, parents, students & district leads. At Xello, we decided we should come up with a way for our community to come together and address any burning questions they may have during this time.
We therefore kicked off our Remote Roundtable series, and held our first Remote Roundtable on April 2, 2020, where we had three amazing panelists:
Lindsey Howe, Virtual Educator at Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy
Russell Driesen, Curriculum Manager at Florida Virtual School
Erica Birkmeier, Career & College Advisor at Chesaning High School
We asked the panelists some key questions and then turned to our audience so they could ask our panelists their burning questions. Here are some of the questions we covered and here’s what the panelists had to say.
Where do you recommend educators start when transitioning to or building a remote curriculum?
Under the current circumstances, where there is so much uncertainty and disruption, our panelists urged folks to start with understanding the types of technologies that need to be deployed to be able to reach and communicate with students and parents.
The first thing you should do as an educator who’s developing remote curriculum, is to figure out where you will house your lessons? Is it going to be on Google Classroom or some other place? Figure out the best tool for your school and district and then educate your teachers on how to use that tool before looking into additional tools.
Russell Driesen urged teachers to use this time to back up and review materials that have been previously taught.
“If you introduce new material at this point, the challenge of having to absorb new material in a new environment is going to be stressful for students.”
He also encouraged the audience to seek guidance from leadership and understand the types of students within each district before introducing new tools.
Understand the types of learners you have in your district and what kinds of tools and technologies can be used or not used.
With these things in mind, teachers can begin to create lessons, assessments and select the right tools and technologies to deliver instruction.
How do education priorities change when going remote vs. in the classroom, or do they?
According to our panelists, education priorities do need to change. With everyone moving online and systems crashing, connectivity has to be the top priority.
There’s also a shift from just serving up content to building online interactions and really connecting with students; you must first re-connect with students before you begin engaging with the content.
“In a virtual setting you’re going to quickly learn that the connection you make with students is going to drive everything,” our panelist, Lyndsey Howe stressed.
Reconnect with the kids every single time before you actually engage with the content. You have to really let the kids know you’re there for them during this uncertain time.
What tools and methods do you use to connect with students and deliver curriculum? How do you help students should they have a problem?
Our panelists suggested a variety of tools that can be used to deliver curriculum online. While Erica has found great success with using Xello in her district to connect with students, Russell talked about the importance of teachers reaching out to students directly through phone or text messaging, rather than solely relying on email.
These were the top tools recommended by the panelists for delivering online instruction and connecting with students:
- Teacher announcement pages (in an LMS or other secure site)
- Google forms
- Padlet – live and interactive document
- Flipgrid – you can answer questions using video
- Xello – easy to login, built in lessons
- Google voice – text/call to make yourself available
- Remind – text message parents & students (phone numbers are anonymous)
- Screencast-o-matic – great for recording computer screens to share lessons etc.
- Course/Unit Hyperdoc – If you want a living document that becomes a one-stop shop for all of your items during a unit/course/lesson, consider making a hyperdoc. This file (shared by Lyndsey Howe) is a loose version of a hyperdoc.
Erica also discussed the importance of mailing paper curriculum to those students who may belong to low income families and have trouble accessing the internet.
Some students have never had experience with remote learning. What are some tips you have for teaching students to learn online?
Establish a consistent schedule. It helps students (and their parents) know what to expect, and encourages kids to take it seriously and get the work done.
What about parent involvement — what tips can you offer for getting parents onboard and communicating with them throughout a disruption?
It’s integral for school districts to proactively communicate with parents but, at the same time, try not to overwhelm them with too much information.
Lyndsey emphasized the importance of trying to give parents a schedule for helping K-12 students learn from home.
This way, parents can stay involved with helping their kids continue their learning remotely, while also having a bit of structure to their day, as they try to juggle teaching their kids at home with doing their jobs remotely.
All three panelists stressed the importance of sending communications through one contact or teacher so that parents don’t have multiple educators reach out to them with different schedules and structures.
How do you track and measure student engagement in learning activities? What tools do you look to?
According to the panelists, it’s important to use tools to track student engagement metrics such as interactions and participation rather than focusing on performance and grading.
Some key questions you need to ask in order to gauge student engagement should be:
- Are students logging in?
- Are students responding to you?
- Are students submitting assignments?
You can use many of the same tools mentioned earlier to do this:
- Surveys (Google forms is good for this)
This is a tough time for students, educators and parents. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you’re doing the best you can.
According to Lyndsey, it’s important to be open and vulnerable with students.
Always be okay with failing. Showing the kids that you’re vulnerable is one of the best ways to get them engaged with you.
She also advised educators to send letters to their students as it adds a personal touch and lets students know you’re there for them during this uncertain time.
Remember, we’re all in this together!
Feeling empowered and ready to tackle remote learning? Check out the recording of the entire remote roundtable below.