2020 has seen an extraordinary immersion into online learning (or, more accurately, emergency remote teaching – ERT for short). Millions of teachers and students around the world have had to grapple with the complexities of what for some is an entirely new way of doing things.
As I write this, I am in a national lockdown, preparing for another round of ERT. I’ve heard quite a bit from those who really don’t like ERT, but I’ve also heard a great deal from those who find merit in what we are being forced into doing. Some going so far as to say that we need to see this as a watershed moment in blending digital methodologies into what we do when we get back into our brick and mortar classrooms.
But what is it exactly that we should bring back into our classrooms after our prolonged digital immersions? This post contains some specific ideas.
Note: I have written quite a bit about online learning and the ERT phenomenon in the posts below, should you wish to read some of them.
- A Students’ Guide to Remote Learning
- Tough Times for Teachers… But We’ve Done This Before…
- Active Engagement & Cooperative Learning in Digital Learning Environments.
- How to Make Better Videos for Learning Tasks: A Guide for Students
- Why Emergency Remote Teaching Isn’t e-Learning
- You’ve Got This: How to Get Good at Tech
- E-Learning: Tips & Tricks for Teachers
- Dear Teacher: Tech is Not the Enemy
20 Essential Aspects of Online Learning to Remix Back into Traditional Classrooms
Putting Students First
Making sure that we maintain pastoral contact with individual students, that we monitor individual engagement closely, and that we intervene at the first sign that there may be a problem. Most of us managed this online, under some very trying circumstances, and I think we can do the same thing when we get back to school.
Self-Pacing and Fluid Schedules
Allowing students to set their own schedules and to work on their own learning at their own pace.
Differentiation and Personalization (Student Choice)
Allowing for differentiated learning experiences, remedial materials, and enrichment activities.
Avoiding Jam-Packing and Over-Extending
Giving students enough time to navigate through learning activities and avoid trying to fill up their time – trusting that they will use free time constructively.
Replacing high-stakes tests with smaller, lower-stakes assessments to gauge understanding and to guide teaching.
Getting parents more involved in the learning process.
Allowing students to collaborate together on notes and learning activities.
Simplifying the content acquisition phase of learning into shorter chunks. Focusing class time on guided application activities. Allowing students to review content as many times as they need to.
Allowing students to continue learning when they are away from school for prolonged periods of time.
Placing all notes and learning materials into a digital folder allows for easy access for students who lose notes, and new students who need notes. Depending on school workflows, this can also help to reduce paper use by issuing digital notes and allowing students to refer to digital notes in class.
Having digital notes allows us to layout text and images in a more brain-friendly way, with a focus on color, large font sizes, and interactivity. If we are not constrained as much by copying costs and limitations, we can truly make our notes engaging and fun. Things like hyper-docs can enhance this even further.
Our students love these (far more than they do some random YouTube video) and, done right, they can promote engagement and a sense of fun in class.
Feedback in the form of a video, audio notes, or typed assessments tends to be far richer and more detailed. Students are also more likely to engage with and internalize this feedback.
Technologies like voice-to-text, text-to-speech, immersive readers, spelling and grammar tools, and zoom functions can assist with including students with a range of abilities.
In the last few months, we have become profoundly aware that so many students do not have access to devices and internet connections. We need to find ways to help those families in our schools and communities to get these.
Giving students more responsibility in their own learning. Some teachers are even asking students to contribute their own ideas and materials for lessons. They certainly do need our guidance, but they thrive on being able to work independently.
Handing in Work Digitally
There are a number of advantages in teaching students how to hand in work digitally:
- They become more accustomed to the expectations and workflows of tertiary education and the workplace.
- They can go back and correct work more easily.
- Spelling and grammar issues are (mostly) identified and can help students to identify and correct these themselves (which doesn’t happen on paper).
- Collaborative activities work more smoothly by enabling all group members to work on an activity simultaneously.
- Work can be more easily checked for plagiarism.
- Students can learn some valuable skills around file management and backing up their work to the cloud.
Students need to be aware of best practice online to keep themselves and their information private and secure. They also need to know how to behave online, and how to avoid filter bubbles, confirmation bias, fake news, and unreliable sources of information. Transferring this practice back into the classroom means that we make this a recurrent theme, rather than something they only do when they research.
Teaching with Technology
Technology as an enhancer. Not just an adjunct. It isn’t only for researching; it opens up a range of new possibilities for teaching in a more engaging, pedagogically sound way.
Having kids learning online often makes it difficult to motivate them. Many of us have had to find interesting ways to keep them motivated. Things like gamification can work wonders here – and they can be continued when we get back into our classrooms.