Design Remote Learning with the Learners’ Families in Mind (Part 1) [Video]

For all teachers and schools who are building the plane ✈️, which is remote learning, as it takes flight . . .

Remote Learning and its Many Manifestations for Families

The novel coronavirus pandemic definitely has the education community exercising our problem-solving skills as we work earnestly to figure out the best way to sustain meaningful learning while children and youth are at home with their families. 

Edtech companies, science and art institutions, authors and many others have graciously shared rich and engaging resources with the public to help in this effort. Teachers and instructional leaders bring together their years of experience teaching young people and their commitment to their learners and learning as they plan and deliver instruction via a range of digital (and sometimes analog) means.

For school systems well versed in LMS (learning management systems), teachers are likely transitioning their blended learning to virtual learning with a few tweaks to their instruction. For those teachers who are often “doing the most” with digital tools like Flipgrid or SeeSaw, might now find themselves “apps smashing” tools to ensure they deliver effective instruction and stay in communication with their learners. And finally for those teachers who are like “L-M-what?”, “apps smash who?”, email, text, or even “pick up your packet” might be the name of their remote learning game.

Just to be clear — no judgement here! I just want to acknowledge that “remote learning” looks different for each school, even teacher, and each family. And for families, it might look different for each child. 

Changing work circumstances, limited childcare, and shelter-at-home directives are stressing families out! So, as you continue to do the best for your learners and refine your remote learning practices, keep learners’ families in mind.

Here are a few considerations to inform your next round of instructional planning:

Consideration #1: Prioritize What Learners Need to Learn Most
Reduce learners’ workload. Increase learning value.

“Thou Shalt Not Overwhelm!” Most of us can admit that even on the best day, learning in school overwhelms many learners. That’s why we have routines and rituals, tools and scaffolds to help them navigate the multiple subject areas, varied teaching styles, and numerous assignments and assessments. So, imagine your learner at home trying to balance their school life with their home life. For many, there is a definite disconnect. Help them out! Focus your instructional goals.

“All Standards are Not Created Equal!” Review and prioritize your learning standards and outcomes. At this point in the year, ask yourself, What do my learners need to know and be able to do to best prepare them for the next school year? OR What additional knowledge or practice do my learners need to help them be successful at the start of next school year? With many states suspending standardized testing for the year, this is your opportunity to “go deep” on those priority standards you had to rush through or would have rushed through in order to deem your students ready for testing. Use prioritized standards to guide your instructional planning.

“Quality over Quantity Matters!” Now that you have focused your instructional goals and planning, challenge yourself to design less, yet more valuable learning experiences. Ask yourself: How can you combine standards (within or across subject areas) to create 1-2 learning tasks versus multiple assignments for each subject or topic? OR How can you direct learners’ efforts toward producing one work product vs completing several, seemingly disconnected assignments? The design of the school day lends itself to thinking by subject area or assignment? Fortunately at home, most parents are simply asking, “What did you learn today?” with hope for more than a 1-word answer, so they can say “Tell me more about that!” Design integrated learning experiences that address your prioritized standards. 

Important Note: Please know that I am not asking you to design full on Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences here. As you’re planning, take notice when you can have students read or write about social studies topics to meet an English Language Arts requirement or engage in problem solving that requires them to apply multiple knowledge and skills.  

By prioritizing what learners need to learn most, you can decrease the volume of work learners must complete at home and therefore the amount of time parents need (or feel they need) to monitor, support, or extend learning. In addition, integrate standards, topics, or subject areas for more connected learning that will add value to the remote learning experience.

As always, please share anecdotes or examples of how you are prioritizing what learners need to learn during this unprecedented time. Good luck! 


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